Manitoba Government Announces Successful Efforts To Redirect Resources to Front Lines While Minimizing Layoffs

May 4, 2020
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Necessary Savings Achieved to Mitigate Massive COVID-19 Impacts Through Creativity and Teamwork: Fielding

Thanks to the efforts of numerous government departments, Crown corporations and more than 100 other outside reporting entities outside of the health-care sector, the Manitoba government will have the financial capacity to continue increased spending to support critical front-line services in the ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, Finance Minister Scott Fielding announced today.

“Ensuring public health and safety during the global COVID-19 pandemic has meant redirecting resources to the front lines, and making crucial and sustained investments to protect all Manitobans,” said Fielding. “At the same time the economic impacts of COVID-19 are unprecedented, causing a massive level of private-sector layoffs and the rapid deterioration of all provincial finances through a combination of rising expenses and collapsing revenues.”

Overall, the size of government is still expected to grow by more than $1 billion this year. However, through these efforts by non-front-line care government departments and other public-sector organizations, 4.9 per cent of non-essential operating expenses and 2.2 per cent of non-essential workforce expenditures will be redirected to the front-line COVID response. 

“Our aim has always been to minimize temporary public-sector layoffs, despite the tremendous fiscal challenges we’re facing,” said Fielding. “And through our success in finding other necessary operating savings in non-essential discretionary spending areas, we will have kept our actual workforce expense reductions to just over two per cent, many of which have already been implemented.”

The province is now projecting a deficit up to $5 billion in 2020-21, caused by a drop in provincial revenues of approximately $3 billion and additional COVID-19 related costs of approximately$2 billion. The cost of personal protective equipment (PPE) alone could reach up to $1 billion, the minister highlighted, and the province has committed more than $250 million to support struggling businesses with more support programs to be announced in the coming weeks.

External rating agencies continue to report that Manitoba has the highest direct-debt-to-revenue ratio among provinces, estimated at 297 per cent, and the highest direct debt per capita. These same agencies have reported that, due to this high debt load, Manitoba is among the most vulnerable of all provinces to withstand economic shocks such as the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“We will continue to responsibly address our profound challenges. In order to procure PPE and support the rapidly escalating costs of our ongoing front-line response to the pandemic and mounting pressures on other areas of government, we have to focus our spending and spend smarter,” said Fielding. “We’ve taken an all-hands-on-deck approach, working together with management, public-sector unions and our front-line workers within government departments and our outside reporting entities, to find creative ways to redirect resources to where they’re needed most and innovative ways to adjust our service delivery models given the new realities caused by COVID-19.”

The minister cited numerous examples of successful teamwork and innovation since March:
•    the repurposing of Crown corporation facilities for front-line support,
•    the redeployment of hundreds of staff across government and Crown corporations to priority areas such as the Manitoba Emergency Co-ordination Centre and centralized pandemic procurement and distribution logistics within the health system,
•    the redeployment of Shared Health employees to Cadham Labs to support increased testing capacity, and
•    the creation of inter-disciplinary teams to address the urgent priority of supporting front-line health-care workers with child-care opportunities and rapidly rolling out new support programs for Manitobans.

The minister also reinforced the work of government and outside reporting entities to minimize layoffs continues and that government would pursue all alternative tools, such as voluntary reduced workweeks and possible work sharing options, to achieve the necessary reduction in workforce expenses.

A comprehensive list of Manitoba government COVID-19 measures can be found at:
https://manitoba.ca/bg/2020/04/covid19.html.


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