The Manitoba government announced changes to its new balanced budget & taxpayer referendum law. CFIB recommended the government strengthen the legislation until it has the teeth necessary to help the province get back to balanced budgets and sustainable spending levels.
Issue: On March 13, 2017, the provincial government introduced Bill 21 - The Fiscal Responsibility and Taxpayer Protection Act, to reinstate balanced budget and taxpayer referendum legislation in Manitoba. These two tools can help guide governments out of deficits, toward sustainable spending, and away from tax increases, unless publically supported. However, CFIB is concerned that Bill 21 lacks the legislative teeth to be effective and keep the government accountable.
Action: CFIB presented members’ views and concerns to the Standing Committee on Social and Economic Development on May 11, 2017.
Balanced Budget Legislation: A CFIB survey found 89 per cent of members support Manitoba having strong balanced budget legislation. However, the proposed legislation lacks important reduction targets necessary to reduce the deficit quickly. Furthermore, the government would still not be required to clearly define a year-to-year strategy to return to balanced budgets under Bill 21.
Taxpayer Referendum Legislation: Another CFIB survey found 88 per cent of members agreed that a referendum should be held for any proposal aimed at raising major taxes such as PST and income taxes. However, CFIB is concerned that the results of a referendum would be non-binding.
Result: The government listened to our members’ concerns and announced shortly after the presentation that they would make the balanced budget section stronger (a minimum of $100 million annual reduction necessary)!
Next Steps: Despite the positive changes, Bill 21 still has room to improve. CFIB will continue to push the government to clarify the rules around the taxpayer referendum section to make sure that voting results would become binding.
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