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Manitoba government criticized by Opposition for proposed school division tax increases

Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative party accused the provincial government Wednesday of making life more expensive for Manitobans even though it promised not to while on the campaign trail this past fall. 

The NDP were under fire in the legislative chamber Wednesday as the Opposition Tories peppered the party with questions about proposed education property tax increases put forth by some school divisions in their upcoming budgets.  

“The NDP chose higher taxes at a time when families are struggling with the cost of living,” Ewasko said to open Wednesday’s first question period session of the new year. 

The Winnipeg School Division passed its 2024-25 budget earlier this week and approved a 3.4 per cent increase to the property education tax, according to a news release put out Tuesday. 

That amounts to about an extra $51 a year for an average household in the division, which is based on an average home value of around $250,000. 

Over in the Pembina Trails School Division, the draft budget includes a three per cent increase, amounting to about $59 a year for a typical homeowner. The Louis Riel School Division has also proposed a 7.5 per cent increase, which it says will help pay for universal full-day kindergarten. 

And in the Morden area, the Western School Division is proposing a 17 per cent increase to the property education tax. That’s an increase of $369, but the sum will be 184.50 once a provincial rebate is included. 

Premier Wab Kinew said during question period Wednesday that cuts during the PC’s time in government has not only resulted in an “underfunded education system,” but also the need to be “playing catch-up.” 

Kinew also said following question period the NDP has brought forward a funding increase above the rate of inflation, which takes enrolment in school divisions into account too. He also said he knows Manitobans are “struggling right now when it comes to dollars and cents” and urged school divisions to keep that in mind. 

The premier also said school divisions are self-determining organizations. 

“As a result, any accountability questions should be put to them,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ewasko pointed to the former Progressive Conservative government’s total year-over-year funding increase of 6.1 per cent, or $100.2 million in 2023 and said the NDP are putting the fault on school divisions. 

“They’re shifting the blame over to school boards and the school boards unfortunately don’t even see it just yet,” he said. 

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