Pallister cool on budget that lacks new asylum seeker money, Factory of the Future commitment

The federal budget failed to get Premier Brian Pallister’s full seal of approval after it neglected to offer any new money for asylum seekers or a written commitment to a high-tech project promised more than two years ago.

Manitoba premier applauds commitment to Indigenous health, but says budget fails in other areas

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says he is disappointed that no new money was allocated to asylum seekers. (John Woods/Canadian Press)

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The federal budget failed to get Premier Brian Pallister's full seal of approval after it neglected to offer new money for asylum seekers or a commitment to a high-tech project promised more than two years ago.

But the Manitoba premier did say he was "not displeased" by the budget's commitment to funding for Indigenous health care.

Pallister held a press conference late Wednesday afternoon, along with Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen and Finance Minister Cameron Friesen, following the tabling of the Trudeau Liberals' second budget.

The budget offered few specifics for Manitoba.

Pallister has repeatedly said he will not continue negotiations on a new health care deal with Ottawa until he sees in writing that the threat to remove the $60 million earmarked for the Factory of the Future project is off the table. The high-tech facility would be used for advanced aerospace and automotive manufacturing research.

"We have no solid confirmation that that project is a go and we need to have that and we deserve to have that," Pallister said. "So I am waiting for that message."

The province is the lone holdout in the federal health deal, which offers a three per cent increase in federal health care transfers — which Pallister said is not enough.

'Not displeased' with Indigenous health funding

But Pallister applauded the multibillion-dollar commitment to Indigenous health care.

Pallister estimates the province will see an additional $20 million flow annually to Manitoba for Indigenous health, based on the commitment made in the budget and in Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau's speech on Wednesday. 

"We are not displeased with the commitment that is being made to First Nations health issues," Pallister said. 

What he didn't see was any new money allocated for the rush of asylum seekers crossing into Canada. Manitoba remains on the front lines of the crisis as the Emerson border continues to see more and more refugees crossing into Canada, he said.

"Talk of continuing previously announced programs is not recognition of the growing concerns I think many Canadians have about the need for better partnership to protect asylum seekers," Pallister said.

"Manitoba has stood strong and done more than our part. It is time for a Team Canada approach there, which is not in today's budget."

'Drop in the bucket' for legal-aid services

The budget promises $62.9 million over five years for legal-aid services for new immigrants and refugees, but doesn't address the strain the influx has put on social programs and frontline workers, he said. His understanding is the legal-aid pledge is only a continuation of a previous program.

"We are seeing the impact it is having on Manitobans, front-line people now," he said. "We have serious demands in our province and they are not recognized in these numbers.

"It's a drop in the bucket."

As for other broader promises, such as the $11 billion for affordable housing over 11 years or the $7 billion over 10 years to create new child-care spaces, Pallister said it is unclear how much of that money will flow to Manitoba.

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