Some city of Winnipeg types aren’t looking kindly toward their neighbours on the outskirts.
They feel that folks living in surrounding communities have the benefits of both big-city life and cheap rural taxes. Why shouldn’t the costs of running a big city be spread around a little more?
They grumble about being ripped off.
But they’ve got it wrong.
Towns and RMs around Winnipeg don’t receive charity handouts from the city when it comes to public services, like water, sewer, street maintenance and the like. They look after themselves.
Individuals don’t get any breaks, either. Want to borrow books from the Centennial Library? You’ve got to buy an annual membership for $137, which city dwellers get free.
Want to join a Winnipeg-run sports club, such as the Deer Lodge Tennis Club? You must pay a sizeable membership premium above what city players are charged.
For a Jets game at MTS Centre or a ballet performance at the Concert Hall, outsiders pay no more than city residents, but it should be noted that funds to build the structures that house these performances usually come from at least two levels of government. And in the case of such artistic entities as the RWB and MTC, they receive federal and provincial support. So we all chip in through taxes.
And what about all those shopping trips rural residents make to the city? Not having, as a rule, their own big-box stores, supermarkets and specialty outlets, outsiders come to Winnipeg for these goods and services in droves. Many retail establishments that pay hefty city taxes get a goodly quotient of the wherewithal to do so from sales to out-of-towners.
And the magnetism of Winnipeg’s commercial and cultural sectors is far reaching, to some extent covering the entire province.
In effect, residents of Winnipeg’s economic drainage basin provide the city with the same type of economic benefits as tourists from afar, except that they’re fueling the Winnipeg economy 24-7-12 instead of just a few weeks each summer.
The enormous treasure sucked into the city in this way helps generate tax revenue with which to handle all the responsibilities that come with being a big centre.
Thus outsiders contribute to city tax coffers indirectly, but they get no say in how the money is spent. Their payback is being able to tap into big-city goodies.
That seems to me like a pretty reasonable trade-off.
Bob Holloway is a community correspondent for Headingley.