Manitoba's federal budget wish list: money for jobs, roads
Jobs and infrastructure are two priorities the Manitoba government wants — and expects — to see in the federal budget when Finance Minister Jim Flaherty tables it on Tuesday.
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The provincial government says it has already put down money for some big infrastructure projects, but it wants Ottawa to provide matching funds.
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"We're all anxiously awaiting to see the details of that so we can move forward, so we don't lose this construction season," provincial Finance Minister Jennifer Howard told reporters on Monday.
Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton said the upcoming construction season is already paid for, thanks in part to revenue that has been generated since the NDP government raised the PST from seven to eight per cent in July.
Still, Ashton said he will be looking for federal infrastructure money in the upcoming budget.
"We'll be watching very closely in tomorrow's budget, but we are optimistic there will be some federal funding available," he said.
However, the opposition Progressive Conservatives say they don't like to see an increased reliance on Ottawa.
"I think they need to get their own fiscal house in order here first before they start looking to other levels of government for more support," said deputy opposition leader Heather Stefanson.
Winnipeg mayor not expecting surprises
Infrastructure is also a top issue at the municipal level, but Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz says he's not expecting a big influx of federal cash.
"I don't think, you know, you'll see anything out of the ordinary, to be very frank with you. It's possible, but I don't believe that's going to be the case," he said.
Katz noted that the city has dedicated a one per cent increase in property taxes in each of the last two years to repair infrastructure.
"We as a council have taken our own action. You know, we're not going to sit around and wait," he said.
"We've done a one per cent on two different occasions, and that's basically dedicated money."
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says before any funding can flow, the federal government should stay on budget to balance its own books.
"That has a major impact on how businesses operate and where they chose to locate, and that's something that could be concerning if we don't see contingency movement on that," said Elliot Sims, the federation's director of provincial affairs.
Rural internet boost coming
CBC News has learned that the budget will include money to extend or improve broadband internet access to about 280,000 households and businesses in rural and remote areas.
The investment is promising to residents like Mary Zacharias, whose farm in the Rural Municipality of Franklin does not have high-speed internet service.
"Satellite service is great. It's just not as fast," she said.
"We need stuff like that out here so we can have services and things," she said of broadband service. "It means jobs … that can open up out here."
Provincial budget consultations begin
Meanwhile, public consultations are underway on Manitoba's 2014 budget.
Howard said more than 6,000 Manitobans took part in two telephone-based town halls on Monday night — one in Winnipeg and another for rural and northern residents.
Other town halls are taking place on:
- Feb. 11: Dauphin, 1 to 3 p.m., Dauphin Friendship Centre, 210 First Ave. Register by calling 204-622-7630.
- Feb. 12: Churchill, 10 a.m. to noon at the Town Complex, 180 La Verendrye Ave. Register by calling 204-943-2274.
- Feb. 18: Gimli, 7 to 9 p.m., Lakeview Resort, 10 Centre St. Register by calling 204-642-4977.
Those who want to give their feedback on the upcoming budget can get more information on Manitoba Finance's website on how to file submissions or take part in the upcoming town halls.