Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Manitoba Premier to Face Budget, Hydro Issues in New Year

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Manitoba Premier to Face Budget, Hydro Issues in New Year

Article excerpt

Manitoba premier faces budget battle in 2013

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WINNIPEG - Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger will face at least two major challenges in 2013 -- addressing a growing deficit and convincing Manitobans that now is the time to build $20 billion in hydro projects.

Both issues have been exacerbated by the global economic downtown. Revenues are not keeping up with spending increases, due in part to a drop in exports and flat transfer payments from the federal government. The soft economy in the United States has also helped reduce the price Crown-owned Manitoba Hydro can get on the spot market south of the border.

Selinger has already taken political heat on both fronts. Before the October 2011 election that saw him take the NDP to a record 37 of 57 legislature seats, the premier had already announced plans to run deficits until 2015 (the red ink started in 2010). Near the start of the election campaign, the NDP issued a news release saying the province was on track to be back in the black by 2015 -- without raising taxes.

Just over a year later, the New Democrats had broken those commitments. Last spring's budget increased taxes on many types of insurance as well as on personal services such as haircuts and tattoos. The gasoline tax went up as well.

More recently, Selinger said balancing the budget would take an extra two years. Earlier this month, the province announced its deficit for the fiscal year that ends in March is set to jump by $107 million to $567 million

Selinger is not ruling out further tax increases.

"We have not taken anything off the table," he said in a recent interview. "We're not ruling anything out. But we do have an overall objective of keeping Manitoba an affordable place to live and then narrowing that gap between revenue and expenditure to come back into balance."

Selinger is not alone. Almost every province, as well as the federal government, is in the midst of multiple deficits. Revisions are common. Alberta Premier Alison Redford, who was elected with a plan to eliminate red ink, is now facing a $3-billion deficit this fiscal year. …

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