A series of pre-budget public consultation meetings is taking place and the first one was held in Steinbach this week where presentations were made, giving suggestions on where the provincial government should put more money into the budget for this year.
Steinbach MLA Kelvin Goertzen says the budget process begins soon after one budget is announced, meaning this process stretches out for nearly a year.
“A lot of the expenditures are of course similar year to year,” he says. “And so, to some extent, more than half of the budget is kind of set before you begin. But then there is flexibility on a lot of different things; your programs and you reevaluate programs, and get different requests from different organizations based on what's happening in those organizations or what's happening in the economy overall.”
Goertzen says they are putting the final touches on the budget and are looking to the public for some suggestions.
“So, we're getting input from the public now and just getting a sense of what are those areas where we have some flexibility on, where we can maybe do a little bit more, or do things a little bit differently,” he says. “And public input is important for that.”
At the meeting in Steinbach, Goertzen says they heard of many great things from the leaders of Hanover and Steinbach who pointed to some big projects that are happening in the area, such as new facilities being built, like the Southeast Event Centre, a new elementary school, as well as Resthaven’s newly constructed personal care home.
“Of course, growth presents opportunities, but it presents challenges as well,” Goertzen adds. “And one of those challenges more specifically is around labour and the difficulty of getting labour in a lot of different areas.”
Also at the meeting, there was a lot of discussion about the wages for disability support workers, he notes.
“Those who are working with those in the disability community, it’s really, really important work and it's hard work,” Goertzen says. “Last year, in the last budget, there was $10 million added to increase the wages for disability support workers, but obviously with inflation and what that has done to minimum wage, that increase was quickly evaporated. So, there was a number of presentations in Steinbach that spoke about the need for further investment and further support for those who are in the disability support worker sector, and I think that message was heard and was received and certainly that's something we're bringing back to the Department of Finance as well.”
He says there was a good turnout at the meeting in Steinbach, along with good discussion. If you are unable to attend one of the meetings, Goertzen suggests going online to the Manitoba Department of Finance website and participate in that way. Another option is to fill out the pre-budget form at engagemb.ca and “give your own opinion of where you think that dollars should be spent in the province of Manitoba,” he says.