Murray reverses course, charts business-sector taxes
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/10/2022 (225 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Mayoral candidate Glen Murray is proposing new taxes and fees to pay for his platform promises, including a business tax hike announced during a Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce debate.
On his campaign website, Murray has added three additional changes to raise a combined $32.2 million in 2023 and pay for a lengthy list of campaign promises without raising property taxes.
Previously, Murray’s financial plan had centred on convincing the province to give Winnipeg one percentage point of the revenue from its provincial sales tax.
When he surprised Winnipeggers with a promise not to raise property taxes during a televised CBC debate Wednesday, Murray did not indicate other fees and levies were on the way.
“We will not increase taxes,” he said at the time.
Two days later, Murray is proposing to raise the business tax to 5.84 per cent from 4.84 per cent.
“What I’m asking is that for one year we add one (percentage point to the business tax), which will provide… funding to close the gap,” Murray told 430 members of the business community gathered to hear the debate at the downtown RBC Convention Centre.
On Murray’s campaign website, a document posted Friday proposes: a 25-cent per stall commercial parking lot fee (to raise $9 million of revenue per year); a 10 per cent tax on short-term rental units, including Airbnb listings (to raise $3.2 million); and the one percentage point hike to the business tax (to raise $12 million).
Murray said he’d he also “review options” to add a development fee that imposes charges to help fund specific infrastructure, which could raise about $8 million more.
Despite a court ruling that ordered the City of Winnipeg to refund all money collected through similar “impact fees,” Murray said the law would allow his version of the charge.
“If you don’t want to raise the general property tax rate, there are not that many choices right now… We have to review (this tax plan) in 12 months, because the focus is on getting the PST (share) … (With these fees) there’s enough there to more than cover the finances, not having to close libraries, not having to under-fund services,” he said Friday.
The business tax hike was announced shortly after a debate question noted many companies would like to scrap that levy entirely. Murray said the hike is necessary to ensure Winnipeg’s tax burden is distributed “fairly.”
During Friday’s debate, Murray said he doesn’t plan to increase the city’s frontage fee.
The business tax announcement came shortly after mayoral candidate Scott Gillingham challenged Murray to explain how he would pay for his promises during the debate, noting he’d largely focused on claiming more than $200 million through PST revenues up until Friday.
“You’ve conservatively made about $2 billion of promises, yet you have not told the people of Winnipeg exactly how much your promises would cost or how you would pay for your promises… How can Winnipeggers take you seriously when you don’t know how you’re going to pay for your plan?” Gillingham asked.
The chamber opted to invite only the top five front-runners (in recent polls) in the 11-candidate mayoral race, which included Murray, Gillingham, Shaun Loney, Kevin Klein and Robert-Falcon Ouellette. The organization said a smaller group would be better able to delve deeper into key issues.
Prior to the debate, chamber president Loren Remillard said the local business community does not have a consensus view on property tax levels.
“When we’ve talked to our members, there was no compelling voice saying we need to freeze or cut or raise taxes… I think there’s a general appreciation that the city’s finances are in some difficulty and, right now, we all have to examine every option available to the city to be able to address those issues,” said Remillard.
The potential for tax hikes and new fees was a hot topic Friday, with Klein accusing Murray of unrealistically relying on another level of government to fund his promises.
“It’s quite easy to stand up here and budget when you’re using somebody else’s money… You have to be realistic that that’s not going to happen,” said Klein, adding he would review every expense in the city’s budget and find millions in savings to improve its financial outlook.
Gillingham, who proposes to raise property taxes by 3.5 per cent in each of the next four years and impose a $1.50 per foot increase to frontage fees in 2023, was accused by Loney of charging a fee Winnipeggers can’t afford.
However, Gillingham said all candidates must accept property taxes are one of the few levies the city can use to raise revenue: “We’ll have the revenue to invest in our city, investment and growth that you and I both want.”
Meanwhile, Murray, who was identified as the front-runner in a Probe research poll at the end of September, received a few verbal jabs from other candidates.
“Before the (COVID-19) pandemic, we had a lot of momentum in downtown… All built without you Glen, you were in Ontario or somewhere else at the time. We did it without you,” Gillingham said, pledging to work to redevelop Portage Place mall and get more people living downtown.
Murray served as Winnipeg’s mayor from 1998 to 2004, before leaving partway through his second term to make an unsuccessful run for the federal Liberals. He was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in 2010, holding a few ministerial portfolios before he resigned in 2017.
At another point, Klein alleged downtown growth has had a series of stops and starts, “which is much like (Glen) Murray’s political career.”
Klein argued the key to improving downtown for businesses is to make the area safer, immediately addressing homelessness by adding accommodation trailers to house folks in need.
To improve downtown, Ouellette said the city must focus on “hundreds of little projects” to reshape the area.
“(The solution is) not one gigantic project like Portage Place mall, which was supposed to save downtown,” said Ouellette.
Election Day is Oct. 26.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.
Updated on Friday, October 21, 2022 10:13 AM CDT: Fixes error about Murray moving to Toronto before running in the federal election