Majority of Manitobans would nix school tax rebates in favour of social spending, poll suggests

A majority of Manitobans want the provincial government to cancel education tax rebates planned for this year and spend the money on services instead, a poll commissioned by a think tank suggests.

A Probe Research poll commissioned by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found 58 per cent of survey respondents want the PC government to nix rebate cheques that would give the average Manitoban homeowner $775 this year but deprive provincial coffers of $450 million worth of revenue.

A third of the survey respondents said they preferred the cheques to the government revenue, while nine per cent were not sure.

The survey of 1,000 Manitoban adults, done in late November and early December, asked respondents whether they “prefer the government cancel the rebate and spend the money on public services” or “prefer property owners get the rebate.”

Molly McCracken, the Manitoba director for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, which in the past has supported more equitable wages and social spending in areas like health care, said the question was fair to ask because she contends the province is underfunding education, health care and public housing. They’re all areas worthy of $450 million, she said.

“If it had been kept with the Manitoba government, it could have been spent on other priorities,” McCracken said Friday in an interview.

Manitoba initially provided property owners with rebate cheques equal to 25 per cent of their education tax bills in 2021. The rebates rose to 37.5 per cent in 2022. 

The plan for 2023 is to increase that rebate to 50 per cent of education tax bills, said Eric Bench, a spokesperson for Finance Minister Cameron Friesen.

“This rebate, along with the many tax measures our government has introduced, is helping to ensure Manitobans see more of their hard-earned money,” Bench said in a statement. It helps Manitobans cope with inflation, he said.

A CBC News analysis done in 2022 determined the owners of Winnipeg’s most expensive properties reaped the greatest benefits from the tax rebates.

The top 10 per cent of education tax rebate recipients in the Manitoba capital pocketed four times more cash than owners in the bottom the bottom 10 per cent.

Probe Research surveyed a random and representative sample of 1,000 Manitoba adults between Nov. 22 and Dec. 5. The firm says it is 95 per cent certain its results are accurate within a 3.1 percentage point margin of error.

The sample consisted of 763 respondents recruited by a human being on the phone and 237 members of Probe’s online panel. All respondents completed the survey on an online platform. Probe applied minor statistical weighting to the results to ensure the age and gender characteristics reflected those of Manitoba’s population as a whole.

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