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Health care, cost of living main priorities for Manitoba NDP government's first budget

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The first budget from the Wab Kinew-led NDP provincial government has been announced.

To help pay for some of the budget, the government plans on overhauling the school tax system which will bring in an additional $148 million. The extra revenue will help cover two focus points for the NDP - the health-care system and the cost of living.

Health care

The Manitoba government is promising to hire 1,000 new health-care workers this year. They are directing $310 million to bring in 100 new doctors, 210 nurses, 90 paramedics and 600 health-care aides.

“Some of them will be young Manitobans, who see there is a bright future working in Manitoba health-care,” said Finance Minister Adrien Sala during his budget speech in the Manitoba Legislature.

“Some will be those who left health-care under the previous government, now returning to the front lines.

“Many came to Manitoba as newcomers. They want to use their skills to care for Manitoba families - and we’re going to make that possible.”

Another $65 million is being put toward reducing wait times in emergency rooms. This means there will be 151 new acute beds added to hospitals throughout the province.

Plans have also been announced for the Victoria General Hospital, including the Anne Oake Recovery Centre being at the hospital and the evaluation of a Centre of Excellence in Mature Women’s Health.

There are also a number of capital investment projects for the health sector with $635 million being used to help with preliminary designs for Victoria General emergency room, CancerCare Manitoba Headquarters, the construction of the Lac du Bonnet Personal Care Home and the design of the Eriksdale Emergency Room.

The province is committing $2.5 million toward a supervised consumption site in Winnipeg. Premier Wab Kinew said it could be located somewhere on north Main Street and could be open by this time next year.

Another $1.5 million will be used to expand treatment for people who struggle with addictions.

Cost of living

The gas tax holiday will continue for Manitobans for another three months. This will save drivers 14 cents per litre while filling up at the pumps.

Come 2025, the government’s new plan for the school tax rebate will take effect. The new system will see people with lower property values get more money back, while those with homes worth more than $437,000 will receive a smaller rebate than what they used to get. The government will be making $148 million annually off this new tax structure.

Also starting in 2025, renters and seniors will see an increased tax credit. Renters will get up to $575 back a year, while low-income seniors will get a top-up of up to $328.

Drivers will also see a rate reduction of five per cent for their vehicle insurance through MPI. The reduction took effect on April 1.

Those who buy electric vehicles are also entitled to a rebate, retroactive to Aug. 1, 2023.

If Manitobans buy a new EV or plug-in hybrid, they can get up to $4,000 back and if they buy a used EV or plug-in hybrid, they can receive a $2,500 rebate.

The government is also wanting to help Manitobans who are making their homes safer, by offering a $300 rebate to any homeowner or business that installs or upgrades a security system.

The government is projecting a deficit of $796 million, down from nearly $2 billion a year ago.

Other notes from the 2024 budget

On top of the $20 million going toward the search of a Winnipeg-area landfill for the remains of missing Indigenous women - a timeline Kinew would not discuss on Tuesday - the government is investing another $20 million to implement a new MMIWG2S+ strategy.

There is $10 million earmarked in the budget to fix Winnipeg’s sewage system, including the spill that happened at the Fort Garry Bridge.

Two new schools will be coming to Winnipeg which will be paid for as part of the $160 million for capital projects in the education system. One school will be Ecole Mino Pimatisiwin School in Seven Oaks School Division in northwest Winnipeg. The second will be Ecole Sage Creek Bonavista in the Louis Riel School Division in southeast Winnipeg. Each school is scheduled to have a new childcare centre.

Speaking of childcare, $2.5 million will be used to expand the $10 a day childcare program, so school age kids can be looked after on non-school days, including during spring and summer breaks.

The Manitoba government wants to build 350 units of social and affordable housing, with $116 million going toward that project. The money will also help repair and maintain another 3,000 units.

The province is also going to sign a Coordinated Vaping Product Taxation Agreement with the federal government, meaning it will cost more to buy vaping products. The current federal tax outline for these products is $1 more for every container with 10 millilitres of vaping liquid and $5 for the first 10 millilitres plus an addition $1 for every additional 10 millilitres. Manitoba will double those rates starting Jan. 1, 2025.

There is also a plan to offer free birth control and provide extra funding for fertility treatment.

The full budget can be read below.

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