Manitoba Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari says her party's fiscal plan calls for a $141-million surplus by 2021-22 — but that doesn't include the cost of their election promises.
The Liberals' long-term budget projections, provided to media on Monday, show an $11-million surplus in the 2020-21 fiscal year and a surplus of $141 million by 2021-22. However, the party acknowledged those projections do not include the cost of its promises, which their own estimates peg at $142.9 million by the 2020-21 fiscal year.
"Bottom line is yes, we will run deficits, but those will get progressively smaller over the course of time until we are in surplus," Bokhari told reporters at her campaign headquarters in Winnipeg.
When asked about why the Liberals' projections do not include the costs of the election commitments, the party said they haven't finished making all their promises yet.
"They gave you a sheet that's all costed out.… We're saying that sheet that you have in hand does not include our promises that are $144 [million] first year, and they will progress," Bokhari said.
"This is about the plan. We're planning on controlling government spending."
Without factoring in the costs of their promises, the Liberal financial plan predicts:
- $550-million deficit in 2016-17.
- $432-million deficit in 2017-18.
- $286-million deficit in 2018-19.
- $163-million deficit in 2019-20.
- $11-million surplus in 2020-21.
- $141-million surplus in 2021-22.
However, in a separate document, the Liberals listed the costs of their election commitments (which aren't included in the above figures) as:
- $143.9 million in 2016-17.
- $98.9 million in 2017-18.
- $113.9 million in 2018-19.
- $128.9 million in 2019-20.
- $142.9 million in 2020-21.
The cost of election promises includes projected savings of $70 million from a new provincial stroke unit. There was no estimate for the cost of the election promises by 2021-22.
"Currently, Liberal promises add up to $144 million in Year 1 and the core deficit is estimated at $646 million, and we will begin with an $800-million deficit in Year 1 and reduce it between $150 [million] and $200 million each and every year and balance within five or six years," Bokhari said.
"I want to make it clear that yes, we have made many announcements, but we have been mindful of the costs of those announcements," she added. "The other parties have far exceeded the pledges that we have made and in many cases, have not put a cost to them at all."
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The province is $500 million in deficit, and the NDP government has been hoping to balance the budget by 2020.
'Spending growth will be controlled'
Bokhari said if elected, the Liberals would work with government departments to control spending growth.
"This is not a cut in those departments or even a freeze in spending. It just means that spending growth will be controlled," Bokhari said.
"We will maintain the growth in health spending at four per cent and the growth in education at 2½ per cent and the growth in all other departments at two per cent, which will shave about $200 million off the deficit each year."
The Liberals' fiscal plan also does not include the party's most expensive promise — to eliminate the corporate payroll tax, which is worth $400 million a year. The party says that promise will be phased in once the budget is balanced.
NDP, PCs react to Liberals' plan
The New Democrats criticized the Liberals' plan, pointing out the party initially missed an entire fiscal year in its documents. (The Liberals later issued a revised document adding its budget projections for the 2021-22 fiscal year.)
"They've made expensive promises they can't explain or account for," - Manitoba NDP
"The Bokhari Liberal platform is either not thought through or insincere. They've made expensive promises they can't explain or account for, which means they either can't deliver or have no interest in delivering," the NDP said in a statement.
"It appears that the Liberal campaign of the last few months has been nothing but easy sound bites with no substance or commitment behind them and no accountability. In other words, it has been a waste of Manitobans' time. The fiscal plan released today just doesn't make sense."
The Progressive Conservatives also criticized the Manitoba Liberals for not including election promises in their fiscal plan.
"The Liberals do not show how they will pay for any of their $200 million or more in promises, nor do they provide any details on how they would control spending," said the PCs.
"The Liberals are proposing more of the same poor fiscal mismanagement Manitobans have gotten under the NDP. Manitobans deserve a better plan for a better Manitoba.... We are the only party committed to real tax relief for all Manitoba families."