Winnipeg mayoral candidate Shaun Loney unveils tax-hike target, calls Scott Gillingham deceptive on taxes

Winnipeg mayoral candidate Shaun Loney unveiled his property-tax target for 2023 and chastised two of his rivals for being deceptive or evasive about what they intend to do with tax hikes.

Loney promised Tuesday to raise property taxes by 3.7 per cent next year, a move that would bring in $25 million additional revenue for the city.

Loney said rival candidate Scott Gillingham, the outgoing city councillor for St. James, has laid out plans for a “deceptive and regressive” tax hike by promising to raise property taxes by 3.5 per cent and also raise frontage levies by $1.50 per foot.

Loney said the two tax increases are equivalent to a 7.5 per cent tax hike. Calculations provided by Gillingham’s campaign last week suggested the combined hike is equivalent to a 6.1 per cent hike.

Loney said regardless, Winnipeggers cannot afford what Gillingham is proposing.

“People are struggling with inflation. Already, very high energy prices are eating into disposable income,” Loney said at a campaign announcement on Beaverbrook Street in River Heights.

Loney also said Gillingham’s frontage-levy hike would be unfair because it would affect owners of less valuable properties the same as it would more valuable homes with the same amount of street frontage.

“I think our tax plan makes a whole lot more sense than Coun. Gillingham’s,” he said, pointing at a small older home on the west side of the street as well as a larger, more modern home on the east side.

The older home is assessed at $234,000 by the city. The larger one is assessed at $829,000.

Winnipeg mayoral candidate Scott Gillingham defended his taxation plans. (Bert Savard/CBC)

Gillingham defended his tax plans, saying he would dedicate two-thirds of his property-tax hikes to road renewals and transit, while his frontage levy hike would help fund the western extension of Chief Peguis Trail and the widening of Kenaston Boulevard.

“Those are trade routes. Those move our economy. We need to make the investments to get our economy going,” he said.

Gillingham later issued a statement saying Loney’s revenue plan is unrealistic.

“Mr. Loney has a $27.4-million hole in his budget plan, because it depends on a new parking tax the city can’t legally impose. And his public safety plan only pays for itself if he lays off police and firefighters,” Gillingham said in a statement.

Murray criticized

Loney and Gillingham nonetheless praised each other for costing out their platforms.

Both of them criticized candidate Glen Murray for declining so far to provide his property-tax plans.

“As far as Mr. Murray goes, I mean, come on: We’re 15 days out from the election. What’s your tax increase? What’s your plan?” Loney asked.

“With 15 days to go, we don’t know how he’s going to pay for his promises.”

Gillingham said Murray started the campaign by making “unfunded promises to extend hours for inner-city libraries and pools” and then ratcheted up the financial commitments by promising billions of dollars for transit.

“Suddenly he is now mad about potholes and making robocalls to the suburbs to promote an anti-tax message,” Gillingham said.

“These aren’t the actions of a serious candidate. These are the actions of someone who’s desperate to get back into office.”

Murray’s campaign has been asked to respond to both Loney’s and Gillingham’s comments. 

Murray suggested over the summer he would increase Winnipeg’s tax base and decrease the property-tax burden, but has not identified a property-tax target for 2023.

“If you build the tax base, you can reduce the tax burden,” Murray said on Aug. 26. “I will bring that basic piece of common sense back to the city budget.”

Both Loney and Gillingham criticized Glen Murray, seen here speaking last week, for not specifying his property-tax plan for 2023. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Candidate Kevin Klein said Tuesday he would raise property taxes by 2.3 per cent in 2023. He said he would ensure all revenue collected from the two-percentage-point portion of that hike would be devoted to road renewals.

Klein, the outgoing city councillor for Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood, said Gillingham, serving in his former role as council’s finance chair, diverted that money to general revenue when he put together Winnipeg’s 2022 operating budget.

Robert-Falcon Ouellette has been asked to comment on his property-tax plan.

Candidate Jenny Motkaluk has said she would freeze property taxes.

Motkaluk, Ouellette, Klein, Murray, Gillingham and Loney are among 11 candidates running for mayor. Idris Adelakun, Rana Bokhari, Chris Clacio, Rick Shone and Don Woodstock are also on the ballot.

Advance polls in Winnipeg are open until Oct. 21. Election day is Oct. 26.