Winnipeggers say they would be willing to pay more taxes but theres a catch.
The money would have to be spent on fixing roads, planting trees or creating affordable housing.
A poll conducted for two left-leaning groups the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg asked respondents if theyd be willing to pay an additional $100 in property taxes annually.
Seventy-four per cent said they would if the money was spent on improving roads.
Planting and preserving the citys tree canopy was the preferred choice of 70 per cent of Winnipeggers while 68 per cent ‚ including 44 per cent who say they are very willing to pay more, say the city should make affordable housing the top priority.
The poll was conducted in advance of the two two groups release of their alternative municipal budget next week. The document is titled Winnipeg at a Crossroads and is meant to guide city budgets following Octobers municipal election.
Molly McCracken, of the CCPA, said the overall takeaway from the poll shows that after years of successive civic budgets in which property taxes have been frozen or minimally increased, Winnipeggers realize services have been reduced.
The main message in this poll is weve had a tax freeze under (mayors) Glen Murray and Sam Katz and since then all new increases have gone to roads and rapid transit, McCracken said Wednesday.
We have some of the lowest property taxes of the major cities in Canada and something has to give and we see it in the roads, the trees, and affordable housing… we cannot keep going down the path of austerity.
Winnipeg will suffer.
She wasnt surprised the No. 1 priority of poll respondents is better roads.
What is surprising is the large amount of people for affordable housing, she said. That is something the city has the tools to address, but hasnt moved on it. The city could build more housing.
McCracken said, on average, an additional $100 translates to an average property tax increase of five per cent.
Planning council executive director Kate Kehler said the poll was needed to counter what she expects to be the leading promise in Octobers civic election.
We will hear property tax promises to cut them or keep the tax low, Kehler said. But we cant keep doing that. The city is suffering because of the lack of resources.
Most people are fine with paying taxes: they just dont want the taxes wasted.
Other services Winnipeggers say are worth a bigger tax hit are park maintenance and amenities (63 per cent), transit service (57 per cent), bike trails and lanes (53 per cent) and longer library hours and more programs (41 per cent).
Kehler said while she knows roads are always a top concern of Winnipeggers, their total score was only four per cent higher than trees and six per cent higher than homelessness, along with other polling data suggesting that less should be spent on policing, supports our contention that Winnipeggesrs know that the status quo is not working.
This poll, conducted by Probe Research, surveyed 600 Winnipeg adults between March 9 to 21.
The poll is accurate 95 per cent of the time within plus or minus four per cent.
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.