Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/10/2010 (3349 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Winnipeg's mayoral race has descended into mutual accusations of fear-mongering, after Mayor Sam Katz issued a Friday voice-mail blitz claiming low-income Winnipeggers may lose their homes if challenger Judy Wasylycia-Leis is elected on Oct. 27.
On Oct. 8, at the start of the long weekend, tens of thousands of Winnipeg households received an automated voice message from Katz, urging voters to reject his main opponent's plan to raise property taxes by two per cent a year for the next four years.
In the message, the mayor repeats his contention low-income earners will suffer under the weight of a propertytax hike. Katz has been making similar statements for two weeks and has long described property taxes as regressive.
But the mayor also uses the message to suggest "seniors and homeowners on the poverty bubble" may "lose their homes" because of a property-tax hike.
Marni Larkin, Katz's campaign manager, declined to say how many households received the Oct. 8 voice-mail message or name which Winnipeg telephone exchanges were targeted. Revealing that information would give up her strategy, she explained.
It's not an exaggeration to suggest seniors and other low-income people could lose their homes if taxes rise two per cent a year for the next four years, Larkin said.
"People who are on that poverty bubble, they can be in a position where they can't make their monthly payments," Larkin said Monday, repeating the Katz campaign's contention there are other ways for the city to find new sources of revenue, such as promoting more development.
Winnipeg has maintained a freeze on the pool of taxes collected from existing residential and commercial properties for 13 years. The freeze began at the end of the Susan Thompson administration and continued through the Glen Murray and Katz years.
Councillors such as Transcona's Russ Wyatt have argued the freeze has been maintained too long and that Winnipeg's revenues are no longer keeping pace with inflation.
Katz has refused to rule out ending this freeze in 2011, promising only to treat a tax hike as a last resort. He instead wants to lobby the Selinger government for more money, claiming the provincial NDP will have no choice but to comply during a provincial election year. A similar ploy failed during the 2007 provincial election campaign.
Wasylycia-Leis has promised to spend the proceeds of her tax hike — approximately $90 million in new revenue over four years — on policing, infrastructure and community centres. She has chided the mayor for not explaining a revenue plan of his own.
Her campaign dismissed Katz's voice messages as dirty politics.
"Phoning people in their homes to spread misinformation and fear is an American-style campaign tactic, and I think people expect better from the candidates in this election," Wasylycia-Leis said in a statement.
"I find it a bit sad, quite frankly. I think Winnipeggers would rather hear Sam Katz show that he actually has a revenue policy of his own rather than resorting to American-style attacks."
Larkin, however, said Wasylycia-Leis supporters are trying to spread fear. "Some people might call the MGEU ambulance commercials a scare tactic," referring to a radio campaign launched last month by the Manitoba Government and General Employees Union, which contends people are dying as a result of ambulance shortages.
The MGEU has denied it's supporting Wasylycia-Leis, insisiting it is not endorsing any mayoral candidate.
The City of Winnipeg expects to collect $431.1 million in property taxes this year from 180,000 properties. Wasylycia-Leis' proposed tax increases would add about $200 to the average property's municipal tax bill in 2014.
Vote for Judy, lose your home?
THE full text of Mayor Sam Katz's telephone message, delivered to homeowners on Oct. 8:
"Hi, this is Sam Katz. I'm proud to have been your mayor for the last six years. I've committed to work within the city budget to meet the needs of Winnipeggers.
"My opponent has promised a two per cent property-tax increase over a four-year term, meaning if she were elected, you will be paying eight per cent more on your property tax bill.
"Taxing like this will affect those on fixed incomes — seniors and homeowners on the poverty bubble — the most. People should not lose their homes when there are other avenues to consider first.
"Please help me send the message and come out and vote against the tax increase on Oct. 27."
The reality cheque
Municipal property taxes collected in Winnipeg in 2010: $431.1 million
Bill for the property owner: About $2,400
Property taxes that would be collected in Winnipeg in 2014, after four, two per cent annual property-tax increases: About $467 million.
Resulting bill for the average property owner in 2014: About $2,600
Additional annual tax burden, if this happens: About $200 for the average property.
Additional monthly tax burden, if this happens: $17 for the average property.
Sources: City of Winnipeg 2010 operating budget; Winnipeg taxation department