Councillors Launch Ad Campaign Asking Winnipeggers to Challenge Katz on Budget.
Six Winnipeg City Councillors are launching a social media blitz asking Winnipeggers to join them in sending a message to Mayor Sam Katz: he should think twice about controversial budget choices like recreation fee hikes, frontage levies and using sewer and water revenues for general revenue — all of which hit working families the hardest.
Councillors Ross Eadie, Jenny Gerbasi, John Orlikow, Mike Pagtakhan, Harvey Smith, and Russ Wyatt have pooled their resources to launch a run of radio ads on CJOB today as well as a Facebook page “No Way Sam” that asks Winnipeggers to call the mayor’s office at 986‑5665 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org to say “No way” to this budget.
The Councillors said that the Mayor’s approach means that working families are being asked to pay more without getting improvements in infrastructure or recreation services in return.
“We are calling for an open and responsible budget,” said Councillor Wyatt. “There should be a better way to balance the budget than hiking frontage levies and Recreation fees for working families.”
The frontage levies are also a “regressive” tax measure, which means everyone pays the same, no matter their income or the value of their property. In practice, it means that owners of lower-value properties with a wide lot may pay much more than people with higher-value properties with a small lot. In one example, a home worth $75,000 on would pay $84.15 — nearly five times as much as the $17.85 paid by a million-dollar residence worth 13 times more.
Though it has been argued the frontage fee is justified because it costs more to service larger lots, the budget shows the funds going to general revenue, and not being dedicated to fixing infrastructure and roads.
Using sewer and water fees for general revenue is also controversial, since the City of Winnipeg’s combined rates for sewer and water are among the highest in Canada.
“This is a fundamental issue of tax fairness,” said Councillor Pagtakhan. “The Mayor has chosen as his main new source of revenue a levy that simply does not take into account the homeowner’s ability to pay, and that isn’t right.”
The issue of recreation fees are also significant because city facilities are an affordable way for families and children to get involved in sports and exercise. The Mayor has justified increases by saying that the programs aren’t profitable.
Councillor Gerbasi said that profit-making is not the main reason for providing recreation programs. “They’re not a business, they are a service we provide that helps families exercise and play together, and keeps kids out of trouble.”
The six councillors say that the Mayor needs to go back to the drawing board and find a fair solution “We are willing to be a part of any deliberations, but so long as it is a closed process, the onus will remain on the Mayor to propose solutions,” said Councillor Smith.
Ross Eadie – 986‑5188
Jenny Gerbasi – 986‑5878
John Orlikow — 986‑5236
Mike Pagtakhan – 986‑8401
Harvey Smith — 986‑5951
Russ Wyatt — 803‑4049