by James Beddome, Leader, Green Party of Manitoba
Building a sustainable Manitoba requires a provincial budget that taxes things we do not want, like pollution, and removes taxes on things that we do want, such as job creation. This budget fails in both respects.
This Government brags about new water treatment investments related to CentrePort Canada, yet for decades we have seen inaction on fixing Winnipeg’s waste water treatment facilities, with the result that Lake Winnipeg has been named the most threatened lake in the world.
We see very little in this provincial budget to enhance environmental protection in Manitoba. The Conservation and Water Stewardship budget has been decreased, with only 30% of expenditures dedicated to environmental stewardship, water stewardship and biodiversity initiatives. This budget creates a new $1 million dollar fund to help reduction in carbon emissions but it is only a small fraction of what is needed, especially because this Government has failed to meet its own legislated carbon emissions reductions targets.
Nothing in the Agriculture budget gives priority to moving towards sustainable organic agriculture, which is key to the future of the agricultural economy and the family farm. Tax expenditures that subsidize pesticides and fossil-fuel derived fertilizers should be redirected towards funding the transition towards sustainable agriculture in Manitoba.
The fuel tax has risen by only 2.8% per year since 2000, compared to an average 5% per year increase for all taxes. The fuel tax in this budget will raise $345.7 million, while the projected costs of road maintenance and roads and highways infrastructure asset costs are $474.6 million, leaving a shortfall of $129 million. In the current climate of low gas prices Manitobans could easily handle a modest fuel tax increase, which would be more than enough to close this gap, with money left over to fund investments in public transportation.
The budget for Family Services has risen by only 1.8 per cent per year since 2000, compared to an overall expenditure increase of 4.8 per cent per year. Given this systematic underfunding, the crisis in the child welfare system is not surprising.
The Green Party of Manitoba congratulates the Government for its commitment to increase its support for low-income renters, but, since the current Rent Assist program is reaching fewer than 10 per cent of eligible Manitobans, this is inadequate to meet their needs. Similarly, the Manitoba Child Benefit program is reaching only 35 per cent of eligible citizens, and the 55PLUS Junior component reaches only 20 per cent. We will be unveiling a broad tax reform package that features a refundable tax credit delivered through the personal income tax system, which will benefit all low-income Manitobans.
The Green Party of Manitoba is committed to building a sustainable Manitoba. Doing so requires more than a green cover on the budget; it requires greening society across all sectors.