Manitoba politicians are right to focus on affordability. But will they keep their promises if elected?

Gage HaubrichThere’s one question Manitoba politicians have to answer when they’re singing for their supper during the upcoming provincial election.

Who’s going to make life more affordable?

Inflation is making gas and groceries unaffordable, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax isn’t helping. To make matters worse, interest rate hikes are making it harder to afford rent, mortgages and car payments.

We all need more money in our pockets, and Manitoba’s upcoming election is the perfect time for provincial politicians to step up and provide tax relief. Here are the promises so far.

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Manitoba New Democrat Leader Wab Kinew said he would cut provincial gas taxes for at least six months if he becomes premier. The provincial government currently charges drivers 14 cents per litre every time they fuel up. The average family filling up a sedan once a week would save about $215 over the six months of promised tax relief.

Kinew is also following the federal government’s lead and is promising to remove the provincial sales tax from new rental housing construction after Ottawa announced it would be doing the same with its sales tax.

Premier Heather Stefanson promised Progressive Conservatives would cut the lowest income tax bracket in half over the next five years. Once that cut is fully implemented in 2028, the average taxpayer will save $1,900 per year.

Stefanson also announced she would phase out the payroll tax over the next eight years. This would save provincial businesses approximately $440 million when the tax cut is complete. She then committed to removing the land transfer tax for first-time home buyers, which would save people $5,700 when purchasing the average home in Winnipeg.

Lastly, the PCs announced smaller promises on tax relief, including removing the provincial sales tax (PST) from trees and flowers, as well as restaurant meals.

These promises are much needed because Manitobans are paying too much tax. A Manitoba family making about $75,000 a year pays $6,925 in provincial taxes. That’s $2,802 more than they would pay in Saskatchewan, $4,322 more than in Alberta and $3,907 more than in British Columbia.

Of course, all of these are just promises. It’s important to look at track records when it comes to cutting taxes.

Kinew has promised not to raise the PST. But the NDP has broken this promise before.

While campaigning in 2011, former NDP premier Greg Selinger promised Manitobans he would not raise the PST but, in 2013, he hiked it from seven to eight percent.

How do the PCs stack up on promises?

In 2016, former PC premier Bryan Pallister promised to cut the PST from eight to seven percent. After he was elected, he kept that promise. But Pallister also tried to bring in a provincial carbon tax in 2020 after campaigning against it in the 2019 election.

Stefanson has already cut taxes while serving as premier. Her latest budget raised the tax-free portion of income and adjusted tax brackets so you pay less tax on more of your earnings. Both changes combined will save an individual nearly $1,400 next year.

The promised tax relief from both parties is a good first step.

The NDP’s gas tax cut provides immediate savings and helps everyone who needs to drive every day, but the promised cut is only temporary. The PC’s promised income and payroll tax cuts would save working taxpayers more over time, but it would take years to see the full savings.

Taxpayers need both short and long-term tax relief. Both parties would be well served to take notes from each other and commit to a full spectrum of tax relief.

Manitobans pay too much tax, and it’s up to provincial politicians to make it easier to make ends meet. And once the polls are closed, they must follow through on their promises.

Gage Haubrich is the Prairie Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

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