Manitobans want education taxes to be election issue

A new poll shows the overwhelming majority of Manitobans believe the use of property taxes to fund education should be an issue in the next provincial election. 

In the poll, conducted by Probe Research for the Manitoba Real Estate Association and the Winnipeg Real Estate Board, eight in 10 responded that they would like to see tax shifting as an issue.

Both the MREA and the WREB are on record as saying that education funding should be through general revenues — like health care which is also a societal benefit — rather than funded through property taxes.

In the survey, 60 per cent agreed with the position taken by the WREB and MREA. It’s an opinion shared almost equally by rural and urban residents in Manitoba. Outside Winnipeg 58 per cent agreed that a shift to general revenues is needed, while inside Winnipeg 61 per cent feel the same way.

“We are putting all the provincial parties on notice that this issue is weighing heavily on the minds of voters,” said Lorne Weiss, chair of MREA’s political action committee.

“With this much public support for the parties to take a strong stand on the issues,” added WREB president Walter Boni, “I don’t see how the (provincial) government can ignore this quality of life any longer.”

This is the third survey commissioned by the WREB and MREA that shows a significant majority of Manitobans want the provincial government to change the way it funds education. The other polls were conducted in October and June 2005.

“We tip our hats to the government for taking the first step to ease the burden of educational funding from property owners by eliminating the Education Support Levy (ESL), but the latest poll results clearly show that even with this reduction, Manitobans still feel that more needs to be done,” said Weiss.

The provincial government has been phasing out the ESL on residents over the last four years. It has also started to phase out the ESL on farmland. 

Eventually, the only school taxes levied on property for education funding will be by school boards. At present, school taxes represent roughly 50 per cent of a homeowner’s property tax bill in Winnipeg. The remaining property taxes are levied by the city.

Only 13 per cent of those surveyed indicated they were satisfied with the present education funding regime through property taxes.

According to REALTORS® in Manitoba, escalating property values and higher property taxes are placing an increased burden on many property owners, especially first-time buyers and seniors on fixed incomes.

“For us, this is a quality of life issue that is making it difficult for some of our citizens to even stay in their homes,” said Weiss. “Manitoba’s property owners are being taxed on debt and not on the ability to pay (as with income taxes),” said Weiss.

The forecast is that the next provincial election will be this fall or in early 2007.

The June survey, conducted using a province-wide sample of 1,000 resident adults, is considered accurate within plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.