Pandemic top of mind during Manitoba's 2021 budget town hall
WINNIPEG -- The province wanted to hear from Manitobans Tuesday night as it hosted a town hall to discuss the 2021 budget.
Several topics were brought up during the hour-long phone call. However there was a lot of the focus on how the province plans to handle the rest of the pandemic and how the government will recover when life eventually gets back to normal.
One person on the call wanted to know what the vaccine plan is looking like in Manitoba and how the government will continue to address this.
Finance Minister Scott Fielding said he was talking with the federal finance minister last week about the AstraZeneca shot and its future in the country.
"The AstraZeneca vaccine will be approved over the next number of weeks as I understand it from Ottawa. So you are going to have more vaccines coming to Manitoba," Fielding said.
The AstraZeneca vaccine has already been approved in the United Kingdom and Fielding said it would be very beneficial to Manitoba's fight against COVID-19.
The finance minister said a lot of this year's budget will focus on supporting the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We will continue to invest in our recovery and really reinforce our public health response in our economic and fiscal resilience," he said.
THE RAINY DAY FUND
The rainy day fund was on a number of people's minds throughout the call, with one man asking how the province plans on restocking the fund in the future.
Fielding said the province will continue to put away money whenever possible, but, he added, there are plans in place to tap into the fund this year to help with a response to the pandemic.
"We will be addressing rainy day for business supports as well as health-care related means," the finance minister said.
He said once the government decides to use the money it could be used in a variety of ways, including purchasing more personal protective equipment and other pandemics-related expenses.
One woman on the call asked Fielding how the province will continue to address mental health, especially related to the pandemic.
Fielding said he understands the importance of mental health to Manitobans and said this has been a main focus for the province.
"We've allocated over $42 million for mental health and addictions," Fielding said.
"We do think that we need to do much, much more, specifically coming out of the pandemic, but I will tell you that we have made important investments and we really have prioritized it and you will see more of that in this budget coming up."
HOW WILL THE PROVINCE BUDGET TO HELP MANITOBA'S YOUTH?
Callers in the town hall were concerned with how the pandemic has impacted Manitoba's youth and how the province plans to help them.
Fielding said young people have felt the effects of the pandemic, and that while the Manitoba government has worked at supporting youth, including a wage subsidy for businesses that hire youth, more can be done.
"Governments need to do more in terms of supporting youth, specifically because they have been impacted by the pandemic,” he said.
“So I am going to take that back and we will definitely look to do policies that can really help impact youth and make sure they are employed."
Fielding closed the town hall by thanking Manitobans for offering their suggestions for the 2021. He said he plans to take what he heard and evaluate it for the next fiscal year.