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Provincial political parties respond to four election issues
Sep 30, 2011
With the provincial election just around the corner on October 4, WinnipegREALTORS® and the Manitoba Real Estate Assocation asked the Liberals, New Democratic Party and Progressive Conservatives to respond to four questions that have a bearing on the housing market and Manitobans overall.
The questions included the economy, the deficiency of rental properties, the elimination of education funding from property taxes, as well as changes to the land transfer tax (LTT).
The responses are essentially a review of the specific policies advocated by the parties during the election campaign.
“We want to give Manitobans an insight into each party’s platforms on specific issues of concern in order to help them to make an informed decision on October 4,” said WinnipegREALTORS® president Ralph Fyfe.
Question: What is your party’s strategy to get the province’s economic house in order, pay down the debt, create good high-paying jobs and bring prosperity to Manitoba?
Liberals — We differ from the NDP and Tories. The Tories believe that you need to cut taxes and cut spending, which does nothing to grow an economy — and it causes more problems than it solves. The NDP have failed miserably, with deficit after deficit over the last few years, and no control over spending, Manitoba Liberals will provide much improved budgeting and expenditure management processes.
We believe in spending in ways to reduce costs. We will focus on prevention in health care and towards preventing crime, which is strategic spending to save costs later. 
Our economic investments will create growth.  For example, a prominent study suggested every dollar invested in research and development is returned multiple times back into the economy. Yet, Manitoba is a province that spends less per capita than almost any other.  We would dedicate resources to research, science, technology, training, and development.  
Rapid Transit stimulates investment and creates growth in a manageable way, and along its routes. Our commitment to ensuring a rapid transit system for all of Winnipeg is a particularly important one should there be a recession, as it will stimulate growth and employment locally at a time of economic uncertainty. 
We have for years maintained that we needed a water management plan for Manitoba and, especially, western Manitoba, with no net loss of wetlands, more water storage, better dams, and more flood protection.  We take a water management approach, not a disaster management approach, and it will save us so much in the long run.
NDP — Our government’s decade of balanced budgets has put Manitoba in a strong economic and fiscal position. We will continue to make Manitoba economically competitive and innovative by educating and training our citizens for the jobs of tomorrow, keeping taxes low for small businesses and encouraging innovation through research and development. 
PCs — Unlike the NDP, we won’t raise taxes on families and businesses, especially during a time of global economic instability. We will introduce tax credits and take immediate steps to grow our economy and jobs by entering into trade agreements, reducing red tape, building infrastructure, and encouraging training, immigration and investment.
Question: How does your party plan to address the rental deficiency in Manitoba, especially for newcomers?
PCs — Progressive Conservatives take pride in the nominee program that we introduced. We recognize the need for affordable housing for newcomers and all Manitobans. As a first step, we will exempt first-time home buyers from the land transfer tax (LTT) to get them into the market, freeing up much needed rental space.
NDP — We’re on track to exceed our long-term commitment to create 1,500 affordable housing units. If re-elected, we’ll work with the private sector to develop 2,100 more housing units using TIF, as well as redeveloping almost seven acres of surface parking lots into a mix of housing and other uses.
Liberals — We have some specific ideas:
• Creating rapid transit creates growth all along rapid transit stops, with more housing, more infill developments, and better quality housing.
• We believe that transitioning more building away from the Manitoba Housing model to a community-based co-op housing model builds safer communities, and when you have that, you have more willingness to build, develop, and maintain housing.
• Investments in community safety create more stability and that stability is needed for any new housing investments. You do not see new housing in the most crime-ridden areas of this city, but you do see that growth in areas that are in renewal.
• We need to ease restrictions on developers  and cut red tape, and examine how incentives can create housing, so long as those developments are key to the renewal of areas that require it most.
Question: Will your party commitment to initially funding 80 per cent of education from general revenues and then progress to achieving 100 per cent of funding from general revenues?
NDP — The province funds 76 per cent of total education costs, including teacher pensions and schools capital. We have protected taxpayers by raising education property tax credits, eliminating the residential Education Support Levy, and increasing funding for schools. If re-elected, we’ll eliminate school taxes for seniors and farmers.
PCs — We believe that there is merit in re-examining Manitoba’s education funding model. We will consider a review of education funding. The Progressive Conservative Party has committed to extend the $700 education property tax credit to cottage owners as a step towards greater education property tax equity.
Liberals — We absolutely support the 80-20 model; we did in 2003 and 2007, and we continue to. We have never wavered in that support, unlike other parties.  How wonderful it would be to live in a province that had such growth that we did not need any property taxes to pay for education — but we do not.  We cannot support the 100-per-cent concept, because it will impact the quality of education and people want quality education. There is also value in school boards who play a positive role in education.  The quality of education will suffer without the accountability of school boards. We believe in achievable goals, and not pandering to promises that cannot be realistically achieved.
Question: How will your party address the  land transfer tax (LTT), which penalizes Manitoba home buyers overall, and is a disincentive to young first-time buyers attempting to achieve their goal of homeownership? Will your party review the two per cent tax threshold on home sales over $200,000 and how  the tax has now departed dramatically from its original intent?
PCs — The NDP can’t balance the books by 2014 without raising taxes by $500 million. Greg Selinger increased the LTT when house prices were rising. We won’t raise taxes, and we will exempt first-time home buyers from the LTT. We will review the LTT as part of a post-election financial review.
Liberals — This merits our support.  Manitoba Liberals were the party that first identified we had the worst interprovincial migration rate for young people to other provinces where there was more opportunity.  Those young people are now starting families or have families, and we want them to return.  Removing this tax is key to making Manitoba a magnet for young people, which has always been a key plank in our platforms. We support its reduction.
NDP — Land transfer taxes, or similar fees, are assessed in every province. Manitoba’s fees rank in the middle of the pack. While homeowners pay the LTT only when buying homes, they benefit from property tax reductions. For every $1 in LTT revenue, the province returns $5.30 in property tax 
relief.