May 20, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Despite a persuasive report by the Public Utilities Board on why it, and not politicians, should regulate rates at the city's water and sewer utility, some city councillors still don't get it.
Here's a refresher course: Water and sewer bills are based on consumption. The more water a family uses, the more it pays. The bigger the family, the bigger the bill, usually. Ratepayers with large riverfront lots can pump river water for free to water their lawns, but most large properties with large gardens and lawns face a bigger sewer and water bill than smaller properties.
Like the rates charged by Manitoba Hydro, consumers should pay for what they use and what it costs to sustain the system. And no, Hydro does not pay a dividend to the province; it pays a water rental fee for use of the resource.
Autopac premiums are based on liabilities. Although it does fund services such as the auto-theft unit, Autopac does not transfer funds for education or other provincial priorities, although it once tried and failed in the face of a public backlash
Some city councillors, however, believe it is fair to swipe $45 million a year in "dividends" from the water and sewer utility for other purposes, including holding the line on property taxes, a tactic that benefits higher-value properties more than cheaper homes.
The city's approach has been both unfair and opaque, and it must be subject to more mature and responsible oversight.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 5, 2012 A16