December 15, 2018

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Motkaluk calls out Bowman for back-door taxes

Mayoral candidate Jenny Motkaluk is attacking incumbent Brian Bowman’s record on frontage fees, saying it’s an example of his “smoke-and-mirrors” approach to municipal taxes that hurts Winnipeggers’ pocketbooks.

If elected, Motkaluk promised Wednesday her administration would freeze frontage levy rates at the current level.

Bowman made the same promise Sept. 14; it was one of the first announcements of his re-election campaign.

Nonetheless, Motkaluk said Bowman’s history of tax increases should concern voters when they head to the polls Oct. 24.

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Mayoral candidate Jenny Motkaluk is attacking incumbent Brian Bowman’s record on frontage fees, saying it’s an example of his "smoke-and-mirrors" approach to municipal taxes that hurts Winnipeggers’ pocketbooks.

If elected, Motkaluk promised Wednesday her administration would freeze frontage levy rates at the current level.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Mayoral candidates mayor Brian Bowman and Jennifer Motkaluk during a mayoral debate at the University of Winnipeg in September. Motkaluk is attacking Bowman’s record on frontage fees.</p>

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Mayoral candidates mayor Brian Bowman and Jennifer Motkaluk during a mayoral debate at the University of Winnipeg in September. Motkaluk is attacking Bowman’s record on frontage fees.

Bowman made the same promise Sept. 14; it was one of the first announcements of his re-election campaign.

Nonetheless, Motkaluk said Bowman’s history of tax increases should concern voters when they head to the polls Oct. 24.

"It’s a smoke-and-mirrors game. He’ll stand up and proudly say, ‘I held the line on property tax.’ In the meantime, he’s picking your pockets every chance he gets. Bowman has raised fees and taxes more than any other mayor would have had the guts to," Motkaluk said.

Frontage levies were used as a "concealed tax" during Bowman’s first term, she said, adding he’s overseen a 45 per cent increase while in office.

She said sewer rates increased by nearly 23 per cent during the last three years. On Tuesday, Motkaluk promised to freeze sewer rates.

In September, Bowman also announced he would freeze sewer rates, if he’s re-elected.

The current frontage levy rate is $5.45 per foot — an increase of 25 per cent over 2017. When Bowman took office in 2014, the rate was set at $3.75 per foot. He oversaw increases in 2015 and 2016.

The tax is calculated based on the length of the boundaries of a property that "fronts or abuts any portion of the service," the city’s website says. Since at least 2009, the money raised by the frontage tax has been earmarked for street-renewal projects.

"If every time you need to balance your budget, you do this back door tax, it’s just laziness. It means the mayor is not willing to take a hard look at where our tax money is being spent and make sure Winnipeggers are getting good value for it," Motkaluk said.

Bowman responded by criticizing Motkaluk for running an overly negative campaign.

"The tone of this campaign from this candidate is extremely divisive. We saw this in the last campaign (2014) from then-candidate Gord Steeves. It’s kind of like a Gord 2.0 playbook that she’s running. It’s divisive and simply attacking. It doesn’t resonate with voters in my view," Bowman said Wednesday.

"Simply criticizing is not something Winnipeggers are looking for in a mayor. Criticizing and acting as a critic is one thing, but it’s another thing to lead and present a positive plan."

Bowman sidestepped questions about why sewer and frontage levy rates were increased during his first term. Instead, Bowman said he thinks the conversation should be focused on what candidates have promised to do in the future.

He repeatedly pointed out he committed to freezing frontage levy and sewer rates more than a month ago.

"I think we should be talking about the future, and how we’re going to build this city for the future. What I’ve committed to do is freeze the frontage levy rate," Bowman said.

"It’s good to see that she agrees with that."

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

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