Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Taxing sense

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Swan River says it is unable to keep up with the costs of RCMP services in its community and will vote later this month, at a council meeting, on slapping a three per cent tax on alcohol bought within its limits. But first it has to get past the NDP government, which oddly insists on a uniform price for alcohol in Manitoba.

What public policy purpose is served by the odd rule -- especially given the wildly varying cost of milk in Manitoba -- only the NDP may know. More bizarre is the fact the Municipal Taxation and Funding Act permits, with provincial approval, towns and cities to pass bylaws to tax hotel rooms, restaurant meals and alcohol.

Swan River says provincial transfers are insufficient to pay for policing, which eats up the largest chunk of its budget. Rather than raise property taxes, the struggling town wants to connect the dots between policing and drinking with a dedicated tax. That makes sense.

In 2008, the province gave Thompson the green light to tax hotel rooms, but nixed a proposed liquor levy. That approach won't help a struggling town of fewer than 4,000 people. Having recognized the sense of a dedicated growth tax on hotels -- allowed in Winnipeg, too -- the NDP should now get over its bizarre aversion to a municipal taxes on alcohol.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 13, 2012 A6

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