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Government raises, and tax increases don't reflect people’s sacrifices

Why are our governments unfazed as they continue to dig deeper into our pockets, to increase their benefits?
Winnipeg City Hall

As we navigate the challenging landscape of rising inflation, it becomes evident that we are all feeling the pinch, grappling with the negative effects on our wallets and daily lives. The ominous warnings of surging grocery prices, escalating rents, and increasing clothing costs in 2024 only amplify our concerns about meeting our financial obligations.


In these trying times, Manitobans from all walks of life are being compelled to make tough choices. Families are forced to trim their budgets, cutting back on both non-essential and, regrettably, even essential expenditures. As the burden of living with less looms over our heads, a pertinent question arises – why are our governments seemingly unfazed as they continue to dig deeper into our pockets?


Elected officials often face the challenge of making difficult decisions, but it’s essential to consider the foundation upon which these decisions are made. Have they delved deep into the intricacies of each department? Have they taken steps to conduct a comprehensive Zero-based budget review? I’ve previously outlined the advantages of undertaking such a thorough examination.


Regrettably, no government has shown a willingness to cut non-essential costs. Here in the City of Winnipeg, we are confronted with an impending 3.5% tax hike, with the added burden of surging property values, effectively amounting to a second tax increase for many. What remains uncertain is the looming spectre of frontage fees, whose escalation we are yet to ascertain. And let’s not forget the impending water and sewer rate increases.


In the face of these looming financial hardships, it’s disheartening to observe that our city councillors have chosen not to share in our sacrifices. Instead, they appear to have granted themselves a generous budget increase of $80,000 per year, surpassing even their provincial counterparts. How can any councillor justify such a raise when many citizens are struggling to make ends meet? Furthermore, councillors have consistently enjoyed annual salary increases, not to mention the added perk of car allowances and underground parking – with EPC members enjoying even more substantial benefits.


The absence of substantial efforts to cut non-essential spending within the city council raises questions about their commitment to fiscal responsibility. Have they made the tough choices required to trim management levels or reduce waste across departments? Have they curtailed the excessive expenditures? Regrettably, the answer is a resounding “no.”


Compounding our fiscal challenges is the colossal debt that the city must grapple with, coupled with the escalating cost of servicing this debt — a burden shared by every citizen.


The situation mirrors a similar trend at the provincial level, where the NDP administration has doubled the number of political staff and raised wages across the board. Government ministers now boast up to four personal staff members in addition to their existing teams.


The issue of extravagant spending extends to conventions, where elected officials at the city and provincial levels use taxpayer funds to attend. City councillors and key public service staff benefit from this privilege, mirroring practices at the provincial and federal levels.


It’s imperative to question whether these expenditures are indeed essential. Do elected officials need to attend conferences, spend lavishly on advertising, or maintain constituency offices? Can’t they fulfil their duties by hosting regular coffee events within their jurisdictions? The idea of city councillors expending taxpayer dollars to maintain offices within their wards also warrants scrutiny.


In light of these disparities, we must ask why the burden of tightening our belts and slashing non-essential spending falls squarely on the shoulders of Manitobans.


It’s time to consider a rule that bars any government from increasing taxes without first reducing elected officials’ non-essential expenditures. As we’re compelled to put our financial houses in order, our leaders should set an example by doing the same.


Manitobans deserve accountability, transparency, and fiscal responsibility from their elected representatives. It’s high time our leaders heed this call and lead by example.


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