Manitoba changes property tax rebates but can’t yet fulfil promise on billionaires

Manitoba’s NDP government is following through on one property-tax promise from its election campaign, but is not ready to act on a pledge to stop issuing rebates to billionaires.

The government is going to stop mailing out rebate cheques for education taxes on property next year, and will instead, as promised, apply the rebate directly to property tax bills, Premier Wab Kinew said Thursday.

“Now, instead of waiting to mail you a cheque from the government when it suits us, we’re instead just going to apply this rebate right onto your property tax bill,” Kinew said.

Residential and farm property owners get a 50 per cent rebate on the education portion of their property tax bill, and commercial property owners receive 10 per cent. The rebates were set up by the former Progressive Conservative government, and the NDP has said mailing cheques was costly, inefficient and less immediate for recipients.

The taxes and payment systems vary from one municipality to the next. In Winnipeg, people who pay their property taxes monthly will start seeing the direct rebate in June, Kinew said.

The new system is also to save the province roughly $500,000 in administration costs compared to sending cheques in the mail, he added.

The property-tax changes were a major plank in the NDP’s campaign platform leading up to the Oct. 3 election.

Kinew, then the Opposition leader, promised to stop issuing rebates to out-of-province billionaires. The NDP said properties linked to grocery giant Loblaw Cos. Ltd. had received more than $300,000 in rebates. Kinew said Loblaw chairman Galen Weston was a billionaire who did not need the financial help.

Kinew said Thursday his plan to exempt people like Weston from the rebates is proving difficult to implement.

“This is one of the things that you say in Opposition, and then you get into government and it’s a bit more challenging. So we’re still working on that, to be frank,” Kinew said.

“It’s not complicated for you and I to figure out who an out-of-province billionaire is, but when we’re talking about administrating a province-level program fairly, we have to set up criteria. That is proving to be a lot of work.”

The Tories, now in Opposition, said the NDP appears to be backing away from another campaign promise. Last month, the NDP said its proposed one-year freeze on hydroelectric rates was going to be delayed.

“This is just another one of their broken promises,” Tory finance critic Obby Khan said.

“Being in government is not as easy as they thought it was.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 14, 2023.

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