Federal transfer payments next year spell good news, bad news for Manitoba

OTTAWA -- Manitoba will be getting more money in transfer payments from the federal government during the next fiscal year.

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Finance Minister Greg Dewar confirms that Manitoba is in line for a 2.6 per cent bump, which means the province will get receive $3.522 billion in transfers.

This includes payments under the Canada Health Transfer, the Canada Social Transfer and equalization.

The total is $89.6 million more than the province received the previous fiscal year.

Dewar says despite the increase, the province is still concerned about the way transfer payments are calculated, particularly equalization.

Manitoba receives $300 million less in equalization than it did in the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

Dewar said Manitoba has lost support from the equalization program because its economy has performed better against the average of all provincial economies. Although that means more in the way of own-source revenue, it means less money from Ottawa under this one stream of transfer support.

"It's partly a good news story," Dewar said from Ottawa. "We're doing very well relative to the other provinces. Unfortunately, that means we get less from equalization."

The news on federal transfers was delivered to provincial finance ministers meeting in Ottawa this week. Traditionally, the federal government provides firm numbers on transfer payments, including equalization, just before Christmas so the provinces can effectively plan their budgets for the following fiscal year.

The payments revealed this year are based on policies and formulae set by the previous Conservative government. For that reason, there aren't a lot of surprises contained within this year's numbers.

Only Manitoba and Ontario will see their equalization payments go down next year.

Prince Edward Island and Quebec both led the way in equalization payment growth, seeing a 5.3 per cent bump for 2016-17.

Four provinces -- British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador -- will not receive any equalization.

Of the other six provinces, four saw increases in equalization of between 1.9 and 5.3 per cent. Only Manitoba and Ontario saw a decline in overall equalization.

The provinces are still waiting for hard numbers on the new federal infrastructure program promised by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the fall election campaign. Further details are expected to be revealed early next year. (Winnipeg Free Press)



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