Lies ... So many lies ... It makes me sad.
I am not happy about the PST hike -- few people are -- but for me the worst aspect of this week's budget announcement wasn't the tax increase itself but all of the lies that accompanied it. I appreciate honesty. I may not like what you're doing, but if you're honest about why you're doing it and have a good reason for doing so, I will not resent your actions.
But that is not the case here. There is a tremendous arrogance in how the government delivered this budget that I'm finding hard to articulate, so let's just get on with the show ... here some of the more grievous lies from this week's budget announcement:
LIE: The tax hike is required for flood infrastructure. Direct quote: "this revenue will help protect Manitobans against flooding." There are 13 consecutive paragraphs in the budget speech about flooding, leading up to the tax increase announcement.
FACT: Spending on water-related infrastructure is actually decreasing $11 million from last year -- from $59m to $48m. This amount also represents a very small fraction of the revenue that will be generated from the tax increase.
LIE. Holding a referendum on the tax increase would make us miss construction season. Direct quote: "We have to get on with it now. The construction season is in front of us."
FACT: This has got to be one of the worst excuses I have ever heard from a politician. I don't even know where to start. How exactly is this supposed to make sense? You see .. much like pizza at New York's famed Grimaldi's Pizzaria, you can only pay for flood infrastructure in cash, and we ... um ... don't seem to have any cash on us. Do you have any cash Greg? No? Ya, neither do I. Gosh, where are we going to find all that money so we can protect Manitoba families from flooding? This really is quite the conundrum. I think the only solution is to instantaneously raise $48 million on July 1 with a PST hike so that we can get those construction crews working!
As already mentioned, flood infrastructure spending is going down from last year, and in any case these projects can be financed. A referendum has absolutely no bearing on whether a dike gets built this summer.
LIE: Our sales tax rate is still 3rd lowest in Canada. Direct quote: "Our PST will remain third lowest in the country."
FACT: We aren't even the 3rd lowest in Western Canada.
Manitoba: 8% ← 4th lowest
Or .. you could look at it this way: we are 4th highest in Canada, lower than only Quebec, PEI and Nova Scotia.
FUN FACT: Two other provinces are decreasing their sales tax, including Nova Scotia. By July 2015 we will be tied for the 3rd highest sales tax rate in Canada.
LIE: The global economy is to blame. Direct quote: "But the economic outlook remains uncertain. The source of that uncertainty lies outside our borders."
FACT: As I've progressed through life I have learned that there are certain phrases that you never want to hear. Phrases like:
"We regret to inform you.."
"I just got my results back.."
"While we have weathered the recession better than most provinces, the global economy remains uncertain.."
If you have the opportunity to pour yourself a scotch before hearing the remainder of any of those sentences I highly recommend it. Anyhow, on with the facts .... revenues for the year that just passed came in at only $200k less than what was budgeted for 2012/13, and those revenues were 3% more than the year before. In other words, the government's revenues are pretty much exactly as anticipated when the Premier said "Ridiculous idea that we're going to raise the sales tax. That's total nonsense, everybody knows that."
LIE. We are on track to balance the budget by 2016. Direct quote: "It will allow us to deliver a balanced budget by 2016."
FACT: The budget does indeed show Manitoba achieving a balanced budget in 2016/17. How? Through spending restraint unlike any we have seen from this government in the past. Spending growth projections are:
For reference, the smallest increase the NDP has budgeted since it came into power in 1999 is 2.5%, and they have averaged spending increases of 4.6%. While it is technically possible for the government to keep this promise, they know very well that they will not.
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