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They’ve scaled back Manitoba spending, but there is still a lot of fat to trim 

Lee Harding

I have good news for commentators who say Manitobans will be sick, stupid, and broke if this tax-cutting PC government is re-elected: they’re wrong.

The unadjusted StatsCan numbers for August 2023 prove it. As a total percentage of wages and salaries, Manitoba pays out more in education, healthcare and social assistance, and even provincial government administration than the Canadian average.

Healthcare and social services account for 15 percent of pay in Manitoba vs. 10.8 percent in Canada as a whole. That makes the proportional share of total wages 39 percent higher in Manitoba.

The same goes for schools. Total educator pay takes less of the pie in Canada than it did in 2015, but more in Manitoba. Educational services account for 10 percent of all wages and salaries in the province, again much higher than the national average of 7 percent. This means education gets 42 percent more of the pay in Manitoba than elsewhere.

Manitoba legislature

Manitoba Legislature
Photo by Mahesh Gupta

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Manitoba’s civil service has been laudably restrained by the provincial PCs following four terms of the union-friendly NDP. In August 2015, civil servants received $69.6 million; in August of this year, they received $73.7 million. This 5.8 percent increase is the lowest among provinces and much less than the 41.7 percent increase in the national average.

Even so, provincial government administration still accounts for 2.3 percent of Manitoba’s total wages compared to two percent for the average Canadian province. This means 14.2 percent bloat remains.

What would happen if total pay were reduced proportionately in these areas? It would leave healthcare workers paid $138.7 million less every month, educational workers $100.8 million less, and provincial bureaucrats $10 million less. That makes a total of $3 billion over 12 months. And none of this accounts for the employer’s pension contributions.

These numbers dwarf the $1.8 billion of tax reductions in the PC platform, some of which will be recouped by the private sector economic growth they stimulate. Such growth would rebalance the percentages above without any cuts to health care or education.

Moreover, tax reductions apply to everyone, including public sector employees. A PC government can tell unions at the negotiating table they already have more take-home pay thanks to lower taxes. This would allow lower taxpayer expenditures without any loss of services or take-home pay for unions.

Those worried about the provincial debt and public services should realize this: a vibrant private sector is the only thing that will provide the revenues the province needs to service its debts and provide services.

The electorate often wants change after two terms in power, but Manitobans have good cause to disregard the seven-year itch. The province had the third-best GDP growth in Canada last year despite a government in Ottawa not endeared to the prairies. The biggest failure, the lockdown debacles, was a former circumstance by a former leader. Thankfully, both the NDP and PCs say, “Never again.”

Then there’s social issues. Like the Saskatchewan and New Brunswick governments, the Manitoba PCs want to reinforce the role of parents regarding creeping gender ideology in schools. Many Manitobans and Canadians want to put the brake on wokeness, but unfortunately, the NDP is more likely to put its foot on this gas pedal.

Imagine what that could mean. More Bishop Grandin style cancel culture? More vandalized Queen Victoria statues? More pronoun nonsense? Even woker universities? Diversity quotas instead of meritocratic hiring? Economy-killing climate policies?

Change for change’s sake is never reason enough, especially when it’s a change for the worse.

Lee Harding is a Research Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

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