Manitoba offers 60% tax rebate on tuition in throne speech

Manitoba's NDP government has promised a 60-per-cent tax rebate on tuition fees to university and college students who stay and work in the province after they graduate.

Other pledges: $4B for highways, construction of Conawapa dam

Manitoba's NDP government has promiseda 60-per-cent tax rebate on tuition fees touniversity and college students who stay and work in the province after they graduate.

The pledge came Wednesday in the government's annual throne speech, which wasread by Lt.-Gov. John Harvard to openthe fifth session of the 38th Manitoba legislature.

Calling it a first in Manitoba history, Harvard said the rebate will be take effect in 2007 and allow "the average graduate to receive the rebate over six years" while working to establish a career in the province and paying off student debt.

"While we have made more progress in keeping our young people, more work is needed. We will continue with policies that provide affordable, accessible education opportunities and hope for the future," Harvard said during the speech.

Manitoba's rebate is 10 per cent more than the one offered in New Brunswick, which offers a university or college tuition rebate of up to 50 per cent to a maximum of $10,000.

Harvard said the rebate program will also offer incentives for students to continue further study, including graduate or professional programs, in Manitoba.

$4B promised for highways

As part of the speech, the government also pledged $4 billion over the next 10 years to fix the province's highways. In September, Premier Gary Doerannounced $300 million over the next two budget years for highway construction and maintenance.

Harvard said the $4 billion promised in the throne speech is "the largest investment in infrastructure ever made in Manitoba."

The province also pledged to build new roads to remote central and northern communities, including the Rice River all-weatherroad that connects communities on the east side of Lake Winnipeg.

The speech promised a $2,000 rebate on the purchase of hybrid vehicles starting immediately and in effect until at least 2009.

Conawapa dam will be built: Doer

The province also announced it will proceed with building the long-proposed Conawapa dam in northern Manitoba, in hopes of selling more power to other provinces and the United States.If built, the dam could generate as much as 1,250 megawatts of hydroelectricity.

"Energy projections for export and domestic markets indicate the time is right for Manitoba Hydro to move forward with another major generating station," Harvard said during the speech.

Harvardadded that as with the Wuskwatim dam — which was greenlighted in the spring for construction on the Burntwood Riversouthwest of Thompson — the Conawapa project will be subject to public review by independent regulators.

Doer said onWednesday that the project will also undergo a thorough environmental review before it proceeds.

The premier said the former Progressive Conservative government under Gary Filmon had shelved plans to build the $5-billion dam. Doer said hisNDP government wouldmove ahead with the project, estimating it willgive the province at least 13,000 person-hours of work.

"We're also committing today to building Conawapa. We believe that the announcement we made almost two weeks ago… is an extrememly important part of the piece to build futre hydroelectric dams," he said.

On Nov. 3, the province and Manitoba Hydro announced they had signed a 10-year extension of an existing power sale contract with Northern States Power in Minnesota. That contract also requires regulatory approval for it to go ahead.