Winnipeg mayoral candidate’s parking lot tax would require change to provincial law

A Winnipeg mayoral candidate wants the city to tax downtown surface parking lots as if they had buildings on them.

“In this case of downtown surface parking lots, they should be assessed as if they were a four-storey commercial building,” Robert-Falcon Ouellette said during a Thursday campaign announcement at a downtown parking lot near Portage and Main.

Ouellette called the surface parking lots a barrier to economic development and said they create unsafe environments. His hope is that taxing the properties as if they had buildings on them will encourage owners to redevelop them.

“Like missing teeth in a smile, these lots are a constant reminder that we need to do better,” he said.

The proposed tax change would raise an estimated $65.5 million in revenue, Ouellette said.

However, the city does not currently have the power to do this. Former mayor Sam Katz made a similar proposal, but it would require the province to amend the City of Winnipeg charter.

That legislation says the city must charge “a single rate of real property tax,” which means any additional taxes on parking could be subject to a legal challenge.

This is at least the third pledge Ouellette has made during his mayoral campaign that would need a change to provincial legislation.

He previously called for Winnipeg city councillors to elect members of the council’s executive policy committee — something the Winnipeg charter also prohibits. Members of the committee are currently appointed by the mayor. 

Ouellette also wants future municipal elections to be decided by a ranked-ballot voting system, which would require amendments to the Municipal Councils and School Boards Elections Act.

Within hours of Ouellette’s announcement, rival mayoral candidate Rana Bokhari released a statement saying the proposal would be subject to “numerous lawsuits.”

A simpler solution would be for the province to approve the city charging a parking tax, Bokhari said.

Ouellette and Bokhari are among 14 candidates running for mayor. The others are Idris Adelakun, Chris Clacio, Scott Gillingham, Kevin Klein, Shaun Loney, Jenny Motkaluk, Glen Murray, Jessica Peebles, Rick Shone, Govind Thawani, Desmond Thomas and Don Woodstock.

Election day is Oct. 26.

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