Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Cuts to Seniors Tax Rebate, Ambulance Fees in Manitoba Tories' First Budget

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Cuts to Seniors Tax Rebate, Ambulance Fees in Manitoba Tories' First Budget

Article excerpt

Cuts to seniors tax rebate: Manitoba budget

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WINNIPEG - High-income seniors who own homes will no longer get a cheque of up to $470 a year and minimum-wage earners may not get a raise for the first time in recent memory in the first budget tabled by Manitoba's new Progressive Conservative government.

The $13.5-billion budget, which posts a $911-million deficit, cuts the number of seniors who can take advantage of the education property tax rebate in half by tying it to income.

Low-income households earning less than $40,000 a year are to continue to get the rebate, while seniors making between $40,000 and $63,500 are to see the refund cut by an average of $100.

Seniors earning more than $63,500 won't get the rebate cheque at all. The changes will net the province about $44 million a year.

"Tax policy must be principled," Finance Minister Cameron Friesen said Tuesday. "Those seniors who actually need the support will continue to receive it."

For the first time in 17 years, there was no mention of minimum-wage earners in the budget and no commitment to give them a raise in the fall. Manitoba's current minimum wage is $11 a hour, which puts it near the middle of the pack among provinces.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said the government is helping low-income earners by increasing personal income tax brackets and tying them to the rate of inflation starting next year.

"What it will do is leave more money in the hands of Manitobans who want that money in their hands," he said.

Advocates say that change will leave low-income earners about $16 richer annually compared with about $400 they would see from an hourly raise based on inflation. Molly McCracken with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives hailed the changes to the seniors tax rebate, but said the tax changes for low-income earners are "really a drop in the bucket."

"It's very disappointing," she said. "With the cost of food going up, the cost of housing going up, people are going to be paying more on their very limited income. …

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