Manitoba NDP commits to more spending in final days of campaign
NDP leader Greg Selinger speaks to media after asking the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba to call the 2016 provincial election in Winnipeg, Wednesday, March 16, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, April 15, 2016 1:14PM CST
Last Updated Friday, April 15, 2016 3:19PM CST
WINNIPEG -- NDP Leader Greg Selinger has revealed days before the Manitoba election that his campaign platform would add tens of millions of dollars to a provincial budget already in the red.
Selinger on Friday released his party's full, costed platform, which includes several big-ticket promises made in recent weeks that weren't in his government's mini-budget last month.
The New Democrats have pushed back plans to balance the budget three times since 2011 and Selinger said now is not the time to put the brakes on spending.
"The global consensus is ... that everywhere in the world there has to be an emphasis on stimulus and job-creation -- that the growth rates around the world are too low to sustain the quality of life we have," Selinger said.
Among the campaign items not in the mini-budget are 1,000 new personal-care home beds, a reduction in ambulance fees and conversion of student loans to grants.
The promises, which would be phased in over time, would cost the government an additional $34 million this year and ramp up to $137 million by 2021.
Selinger was unable to say whether the extra spending would delay his aim to end more than a decade of deficits by 2021. His campaign team later issued a written statement that said the target date remains. However, there are no revenue or expenditure projections for the years after 2018.
The NDP's spending has been a key issue in the election campaign.
After promising in the last campaign to balance the budget by 2015 without a major sales tax increase, Selinger raised the provincial sales tax and sidestepped a requirement under Manitoba's balanced budget law to hold a referendum on the move.
The NDP immediately sank in opinion polls and has remained behind the Progressive Conservatives ever since.
Tory Leader Brian Pallister has accused Selinger of planning another tax increase. Pallister suggests that would be the only way the NDP could afford their campaign promises. Selinger has said he will not raise the sales tax again.
The premier said Friday that Pallister would cut spending and hurt the economy.
"The austerity approach ... means less growth in the economy, means less revenue, means more job losses. It's a downward cycle."