The NDP wants to prevent the school tax refund from benefiting the owners of corporate buildings
Manitoba’s opposition says education property tax rebates should only be given to homeowners and farmers, not commercial property owners.
NDP Finance Critic Mark Wasyliw said his party wants to amend a bill before the Legislative Assembly to remove the 10% rebate for owners of other types of properties that are not residential or agricultural, such as commercial properties.
It comes after CBC News reported that the main beneficiaries of the new school tax refund are the owners of the Polo Park shopping center, Cadillac Fairview, who received a check totaling more than $1 million.
In the days that followed, the NDP criticized the payment, saying the money would be better spent on the province’s education system.
On Tuesday, Wasyliw told reporters that no one in the business community had asked for the discount.
“Didn’t you see Cadillac Fairview come into the Legislative Assembly, knock on the door of the Prime Minister’s Office and say, ‘We’re a $20 billion company and we’re feeling a little light today, we we need your help,” he said.
“It’s just incredibly ideological on the government’s part.”
He argued that the school tax rebate, which first came into effect in 2021, line the pockets of wealthy homeowners more than low-income Manitobans the government said its tax cut was meant to to help.
Wasyliw said it was not a program to help small businesses get by.
“If you’re a small business that owns your property, you’re in a very different position than a small business that rents out your property,” he said, saying the discount helps many national and multinational companies. .
A CBC analysis of Winnipeg properties shows that the top 10% of education tax refund recipients pocketed four times as much money as the bottom 10%.
Commercial properties received a 10% rebate last year and are supposed to get the same percentage this year, although the NDP wants to eliminate that rebate.
Some of the other top-grossing properties include St. Vital Centre, True North Square and the three skyscrapers of Portage and Main.
Meanwhile, the rebate for homeowners and farm owners is expected to rise from 25% last year to 37.5% this year.
The province is considering phasing out school property taxes in favor of a new way of funding schools, which the government says will be fairer.
Wasyliw is not convinced that the government is right.
“When you look at it right now, our hospitals are collapsing and we have to borrow money for a tax cut,” he said.
“We did better in Manitoba. We have to go back there. And we do that by managing finances responsibly in this province and not taking out loans to send to big business owners in Toronto.
Tenants also pocket money: Government
Earlier in the day, Wasyliw sued the government during Question Period for giving more expensive property owners – specifically Cadillac Fairview – more of the money.
Former finance minister Scott Fielding came prepared with a list of CF Polo Park tenants he said would benefit from the discount, including Fergies Fish ‘n Chips, with Fielding saying “they don’t look like a player international”.
“Not only will businesses benefit, Madam Speaker, more than 400,000 people will benefit from a school property tax (reduction) to make life more affordable,” Fielding said.
The minister quoted a letter from the Winnipeg Free Press that any property tax rebates must be given to the tenant.
The Fergies owner said he expects to benefit.
Gus Tsouras said all tenants pay a proportionate share of mall expenses. He said he gets to see this accounting every year and expects the tax relief to trickle down.
“I’d like to think tenants will see that,” Tsouras said. “The mall has always been good to us.”
Commercial property owners aren’t the only ones to have received the 10% rebate check. This also includes what the government lists as “other properties”: commercial, industrial, railway, institutional, pipeline and designated recreational.
Wasyliw said the NDP will be moving its amendment in the coming days to remove the “other property” rebate from the appropriations bill the government is trying to pass. The Conservatives have argued there needs to be legislation before refund checks can be mailed out, but opposition parties say the government doesn’t need it.
The Conservatives did not respond to a request for comment on the NDP’s proposal late Tuesday afternoon.
A government briefing note obtained by the NDP through a freedom of information request shows that $40 million was refunded to owners of other properties, including commercial ones.