While many Manitobans may not be aware of it, the province has an emergency savings account. Officially called the fiscal stabilization reserve, it is better known as the rainy day fund. Its purpose is to set aside money for emergencies like floods, fires and droughts. Not unlike a household savings account, it is intended to ensure that when unexpected expenses occur there are funds available on hand to quickly deal with the emergency.
When the NDP came to power in 1999, they inherited a healthy rainy day fund of about $800 million. However, it seemed that under the NDP it never stopped raining and over time the account was drained to about $100 million. Since being elected in 2016, our PC government has been restoring the emergency savings account and recently was able to make a $407 million deposit, the single largest deposit in provincial history. As a result, today, the rainy day fund has $572 million ready to be used if there is a provincial emergency.
And while our government has been able to rebuild the rainy day fund, we have kept our eyes focused on reducing the annual deficit and getting our books back to balance. During the election campaign we committed to returning the provincial finances to balance within two years. Late last week, we released the final report on the 2018-2019 fiscal year finances and were able to report that we are closing in on that goal.
The deficit for last year ended up at $163 million, more than $358 million less than originally projected. And while there were some one-time revenues that helped bring the deficit down substantially, it is clear that we are on target to fulfil our promise of bringing in a balanced budget for the province of Manitoba.
For many years under the former NDP government, the deficit just continued to grow and along with it the accumulated provincial debt. And while the NDP told Manitobans that the increasing debt would not cost them anything, the hiking of the PST from 7% to 8% proved that wrong. It also resulted in credit downgrades for the province which caused higher interest rates to be charged on provincial borrowing.
Now, as our deficit is declining, our emergency fund is being restored and we are on track to balance the books, Manitobans are able to not only see that there is better financial management occurring, but benefit from it with lower taxes. The reduction of the PST which occurred earlier this year is just one of a number of measures that we are taking to return our finances to a solid position.
Residents of the Steinbach Constituency have long advocated for a government that lived within its means and that didn’t continue to mortgage the future of our children and grandchildren. We will continue to repair the finances of our province and ensure that Manitobans benefit from this important work.