Groups react to NDP budget with praise, caution

Reaction is pouring in for the NDP government’s new budget for Manitoba.

The budget, tabled Tuesday afternoon, sees a focus on improving health-care and cost of living in Manitoba, and also includes an extension of the fuel tax freeze put in place in January.

The Manitoba Association of Health-Care Professionals (MAHCP) said the budget acknowledges the role allied health professionals, such as paramedics, play in the health-care system, but wanted to see more short-term investment to help fill vacancies.

“Manitoba is still burning out allied health professionals due to chronic understaffing and excessive workload and overtime. We are hopeful that the funding increases we heard about today can start to change that,” president Jason Linklater said in a statement.

Linklater said his organization wants to see targeted recruitment and retention incentives for specialized areas in high demand, such as paramedics and rural diagnostics.

Finance Minister Adrien Sala promised the government would hire 1,000 new health-care workers this year, spending $310 million to add 100 new doctors, 210 nurses, 90 paramedics and 600 health-care aide to Manitoba.

The Manitoba Nurses Union said it is encouraging to see the path the government is on, but added they want to see more effort to help retain nurses.

“There remains plenty of work to do, we know it will take time, but we also hear from our members that patience is wearing thin,” said MNU President Darlene Jackson. “Government and employers need to be fixated on implementing approaches that will retain nurses in our system. Without this, inadequate staffing and burnout will continue to be major issues.”

Canadian Taxpayers Federation

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has also weighed in, and praised the province for extending its fuel tax holiday for an additional three months.

“This gas tax cut extension means more savings for families when they need it most,” said Gage Haubrich, CTF Prairie Director in a statement. “It’s great to see the government listen to Manitoba taxpayers and help them by continuing to make life more affordable.”

Haubrich said he is concerned about the province’s deficit, which will total $796 million this year.

“Despite taking in record amounts of money from Manitobans, the government is still failing to balance the budget,” Haubrich said. “The government is kicking the debt can down the road and wasting close to $200 million per month on interest payments.”

Manitoba Federation of Labour

The Manitoba Federation of Labour had praise for the budget’s focus on building up public service.

“The previous PC government left Manitoba’s public services in dire straits, and we know that repairing the damage from the PC years will take more than one budget. But this budget’s investments towards hiring 1,000 new health care workers will make a real difference,” said MFL president Kevin Rebeck in a statement.

Rebeck said he wished to see an additional focus on childcare spaces.

“While this budget does improve child care affordability for working families who are lucky enough to have a spot, much more needs to be done to address our province’s massive shortfall of child care spaces,” he said. “The government needs to focus on training early childhood educators and paying them a fair wage, to have any real hope of being able to open the 20,000 additional child care spaces promised under the federal agreement.”

Canadian Union of Public Employees

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) is also praising the budget, calling it ‘night and day’ from previous budgets under the Progressive Conservatives.

“The government is moving forward on important initiatives including increased supports for disability services, a safe consumption site, and taking steps on MMIWG2S+ such as searching the Prairie Green landfill,” said Gina McKay, president of CUPE Manitoba, in a news release. “This government is making it clear that they will listen to equity-seeking groups and act. We look forward to continue to be at the table.”

McKay was also pleased with the budget for its pledge to hire additional health-care workers, ending the freeze on municipal funding and building two new schools in Manitoba without using the P3 model (Public-Private Partnership).

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

The Manitoba chapter of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) took a more critical look at the budget.

While it praised the spending for health care, the organization was disappointed there wasn’t more investment in long-term care.

It also criticized the government’s tax cuts in some areas, particularly the fuel tax gas cut.

“The Manitoba government is addicted to tax cuts, as shown by the extension of the gas tax cut, which incentivizes the use of fossil fuels at a time of climate crisis. There is no additional support to help those who do not drive a vehicle in this budget, for example,” said Molly McCracken, CCPA Manitoba Director in a statement.

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