Liberals promise new spending, Tories rally on Manitoba campaign trail
Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont speaks in Winnipeg on Sunday Sept. 8, 2019. Lamont promised more than $1 billion a year in new spending as he released his party’s full platform in advance of Tuesday’s provincial election. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Steve Lambert
The Manitoba Liberal Party promised major spending increases and a rising carbon tax Sunday as it released its full platform and tried to differentiate itself from the NDP and Progressive Conservatives heading into Tuesday's provincial election.
Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont promised more than $1 billion in new annual spending on seniors' home care, road work, child care spaces and more. The promises had been made throughout the four-week election campaign, but Sunday marked the first time the Liberals attached a price tag to their overall plan.
"A Manitoba Liberal government will begin investments immediately, with $1.4 billion invested in the first year, to repair services and infrastructure that have been left neglected for decades," Lamont said.
Lamont, who is trying to build on the Liberal's four legislature seats, has positioned his party, fiscally, as a left-leaning alternative to the New Democrats and Progressive Conservatives that have formed governments in Manitoba for the last several decades. He has criticized spending restraint and some tax cuts from both other parties.
Lamont said the extra spending he's proposing would generate more economic activity, which would in turn generate more tax revenue for the government and help balance the budget.
A Liberal government would also follow the federal Liberals' lead and raise the carbon tax to $50 per tonne by 2022, he said. It is currently at $20 per tonne.
But instead of returning all the carbon tax money via income tax credits, as the federal plan does, the provincial Liberals would use hundreds of millions of dollars a year from the tax to pay for their promises. Some income-tax credits would remain, Lamont said, aimed at low- and middle-income earners.
Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister rallied his troops Sunday at a convention centre near the Winnipeg airport. Pallister had spent the previous two days touring northern and rural constituencies, and accused the NDP of not paying enough attention to areas outside Winnipeg.
"They should review the Back Roads of Manitoba book. It's a beautiful book," Pallister said to some 200 supporters as he held up a book that outlines rural tourist attractions.
Opinion polls throughout this year have suggested Pallister is leading his opponents, and he has run a front-runner's campaign in recent days with few announcements or press conferences.
New Democrat Leader Wab Kinew spent Sunday focusing on health care -- the key issue for the NDP campaign. Kinew criticized the government's reforms, which have included the conversion of three hospital emergency departments into urgent care centres, which do not handle life-threatening issues such as heart attacks.
Kinew also released government documents that showed the province had hired consulting firm Deloitte LLP to help in its ongoing reforms.
"A newly elected NDP government would immediately fire Deloitte to put a stop to Pallister's health care cuts," the NDP said in a news release.