Winnipeg mayoral candidate Glen Murray says he has a plan to fix the city’s financial woes by changing the way it gets funding from the provincial government.
He wants the operating grant the city gets from the province — which has been frozen at $121 million for the past several years — replaced with one percentage point of the seven per cent provincial sales tax.
This would nearly triple the amount of money the city receives, to more than $300 million, Murray said Friday.
“Not only does that additional revenue support the full restoration of our infrastructure … it would allow us to be independent, to be completely sustainable and to rise and meet the challenges of the economy,” he said at a news conference with supporters near the Kenaston Boulevard underpass.
Past mayors, including Sam Katz and Murray himself during his 1998-2004 tenure, have tried and failed to get a slice of the PST.
This time, Murray said he plans to assemble a coalition of community members to lobby the provincial government over the next year, ahead of a provincial election that must be held by Oct. 3, 2023.
“I have networks across this country and relationships I didn’t have 20 years ago. So you ain’t seen nothing yet,” Murray said.
“The City of Winnipeg is about three-quarters of the voters in this province, and it’s my intention that we’re going to leverage that in the interest of Winnipeggers.”
Murray wouldn’t say whether his plan includes an increase to the property tax. That increase has remained at 2.33 per cent per year for the last eight years.
He promised to release more details next week, but said the city can’t rely on property taxes alone to dig itself out of its financial problems, which includes an infrastructure deficit the city has estimated at $6.9 billion.
“If you were trying to finance all of these things with simply property taxes … you’d actually have to increase the taxation rate, increase the burden on people,” Murray said.
Rivals say plan not realistic
Rival candidates quickly attacked Murray’s plan as unrealistic.
“I just don’t see that it’s practical. He’s asking for something that’s not gonna happen,” said Shaun Loney.
Earlier this week, Loney announced a plan to raise the property tax to 3.7 per cent.
Loney also took a shot at mayoral candidate Scott Gillingham’s plan to ask the provincial and federal governments to fund the widening of Kenaston Boulevard and a western extension of Chief Peguis Trail.
“Gillingham’s commitment, his whole platform, revolves around a $660-million request from the other levels of government for these big infrastructure projects,” Loney said.
Gillingham’s plan also includes a property tax increase of 3.5 per cent, as well as a frontage levy increase of $1.50 per foot.
In an interview with CBC News, Gillingham defended his plan while criticizing Murray.
“My plan is fully costed. He has not provided anything to voters of substance that would show how we’re going to pay for his plan. He needs to come forward and be clear about how he’s going to pay for his plan,” Gillingham said.
Candidate Kevin Klein said as mayor, he would keep the current 2.33 per cent property tax increase, at least for the 2023 budget year.
After that, the city will have implemented budget reviews he’s proposing, Klein said.
“I anticipate an actual reduction in the cost of operating the City of Winnipeg once we find all of the efficiencies that are possible,” he said at a news conference at his Stafford Street office.
Murray, Loney, Gillingham and Klein are among 11 candidates running for mayor. Idris Adelakun, Rana Bokhari, Chris Clacio, Jenny Motkaluk, Robert-Falcon Ouellette, Rick Shone and Don Woodstock are also on the ballot.
Advance polls in Winnipeg are open until Oct. 21. Election day is Oct. 26.
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