As March begins and Manitobans start to look forward to spring, it also marks the beginning of a very busy time at the Manitoba Legislature.
The Legislature resumed sitting on March 4th and it is expected that the agenda of legislation will be one of the busiest in recent memory. Manitobans can expect to see many pieces of legislation that will benefit them and their families as the spring session progresses. One of the first pieces of business will be the introduction of the provincial budget. This will occur on March 11th. This is one of the most important days on the legislative calendar as the budget lays out the fiscal health of the province and the priorities of the government over the coming year.
Manitobans will remember that under the former NDP government, it became routine to see not only ever increasing deficits announced, but new tax increases. That trend began to be reversed when a Progressive Conservative government was elected in 2016. In recent provincial budgets not only have Manitobans seen deficits being reduced, they have also seen taxes remain stable or in many cases being lowered. In 2015 the provincial deficit was climbing well over a billion dollars a year. By last year, it had been reduced to $350 million and we remain on target to return to balance this term as promised. I look forward to seeing the progress that is being made toward that important goal in this provincial budget.
It is encouraging to note that the budget is really one that is shaped by Manitobans themselves. Through pre-budget consultation meetings that were held throughout the province, including in Steinbach, and online, more than 18,000 people were able to have their say on what they feel the priorities for the budget should be. This is an important part of crafting the budget. It is expected that following the introduction of the budget there will be approximately two weeks of debate after which the elected members of the Legislature will vote on the budget.
In addition to the many pieces of legislation that will be debated and voted upon this spring, there are several initiatives that our government is undertaking. Key among them will the release of the K-12 Education Commission report. The Commission has been, for almost a year, studying and hearing from Manitobans about our education system and how it can be improved to ensure our students are getting the best education possible. As promised when the Commission launched, that report will be released this month and it will guide over the next several years the direction of the K-12 education system. More than 15,000 Manitobans provided their input to the Commission and we look forward to sharing the results with Manitobans.
As the spring session of the Manitoba Legislature unfolds, I will be providing you updates and as always I welcome your feedback.