Manitoba pushes ahead on education tax rebate, despite opposition to payouts for commercial property owners

The Manitoba government is ready to dish out education rebate cheques for the second straight year, despite the Official Opposition’s objections to tax relief being extended to corporate landowners. 

The governing Progressive Conservatives voted in favour Thursday of legislation they say gives the province the authority to spend nearly $350 million to issue the rebates.

Residential homeowners and farm property owners are entitled to a rebate of 37.5 per cent of their education property tax this year, which is an increase from the 25 per cent rebate issued in 2021.

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

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

The Tories plan to eventually phase out the education property tax in favour of what they call a fairer way to fund the kindergarten to Grade 12 education system. The government is consulting on a new funding formula.

Biggest payouts to big business

The promised tax relief hasn’t won over all Manitobans, however.

In recent days, the Opposition NDP have criticized the government for giving the biggest rebates to commercial landowners, a group which will receive a 10 per cent rebate for the second year in a row.

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

In particular, the party singled out the owners of the Polo Park shopping centre, Cadillac Fairview, which is entitled to a cheque of more than $1 million, CBC News reported.

The NDP put forward an amendment Thursday to exempt commercial property owners from the payout, but it was voted down.

Residential property owners are in line for a 37.5 per cent rebate on their education property taxes. (Meaghan Ketcheson/CBC)

An animated Friesen chastised the NDP two days in a row in scrums with reporters. The finance minister said the Opposition was dismissing the “fundamental premise” underpinning commercial leases, which is that the tax relief for owners will get passed down to the tenants.

Some of those tenants are national and international businesses, but Friesen said on Wednesday they hire Manitobans and make money that is circulated within the province.

He added that Manitobans are calling for financial relief as the price of fuel, groceries and other goods keeps rising.

A recent CBC analysis of Winnipeg properties found the top 10 per cent of education tax rebate recipients pocketed four times more cash than the bottom 10 per cent. 

The government originally touted the education tax rebate as a way to bring relief to working people, seniors and lower-income families.

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