The NDP claims the governing Progressive Conservatives could only afford its $2.5 billion in new pre-election promises and repeat funding announcements by making cuts to social services, but the party offered no evidence.
The Official Opposition accused Heather Stefanson’s government on Tuesday of trying to distract people from its record of cuts. The PC government was austerity-minded for much of its tenure in power, beginning in 2016.
“Over the last two months, the desperate flurry of press releases and promises don’t fool anyone,” NDP MLA Matt Wiebe told reporters.
“Manitobans know that this PC government is all about cuts. They’re making promises they know they can’t keep.”
The NDP claims the province has made nearly $2.5 billion in spending commitments in the past two months alone, though at least $1 billion of that comes from projects, such as water infrastructure projects and school capital improvements, that have already been announced.
Some of the Tories’ new, big-ticket promises include a tentative agreement with physicians that includes a $268 million funding boost, an extra $200 million toward the recruitment and retention of health-care professionals and $67 million to improve Manitoba Housing projects.
Rash of announcements before blackout
The government has ramped up its spending prior to a pre-election blackout period starting on Friday, when it will be barred from making new spending commitments. The blackout period will run for the 60 days remaining in the Tories’ mandate before the Oct. 3 election.
It is customary of governments to make a barrage of funding announcements in a rush to publish good news before the blackout, and try to curry favour with voters.
But the NDP anticipates that Manitobans will see through the PC’s tactics.
“It’s our job as the Official Opposition to ensure that Manitobans remember who these PCs are, that their actions speak louder than their words, and to remember that this PC government is planning nothing but cuts in a desperate move to try to hold on to power here,” Wiebe said.
Wiebe offered no evidence a re-elected Tory government would make cuts, but rather said past performance is indicative of future behaviour.
In the 2016 election that ushered the Tories into power, the PCs promised to protect front-line services, Wiebe said, but some services were either axed, such as outpatient care from CancerCare Manitoba, or converted to another purpose, like the Winnipeg emergency departments that became urgent care centres.
Stefanson spent part of Tuesday morning at the groundbreaking for the first tenant at the CentrePort Canada Rail Park. The Fastfrate Group said its new 140,000 sq. ft. of facilities will cost around $55 million.
Asked afterwards about the NDP’s warning of future Tory cuts, Stefanson was dismissive. She chuckled and shook her head.
“Our whole plan, and this is why we’re here today, is to grow our economy,” she said. “We know if we grow our economy, it means more tax dollars to the province of Manitoba and that’s how we’re going to pay for more health care, education and social services.”
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