There was an expectation when the current Progressive Conservative (PC) government was elected three years ago changes in how education funds are raised would follow.
The PCs took most of the rural seats and rural MLA’s made up two-thirds of cabinet.
The government lived up to its promise to review Manitoba’s education system, which is to be completed by March. But to KAP’s disappointment the review doesn’t include funding.
“Once we get those recommendations and begin acting on them then we can talk about the second issue, which is how do we pay for all this stuff,” Premier Brian Pallister told reporters at Ag Days in Brandon Jan. 22.
At a policy meeting last fall PC members voted in favour of a resolution to remove education taxes from farmland.
Manitoba Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler agreed when speaking at KAP’s annual meeting Feb. 5 in Winnipeg that farmers get a raw deal on education taxes, but added relief wouldn’t come before the next election.
That election is happening a year early.
“We know the (funding) model is flawed — basically farmland is carrying the largest part of that (in rural areas),” Eichler told KAP members.
KAP has the current government’s attention on this issue so it’s a good time to raise it, University of Manitoba political scientist Christopher Adams said in an interview July 4.
Currently most of agro-Manitoba’s MLAs are PC and most of them are in safe seats, Adams said.
“I think… many of the people who are members of KAP, and are active in KAP, are members who are active in their Progressive Conservative Party organizations,” he added. “I would suspect now that KAP is stepping out to speak on this, the provincial government will be working on this issue over the next couple of years.”
To provide some relief for farmers an NDP government implemented the Farmland School Tax Rebate in 2004, the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation’s website says.
It began with a 33 per cent rebate, which was later raised to 80 per cent, but was capped at $5,000 starting in 2013.
Last year $41.9 million in education taxes were rebated to farmland owners, up 24 per cent from 2015, even though the number of applicants declined by 2,427.
The number of paid applicants capped up to $5,000 was up 85 per cent to 3,528 versus 1,903 in 2015.
Had the cap not been there farmland owners would’ve received $17.1 million more.
In 2015 the cap cost landowners $7.1 million.