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The NDP are not helping make life more affordable


The NDP Government is not helping make life more affordable
The NDP should do more to make life affordable

By: Guest columnist Kevin Klein


Winnipeg, May 1, 2024 - A well-known TV commercial once asked “what’s in your wallet?”. Ask that same question today of Manitobans and they would probably sigh and say “not much”. That would be understandable given the perfect storm of inflation, high interest rates and a sluggish economy that we’ve been forced to endure for the last 3 years. Everybody, especially consumers and small businesses have been hit hard and there isn’t much light at the end of the tunnel either. Interest rates have yet to recede, Manitoba’s GDP has been flat for 5 years and inflation, although slowed, is still driving prices higher. Ask any family or small business owner how they’re doing and chances are they’ll tell you that they are barely getting by with many staying afloat by incurring more debt.


So at a time that most of us are struggling to make ends meet it’s particularly annoying when you hear our politicians trumpeting their “heroic” measures and promises to make life more affordable for Manitobans. Despite their fluffy claims the truth is life is not getting more affordable – it’s getting more costly and progressively harder to manage with each passing day. The claims made by politicians simply do not line up with reality.


We hear endless rhetoric about how government is working tirelessly to curb inflation – that sounds nice but it still means prices are going up just slower than before. And I don’t think I’ve met anyone yet whose income has kept pace with inflation in the last 3 years. Politicians love to talk about the “big picture” but what they fail to appreciate is “your picture”. So when the NDP government proudly trots out the stat that Manitoba’s inflation rate was the lowest in the country at .8% last month remember it’s still inflation, regardless of all the fanfare.


It’s also rather misleading. Part of the reason our inflation rate subsided was because it was virtually the highest in Canada over the last 2 years. It had to recede at some point because it was out of control. Sure, the gas tax holiday had a hand in reducing the rate temporarily but come September that holiday, like all holidays, will end. Bottom line, Manitobans took an economic beating but the worst part is that the pain is not over.


And here's where it goes from bad to worse. Just this month, Justin Trudeau’s hairbrained Carbon Tax increased by $15 per metric tonne which translates to an additional 3.3 cents per litre at the gas pump for consumers. Residential Hydro rates just went up 1.4% on April 1st.


The NDP are also permitting Manitoba school divisions to raise property education taxes without restrictions. Some school divisions are proposing as much as 17% immediate tax increases. CEBA loan repayments came due this April putting further financial burden on small business owners. All this at a time when interest rates remain the highest in 30 years without any assurance they will be receding soon. As a result, many Manitoba homeowners had to renew their mortgages at rates that dramatically raised their payments. And of course, come September, the provincial gas tax holiday is over.


So brace yourself Manitoba, the NDP honeymoon is over and it’s going to get even harder to make ends meet. Yet Wab Kinew and his Finance Minister will be telling you how they are bending over backwards to make life more affordable. But just like inflation – nothing will actually be getting more affordable. You will be paying more for everything. And ironically while Manitobans endure all this financial pain the Province itself will be enjoying an 8.7% boost in revenue this year mostly from increased federal transfer payments. Dependency on federal handouts is not conducive to long term fiscal health. It will come back and bite us all when the tap is turned off.


So do we just have to sit and take more of a beating or is there something our provincial government could or should be doing?


Absolutely, although you won’t hear it from them, here are 3 things the NDP can and should be doing to lessen the financial blow that we are all about to experience.


First, we need to say NO to the federal Carbon Tax by refusing to collect it on home heating bills. Homeowners in eastern Canada that heat their homes with fuel oil were exempt from paying Carbon Tax on its usage. Home heating is not discretionary consumption – it should not be taxed in the first place let alone when that tax is not applied consistently across Canada.


Second, our leaders must lobby the federal government to pressure the Bank of Canada to reduce interest rates by lowering the BoC rate immediately and more rapidly over time. By maintaining a high rate as an anti-inflationary measure, the BoC is flirting with a recession. Canada’s economy is stagnant, propped up only by some key sectors – while consumers and small businesses continue to take the brunt of the inflation hit and the exorbitant interest rates. They need a lifeline and they need it fast. High inflation concurrent with unsustainable interest rates is a recipe for economic disaster.


And finally, we need to cap the property education tax increases. Leaving the rates up to school divisions is like leaving the fox in charge of the hen house. The Manitoba NDP need to set a reasonable limit on the property tax hikes to avert preposterous double-digit increases being proposed by some school divisions.


Our government is hoping Manitobans will blindly trust them to advocate on their financial behalf with short-term stop-gap measures. But the façade will become apparent shortly when the hidden taxes come home to roost along with ongoing inflation and unaffordable credit. It won’t be pretty partly because it would also have been avoidable.


Bold long-term solutions need to be implemented immediately. Consumers must look beyond the short-term horizon and realize what awaits us all – then demand our government stops taking a band-aid approach to what is quickly becoming an economic crisis. Manitobans require meaningful action that will bring enduring financial relief because our current path will only get progressively worse.


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