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Province didn't properly consult over cottage fees: Tories

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The NDP’s new provincial park cottage-fee system is just another back-door tax grab, the opposition Progressive Conservatives charged today.

They introduced a resolution calling for the legislature to acknowledge that the NDP failed to properly consult with cottagers and disclose how the new service fees and rent increases would improve parks.

About 50 cottagers attended an outdoor rally following debate on the resolution on the legislative building’s front steps. They say their service fees and rent will more than double this year and want more information about where their money is going.

Conservation Minister Gord Mackintosh responded that the Tory resolution -- it had no chance of passing the NDP majority-led house — appears to signal that the tax-adverse PCs support that all Manitoba taxpayers should continue to subsidize cottagers in provincial parks.

"Manitoba Conservatives want Manitobans who can’t afford a cottage to pay for those who can," Mackintosh said. "It just seems perverse. Even the Conservatives in Ottawa get it when you look at the (higher) fees in Riding Mountain National Park compared to our provincial parks."

The province is increasing cottage fees in provincial parks this year to put more onus on cottagers to pay for services like garbage pickup and roads. For example, an all-season cottage at Hecla that paid $900 in fees and rent last year will pay about $1,700 this year.

The province says service fees for park cottagers have been frozen for a decade, which has created a situation in which it only collects $1.7 million in fees from cottagers to cover service costs. The estimated cost of services for cottagers is more than $4 million.

The fees are also going up to more closely match what cottage owners outside provincial parks pay in municipal taxes.

The increases come after a year of consultation with cottage owners and an independent audit of the new scheme.

History

Updated on Thursday, March 27, 2014 at 2:47 PM CDT: Corrects typo.

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