Opinion: Making good on our PST promise

Morden-Winkler MLA Cameron Friesen. (AARON SIVERTSON; Sightlines Photograph)

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A few weeks ago, the Manitoba government delivered Budget 2019: Getting The Job Done and updated Manitobans on our plan to fix the finances, repair our services and rebuild the economy.
At the core of this budget is the reduction of the Provincial Sales Tax from 8% to 7% effective July 1. Manitobans have not forgotten the 2011 provincial election campaign in which the NDP promised to Manitobans that they would not raise the PST if re-elected. I was first elected to the Manitoba Legislature in 2011 and I was present on the day the NDP broke their word and indicated they were raising the PST, generating an additional $300M each and every year for a government that could not get their fiscal house in order. The NDP overspent their planned budgets most years, failed to demonstrate financial leadership and accountability, and left our province with record debt and a deficit of over $900M. We knew that as a new government we were inheriting a mess. Nevertheless, we made a promise to Manitobans to reduce the PST (which should never have been increased in the first place). As we know, Manitobans pay among the highest taxes in all of Canada. In my former role as Finance Minister, I will always remember the incredible challenges we faced to reign in over-spending, find ways to deliver services more effectively, and do so knowing we had to keep that PST commitment to Manitobans by the end of our first term.
Our government has made real progress in reducing the deficit these past three years while getting better results for Manitobans in the services they rely on and expect. Budget 2019 commits to reduce the deficit to $360M by this time next year, and we are ahead of schedule to deliver a balanced budget. By lowering the PST now, we are both keeping our word to Manitobans and demonstrating our belief that families need a break as household expenses continue to rise. This PST cut will leave more money on the kitchen table and save the average Manitoba family of four approximately $500 each year.
Other highlights in this budget include investing more in education and health care, cutting ambulance fees in half, spending $1B on strategic infrastructure (including $350M in funding for highways) and investing more for existing and new community-based daycare projects.