Manitoba Tories release election platform

Progressive Conservatives won't sell Manitoba Hydro, won't bring down harmonized sales tax and would take until 2018 to eliminate the province's structural deficit.
Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard, NDP Premier Greg Selinger and Opposoition Leader Hugh McFadyen debate last week. (CBC)

The writ hasn't yet been dropped but Manitoba's Progressive Conservatives are getting a jump on the provincial election with the release of their party platform.

NDP Premier Greg Selinger is expected to officially call an election within days.

The vote will take place Oct. 4, but Opposition Leader Hugh McFadyen's Tories have taken the initiative by publicizing their entire campaign platform — which includes promises to shun tax hikes and take longer to balance the books than the New Democrats would.

"The NDP's plan to get back to balance by 2014 will result in tax increases for Manitoba," the Conservatives say in their 23-page platform document titled "Making Manitoba A Have Province."

"This is something that we don't think is acceptable — Manitobans already pay enough taxes."

The Tories say they would hold off until 2018 to balance the books and will not raise taxes.

Competing parties react

Competing political parties were quick to react critically to the platform leaked Monday by Manitoba's Progressive Conservatives.

Liberal leader Jon Gerrard says his party believes the deficit can be eliminated by 2014.

"We can eliminate the deficit earlier. We can get Manitoba on a positive trajectory and moving forward with some very positive and specific proposals," Gerrard said.

The Liberal proposals will be released next week.

Manitoba's NDP accused the Conservatives of trying to re-write history. NDP Labour Minister Jennifer Howard said Opposition Leader Hugh McFadyen's ties to the 1990s Gary Filmon Conservatives run deep and can't be glossed over.

"I think it's a cynical move frankly, to think that Manitobans will forget who he's been over his entire political career. They still feel that they were lied to about the sale of MTS."

The NDP has not yet released its election platform.

"That's important because it would allow the Tories not to make any cuts to programs as the Filmon Tories did in the '90s to balance the budget," the CBC's Leslie McLaren reported. "That's probably the issue that most haunts the Tories: cuts made under the Filmon government that are still, a dozen years later, fuelling the NDP's attacks."

The Conservatives say they will balance the books by finding savings, such as moving the Bipole lll hydro line to the east side of Lake Winnipeg, and saving $350 million by getting Winnipeg to remove only phosphorus from wastewater rather than both phosphorus and nitrogen. More money will be directed to healthcare by finding cuts in the health bureaucracy and the government will save money by making small tweaks such as eliminating the enhanced drivers' licence program.

The Tories say they will need to conduct a full review of the province's financial situation before publishing a full debt-reduction plan.

The Conservatives also promise to:

  • Lower personal income taxes.
  • Introduce a child care benefit.
  • Provide a permanent $500 home renovation tax credit.
  • Join the new west partnership with Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.

The Tories also say they will never sell Manitoba Hydro to private interests nor move to harmonize the provincial sales tax (PST) and the federal goods and services tax (GST).

The NDP holds 36 of the 57 seats in the legislature, the Conservatives 18 and the Liberals one. Two seats are vacant.

On Tuesday Conservative Leader Hugh McFadyen will officially launch his party's campaign at Winnipeg's Viscount Gort Hotel.