Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

City surprised by NDP's snub of new-home fee

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Katz says the NDP may have been scared off by the 'tax' label.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Katz says the NDP may have been scared off by the 'tax' label. Photo Store

WINNIPEG'S mayor and a senior public official said they didn't expect the province's apparent quick rejection of the city's plan to charge developers growth-related infrastructure fees.

"That's a definite surprise," Sam Katz said.

An overwhelming majority of council endorsed a proposal from Katz and his executive policy committee Monday to ask the province for legislative changes to allow Winnipeg to impose a new set of fees on residential and commercial development.

But a spokesman for Kevin Chief, minister responsible for Winnipeg, dismissed the suggestion.

Katz and Deepak Joshi, the city's acting CAO, said the province's public reaction is contrary to what's been going on behind the scenes for several months.

Joshi said city staff has been meeting with its provincial counterparts in planning and finance over the issue since July, adding the province has been supportive of the plan.

Katz said the province may have been scared off when critics labelled the new fee a tax.

"If everything I've been told (Tuesday) is accurate, obviously there's a change of heart (on the province's part) and more than likely it's because the word 'tax' is being used instead of 'growth-development charge' and the province is shying away from anything to do with 'tax,' " Katz said.

"A lot of people from both administrations have been working on this together. It's been embraced and supported by the province."

Joshi said city officials will make a formal request to the province, adding it's the city's job to clarify the intent of the new fee and how it differs from a tax.

The proposal has been embraced by both the left and most of the right on city council, who believe the suburban and commercial growth has unfairly imposed costs on established property owners.

Critics, including Coun. Scott Fielding, said the fee is a tax on new homes that will deter future growth in the city and force people to buy homes in the ring communities surrounding Winnipeg.

Suburban developers now pay fees to cover the infrastructure costs directly associated with their projects -- roads, sidewalks, sewer and water -- but the city says suburban growth leads to costs that aren't now covered by developers: library and recreational services, new fire halls, expansion of transit and regional road linkages.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 6, 2013 A4

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