Manitoba moves forward with school tax rebate, despite opposition to payments to commercial property owners

The Manitoba government is set to distribute education rebate checks for the second year in a row, despite objections from the official opposition to the tax relief being extended to property owners.

The ruling Progressive Conservatives voted Thursday in favor of legislation they say gives the province the authority to spend nearly $350 million on the rebates.

Homeowners and farmland owners are eligible for a 37.5% refund of their school property tax this year, up from the 25% refund given in 2021.

The average rebate this year will be $600, Finance Minister Cameron Friesen said on Twitter.

They will be sent the month property taxes are due in the owner’s municipality—June for Winnipeg and Brandon.

The Conservatives plan to eventually phase out the education property tax in favor of what they call a fairer way to fund the K-12 education system. The government is consulting on a new funding formula.

Biggest payouts to big companies

However, the promised tax relief did not convince all Manitobans.

In recent days, the opposition NDP has criticized the government for giving the biggest discounts to commercial landowners, a group that will receive a 10% discount for the second year in a row.

The NDP argued that commercial landowners, some of whom are not based in Manitoba, are not desperate for the tax relief.

In particular, the party pointed the finger at the owners of the Polo Park mall, Cadillac Fairview, which is entitled to a check for more than $1 million, CBC News reported.

The NDP proposed an amendment on Thursday to exempt commercial property owners from paying, but it was defeated.

Homeowners are in line for a 37.5% rebate on their school property taxes. (Meaghan Ketcheson/CBC)

A lively Friesen berated the NDP two days in a row in scrums with reporters. The finance minister said the opposition rejects the ‘fundamental premise’ underpinning commercial leases, which is that the tax relief for landlords will be passed on to tenants.

Some of those tenants are domestic and international businesses, but Friesen said Wednesday they hire Manitobans and earn money that flows around the province.

He said Manitobans are asking for financial help as the price of fuel, groceries and other goods continues to rise.

A recent CBC analysis of Winnipeg properties found that the top 10% of education tax refund recipients pocketed four times as much money as the bottom 10%.

Originally, the government introduced the school tax rebate as a way to help low-income workers, seniors and families.

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