There is a simple solution: cut taxes to make the province more competitive and help attract and retain talent 

Gage HaubrichCanada added 150,000 jobs in January. Only 800 of those were in Manitoba.

Neighbouring Saskatchewan, with a smaller population, gained 4,500.

In 2022, over 22,000 people moved from Manitoba to another province, an increase of 42 per cent compared to 2021.

Recently there have been job shortages reported all over the province.

Doctors Manitoba recently released a report highlighting that the province has the lowest number of family doctors per capita in Canada. The group also says that two in five doctors are planning to retire, leave, or reduce their clinic hours within the next three years.

Photo by Josh Lavallee

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The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority says there is a 20 per cent vacancy rate for home-care workers.

Winnipeg is having trouble finding lifeguards and arena attendants, with some pools having to cut back on hours.

Why is Manitoba having trouble attracting more workers to the province? There are many reasons, but the obvious problem is that Manitoba is not competitive compared to the rest of the country.

Whenever health care and related job shortages are mentioned, a complicated top-down plan to fix it usually follows.

For example, late last year, the Manitoba government announced $200 million in spending to recruit, retain, and train more health-care workers.

However, there is a far simpler solution that would make the province more competitive and help Manitoba attract and retain talent.

The government can cut taxes.

Unlike a targeted spending program that isn’t guaranteed to work, the benefits of a tax cut are twofold.

First, cutting taxes provides relief to those who already live in the province. Second, a tax cut helps every single industry by making the entire province more competitive in attracting job seekers, not just specific industries targeted by spending.

Health-care workers put in a lot of time and energy to enter their field of choice. Close to a decade in the case of doctors. And it isn’t cheap. So, it’s easy to understand why a new doctor or nurse would prefer to work somewhere that leaves more money in their pocket.

Likewise, if you are a freshly graduated engineer or other professional choosing between working in Winnipeg or any other city in the country, the taxes you will be forced to pay is a big part of your decision. And right now, Manitoba is outclassed in almost every category by other provinces.

Manitobans have one of the highest tax burdens in the country. According to the Saskatchewan budget, a Winnipeg family making $75,000 a year can expect to pay $7,148 in provincial taxes. That is almost $3,000 more than the same family can expect to pay in Regina or Toronto, and it’s over double what that family is paying in Calgary or Vancouver.

Property taxes are no better. Winnipeggers can expect to pay a little over $3,000 in property tax on a $250,000 home. That is hundreds of dollars more than every single city mentioned above. Mayor Scott Gillingham is also increasing property tax by 3.5 per cent in the latest Winnipeg budget.

High business taxes aren’t helping either. Manitoba has a business income tax of 12 per cent. That ties it with Saskatchewan and British Columbia but puts it half a percentage point over Ontario and four percentage points over Alberta.

Cutting taxes is also an investment for the province. More jobs mean more economic growth. More economic growth means more revenue for the government. And it can all be done without any new spending. No bureaucrats need to be paid to administer the program. Manitoba can just start taking less out of everyone’s paycheques.

Manitoba is in a tough spot and has a long way to go to catch up to the other provinces. Luckily, the solution is simple. Cut taxes.

Gage Haubrich is the Prairie Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

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