Election fact checker on PC promise to save taxpayers $2,020, NDP claim of 120 fewer hospital beds | CBC News

The 2019 Manitoba election kicked off on Monday with the usual fanfare on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature.

As part of an ongoing effort to hold political leaders accountable, CBC News is fact-checking comments and promises made by party leaders at various times along the campaign trail. 

Comments made by politicians at campaign events, as well as in press releases may be rated as true, false, or muddy, in CBC News fact-checker articles.

Here’s a check on a trio of comments made during the first day of the campaign:

Manitoba PC Leader Brian Pallister, Aug. 12

Claim No. 1: “A re-elected PC government will save an average Manitoba taxpayer $2,020 over the next four years.”

Rating: Muddy.

Here’s why: In a press release on Monday, PC leader Brian Pallister said Manitobans will save $2,020 over four years as a result of Tory tax cuts, “some previously announced.”

While the Progressive Conservatives declined to say how they came up with this $2,020 figure — spokesperson Braeden Jones said more details will be released later in the campaign — cost savings provided by the Tories suggest the tax savings for the average Manitoban will fall short of this mark.

A CBC News analysis of seven PC cuts suggests the average Manitoban will save $1,291 over four years.

The biggest tax cut in the six-point plan was the reduction of the provincial sales tax from eight percentage points to seven this past July. This will reduce provincial revenues by $325 million a year, according to 2019 budget documents.

That works out to a savings of $256 a year per Manitoban — or $1,024 over four years.

The Tories also began indexing the basic personal allowance and personal income tax brackets, a move they said will save Manitobans up to $21 million a year. That works out to roughly $16.50 per Manitoban, per year — or $66 over four years.

The PCs also pledged to eliminate the PST from home insurance, a move they said will save the average household $70 a year. According to Statistics Canada, there are about 350,000 households in Manitoba. This means the savings could be calculated, charitably, as $20 a person — or $80 over four years.

The Tories also promised to eliminate the PST on tax preparation, a move they said would save Manitobans $3 million a year. That works out to less than $2.50 per year per Manitoban — or $10 over four years.

The Progressive Conservatives also promised to no longer charge PST on pricier haircuts and other salon services over $50, a move the party said would save Manitobans $7 million a year. That works out to about $5.50 per Manitoban every year — or $22 over four years.

As well, the PCs pledged to remove probate fees and the provincial sales tax from wills, a move the Tories said would save the average family $2,600 in one-time “death taxes.”

Given the presence of about 350,000 households in Manitoba, that works out to one-time savings of $717 per Manitoban. According to Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living, the provincial death rate per year is about eight per 1,000 Manitobans; roughly 11,000 people die every year in this province.

That brings the cost savings of the elimination of the death tax for every Manitoban, every year, down to about $6.25 — or $25 over four years.

On Tuesday, Pallister promised to reduce passenger-vehicle registration fees in order to slash costs for each vehicle by $35 a year. According to Manitoba Public Insurance, there are 579,000 passenger vehicles in the province. This brings the savings per Manitoban to just under $16 a year — or $64 over four years.

Together, these seven measures work out to $1,291 in individual tax savings over four years. CBC News won’t apply a false rating to the PC claim of $2,020 — at least not just yet — because it’s possible more tax cuts will be announced during this campaign.

NDP leader Wab Kinew claimed Pallister wants to bring in health-care premiums. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew, Aug. 12

Claim No. 1: “By the way, we also know that Mr. Pallister committed to bringing in a health-care tax, a $900-per-family charge, if he was to get a second term,'” Kinew said.

Rating: False.

Here’s why: In September 2017, PC leader Brian Pallister floated the idea of introducing health-care premiums in order to stave off service cuts. One month later, Pallister said the government would not proceed with the premium during his first term in office after receiving overwhelmingly negative feedback from a survey.

Last week, Pallister once again rejected the idea of premiums.

“We asked Manitobans for their view. They rejected health premiums and we rejected it, too,” he said on Aug. 7. “But if the NDP wants to make this about who you trust to keep your word, I’m happy to run this election on that basis.”


Claim No. 2: “Did you know that we’ve lost more than 120 beds with the closures of [facilities at] Concordia and Seven Oaks hospitals? That’s 120 fewer spaces for patients in Manitoba to get the health care that they need,'” Kinew said.

Rating: Muddy.

Here’s why: On July 19, the NDP went public with a freedom-of-information request that showed the number of acute-care beds at Seven Oaks and Concordia hospitals dropped by 111 between the summer of 2017 and June 2019.

The letter NDP received from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority included more information, however. It disclosed data about further health-care changes planned for this fall, including another projected drop of 10 acute-care beds at Seven Oaks, a projected increase of 12 beds planned for Concordia and an overall increase of another 35 beds at four other Winnipeg hospitals.

This suggests the number of acute-bed reductions in Winnipeg as of this fall will drop by 84, not 120. But the WRHA letter also stated the province has also opened another 45 transitional-care beds at Misericordia Health Centre and 22 more beds for patients who make short stays in hospitals following surgeries.

If those beds are taken into account, the number of spaces for patients actually dropped by a total of 17 in two years. But since Kinew only specified beds at Concordia and Seven Oaks, his claim is merely misleading, not false.