Manitoba property owners will receive a cheque from the provincial government later this year, rebating them for a portion of their education taxes, Premier Brian Pallister said Thursday.

Manitoba property owners will receive a cheque from the provincial government later this year, rebating them for a portion of their education taxes, Premier Brian Pallister said Thursday.

Some 658,000 residential, farm, commercial and other properties are affected.

Pallister told a news conference that details of the rebate program, including its cost, will be made available in Wednesday's provincial budget.

More information is expected in the budget on the timetable for phasing out education property taxes altogether. The Progressive Conservatives promised the education property tax phase-out during the 2019 election campaign.

"The government is keeping its promise to relieve ratepayers and leave more money on their kitchen tables," the premier said, speaking from a podium in the legislative building. To emphasize the point, officials had placed a small wooden table and three chairs nearby.

The government will remove the provincial sales tax this year on personal care services, such as haircuts and salon services, Pallister said.

During the last election, the PCs promised a number of tax cuts that would save the average Manitoba taxpayer $2,020 over a four-year period. Included among them were the education property tax phase-out and several tax cuts. The Tories counted their percentage point reduction in the PST, which took effect a few months before the election, in their tax savings calculation.

Pallister said Manitoba is the only Canadian jurisdiction that determines school taxes at the local level, which, he said, creates "an uneven playing field across the province."

School divisions have been ordered to freeze their education property taxes this year. The province has said it will provide grants to divisions to maintain education funding levels.

The PC government is moving ahead with its planned tax cuts even as it projects a $1.6 billion deficit for the 2021-22 fiscal year.

"We believe that more tax relief sooner is better in the face of the realities of COVID," the premier told reporters.

Reacting to the premier's announcement, NDP Leader Wab Kinew said Pallister's main priority should be to ensure all Manitobans are vaccinated for COVID-19 in a timely manner.

"(Pallister) should be talking about improvements to the vaccine program so that we can all again gather safely around our kitchen tables with our loved ones as soon as possible," he said. "That's what everyone wants to see."

While the PCs are patting themselves on the back for some of their tax cuts, they also unilaterally jacked up hydro rates, bypassing the Public Utilities Board hearing process, late last year, Kinew noted.

"Mr. Pallister may try and look generous... but we know that he's actually making life way more expensive in some other ways too," the NDP leader said.

Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont decried the property tax rebate at a time when the government is running up huge deficits.

Likening the decision to running a business, Lamont said Pallister is "borrowing money to lower prices for the richest customers" permanently.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

   Read full biography