Premier decries $1B going to New York 'money lenders' as he rejects municipal pleas for more cash
Brian Pallister says no sharing of cannabis cash and no funding hikes for Manitoba municipalities
Premier Brian Pallister says Manitoba won't share cannabis excise cash with municipalities and also has no other goodies to offer mayors and reeves hungry for new revenue heading into the new year.
Whittling down the provincial deficit is too important to jeopardize with new municipal funding, Pallister said Monday at the annual Association of Manitoba Municipalities conference, complaining the annual cost of servicing the provincial debt will exceed $1 billion.
"That billion plus, for the first time, is going to go to happy money lenders in New York City and Toronto," the premier said during a 21-minute speech at RBC Convention Centre.
Manitoba's total debt stood at $24.2 billion at the end of the most recent fiscal year, when the province posted an $827-million deficit.
Pallister said the province is wrestling with fiscal challenges such as rising interest rates and costly projects at Crown-owned Manitoba Hydro. He has promised to eliminate the deficit by 2024 after a string of deficits started by the former NDP government in 2009.
"Isn't it about time that we had a provincial government that understood that you can't just grow debt, and say yes to everything today, without consequences tomorrow?" Pallister told delegates.
"Getting back to balance is a priority for us."
AMM president Chris Goertzen said municipalities are facing inflationary pressures and want the province to end a funding freeze put in place in 2017 — and share cannabis excise-tax revenues.
"We know we're going to be seeing increases as municipalities and we want to see the provincial government sharing those excise dollars to cover those costs," Goertzen said.
Pallister said his government has no plans to end the two-year-old municipal funding freeze and said there's no evidence cannabis revenues will exceed provincial costs, including additional policing.
Currently, cannabis buyers are paying an excise duty of $1 per gram or 10 per cent of the price, whichever is higher. The federal government has offered to keep 25 per cent of the money and give the rest to the provinces.
On Jan. 1, the province will begin charging a six-per-cent levy on cannabis retail sales.
Pallister also used his speech to criticize Ottawa for expanding consultations on the Lake Manitoba flood-relief channel, claiming the move will delay the completion until he's 82, which would be 2036.
Pallister also claimed Toronto law firms are trying to delay the project even further.
"I have a word of advice for the lawyers from Bay Street in Toronto that are coming up to communities in the Interlake and telling them on contingency they'll make them a lot of money by threatening to delay these projects," Pallister said.
"My advice to these lawyers is get a job. Get a real job."
With files from Steve Lambert, the Canadian Press