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This article was published 21/4/2015 (2043 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Opposition Leader Brian Pallister today called on the NDP government to freeze fee hikes for cottages in provincial parks for up to two years.
Pallister said this would give the government the appropriate amount of time to account for how the revenue from the 2013 fee increases is being spent.
Pallister said the government is required to provide such an accounting Under the Provincial Parks Act.
"This hasn’t been done for the majority of the NDP’s rule and cottage owners deserve a clear accounting of what they should be paying and what has been done," Pallister said, describing the increases as another form of government taxation.
Without that detail, he said cottagers will not have confidence that the increase in service fees and Crown-land rent is fair, he said.
He added he was not against the fee increases, but argued they must be implemented fairly.
"I think most cottage owners expect the fees to being going up, but the reality though is the government has just arbitrarily imposed fees hikes without any kind of statistical support to make their case," he said.
The government has said the average service fee increase for cottagers in provincial parks last year was $247, and that the increases were introduced to bring what cottagers pay in provincial parks in line to those who pay municipal property taxes outside parks.
Provincial park cottage fees has been frozen for about a decade, a situation the government said saw those cottagers subsidized by taxpayers for road maintenance and wastewater treatment.
The higher service fees do not cover costs for RCMP, conservation officers and forest fire fighting.
Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh said the government has already done that accounting in bringing in the new fees.
He said that information has already been made public and was required by law when the increases were introduced.
"The point has to be made that if there is a two-year freeze that costs taxpayers $3.3 million," Mackintosh said. "They (the Tories) are factually wrong."
The debate over the increases began more than a year ago when many park cottagers got their invoices in the mail outlining what they owe. There are about 6,200 cottages in Manitoba's provincial parks.
Many cottagers have complained that the increases are unfair and held a protest rally at the legislative building.
They also say the government has been too slow to explain where the money is going.
Mackintosh said the the park-fee and land-rent increase is being cushioned by a 10-year phase-in and has a cap of $3,000, a bargain when compared to what's happening to cottagers in Ontario. The cap will be maintained for the 2016-17 bill.
Mackintosh said the province is still on track to begin in 2018-19 a new property value assessment model for cottagers inside provincial park districts.