Tories promise tax cut, Liberals promise spending and some tax hikes

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Manitoba’s Progressive Conservatives promised a tax cut Wednesday for the second straight day on the campaign trail, while the Liberals promised $1 billion in new spending funded in part by tax increases.

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A re-elected Tory government would eliminate the land transfer tax for first-time homebuyers, saving them roughly $5,700 for the average home, said Rochelle Squires, a cabinet minister running for re-election in the Oct. 3 vote.

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“We know that it’s become even harder for families to get into a home, if you look at the market, the cost of housing crisis and a variety of other factors,” Squires said.

The tax is calculated as a percentage of a property’s value, with a sliding scale that increases as the value does. Removing it for first-time buyers would cost the provincial treasury $35 million to $40 million a year, Squires said.

The promise came one day after Tory Leader Heather Stefanson promised to cut the province’s lowest income-tax bracket in half, gradually, over four years.

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Affordability has become a major theme on the campaign trail. The Opposition New Democrats have promised to freeze hydroelectric rates for one year and temporarily suspend the province’s 14-cent-a-litre fuel tax until inflation subsides.

The Liberals, who have three of the 57 legislature seats, took a different tack Wednesday. They released their full platform, which contains roughly $1 billion in new spending, funded in part by tax increases on some property owners and income earners.

“We have to spend this money now because our justice system and our crime is a shambles, our health-care system is a shambles,” Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said.

Lamont’s promises include a minimum income for people over 60 and people with disabilities, bonus pay of between $5,000 and $10,000 for all front-line health-care workers, and medicare coverage for mental health services.

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A Liberal government would also provide stable funding for education and create a $300-million-a-year fund to pay for climate change initiatives, Lamont said.

To pay for it, Lamont said he would eliminate the top 80 per cent of education property tax rebates the government issues annually. The Tory government has promised to phase out the tax over 10 years and began by mailing out cheques for partial refunds.

A Liberal government would only continue the rebates to the bottom 20 per cent of properties, Lamont said, although he could not provide a specific cutoff value.

Lamont said he would also take in more income tax revenue by reducing the amount for many people, but raising taxes paid by people earning more than $120,000 a year.

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The Liberal plan would also not fully refund the price on carbon, but instead use some of the money raised for green-energy projects. Currently, a federally imposed carbon price, which rises annually, adds to the cost of many sources of energy in Manitoba, and the federal government issues quarterly cheques as refunds.

The New Democrats focused on health care Wednesday and promised to open five new neighbourhood health clinics.

The minor illness and injury clinics would be staffed with a team of emergency room doctors, nurses and technologists, NDP Leader Wab Kinew said, and offer same-day appointments through online booking.

“It really does give you that access to an emergency room doctor _ the same way as if you showed up in an ER — but you’re going to be able to skip the waiting room,” Kinew said

Manitoba has a shortage of health-care professionals and all parties are promising to hire more. The NDP would also offer incentives for health-care staff to open the clinics in neighbourhoods where they are needed most, Kinew said.

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