Legislation introduced by the Pallister government, that enables it to rebate 25 per cent of the value of education taxes to residential and farm property owners this year, has received second reading.
It heads to the public meetings phase. However, because Bill 71 (Education Property Tax Reduction Act) was introduced late in the Manitoba legislative session, there were no assurances it will be enacted before the house rises for the summer June 1.
Finance Minister Scott Fielding said earlier if the legislation wasn’t enacted, the planned mail-out of rebate cheques worth $248 million to an estimated 658,000 property owners would be delayed. The average Winnipeg homeowner is expected to receive a rebate of $481 this year.
The plan was announced in the April 7 budget, which vowed to rebate 50 per cent of the current education tax to property owners over the next two years. It promised renters two years of rent freezes, beginning next year.
On Thursday, the Opposition NDP voted against the bill, but did not use procedural stalling tactics to delay it from proceeding to the next stage of the legislative process (public meetings).
"Bill 71 is certainly going to create a lot of issues," NDP Leader Wab Kinew said Friday.
He said it disproportionately favours the more well-off, and will result in cuts to education for many years in the future.
The Opposition leader said the NDP will focus on the imminent spending estimates process, "which is one of the really important opportunities we have to scrutinize this government."
The public has a chance to respond to Bill 71 at a committee meeting May 10.
The NDP has argued the PC government could fulfil its rebate promise without legislation by simply boosting provincial tax credits. It has said it’s seeking additional amendments to Bill 71 that would provide support to renters.
The NDP argued the rent freeze promised in the bill is meaningless because the Residential Tenancies Branch routinely approves landlord applications above approved guidelines.
MLA Adrien Sala introduced a private member’s bill Thursday to prevent landlords from applying for a rent increase above the provincial guidelines, unless they can prove they’ve made capital expenditures or an extraordinary increase in taxes or utilities.
Without a majority, the NDP bill likely won’t pass.
Before he was allowed to introduce the bill, Sala had to put on a necktie. According to the legislature dress code, men are to wear ties, even if they’re not in the house.
Sala was taking part in the proceedings remotely, and was wearing a dress shirt and suit jacket without a tie.
It was the second time in two months an MLA has been bounced for not wearing a necktie. In March, Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont showed up for question period with no necktie. He apologized, left, and returned wearing a red tie minutes later.
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.