There is no justifying the Pallister government’s decision to provide more than $10-million in tax breaks to some of Canada’s richest families to build a luxury hotel and apartment complex in downtown Winnipeg, says Manitoba Liberal Leader and MLA for St. Boniface, Dougald Lamont, who says that the deal should be scrapped.
Last Monday, September 10, Minister Wharton announced the Province of Manitoba would support the construction of True North Square in downtown Winnipeg with up to $11.95-million in tax rebates, including the development of a luxury hotel and apartments.
The funding came with a catch, when the proposal arrived at Winnipeg City Council’s Executive Policy Committee (EPC) on Wednesday, September 12. It contained a clause that required the City to delete the requirement that 10% of the apartments have affordable rent.
Lamont says that since the affordable housing requirement has been scrapped, there is no way to justify Pallister's millions in tax breaks to Canada’s wealthiest to develop subsidized luxury housing.
Lamont said that while he is generally a strong supporter of both downtown redevelopment and public investment, there is no justifying public money to subsidize for-profit luxury housing, when they have scrapped the requirement for affordable housing. On February 23, 2016, True North’s Jim Ludlow told CBC that “the project would have gone ahead regardless of any help from any government.”
“It is perverse for the Pallister government to offer millions in tax breaks to Canada’s wealthiest to subsidize luxury housing while the PCs are selling off Manitoba public housing and kicking people off rent assist,” said Lamont. “Developers are not building a luxury hotel in downtown Winnipeg as an act of charity, there is already an incentive for them to invest, which is making a profit.”
Lamont said he is writing to City Council and True North President Mark Chipman, and Minister Jeff Wharton, asking them to cancel the tax breaks for the luxury housing.
According to the Winnipeg street census, Winnipeg has over 1,500 people who are homeless and another 1,700 people on a waiting list for Manitoba Housing. By changing the income eligibility for rent assist, the PCs have denied 300 people help with paying their rent.
“The Pallister government believes in the free market for health care, education and emergency services, but turns socialist when it comes to luxury housing owned by billionaires,” said Lamont. “We need a commitment to governing for everyone, not just a few.”
Director of Caucus Communications
Manitoba Liberal Caucus
Tel: (204) 771-2513