More Manitobans appear ready to support a one-cent municipal sales tax if the extra revenue is put toward fixing roads, bridges, water, sewer and recreational facilities, according to a new poll.
Sixty-four per cent told Probe Research, in a poll conducted for the Association of Manitoba Municipalities, they support that idea.
That’s a jump of support by 10 per cent from 2008 when the AMM asked the same question at the onset of their push for new municipal revenue streams. Three years ago a poll of 1,000 Manitobans showed just over half (54 per cent) supported the idea.
Given five options for the province to dedicate additional revenues from the provincial sales tax (PST) to a specific purpose, 44 per cent indicated they would dedicate these funds to community infrastructure improvement. That’s higher than the 27 per cent in favour of dedicating it to health care or 11 per cent wanting it to go to education. Manitobans age 55 or older are the most favourable to a municipal sales tax (74 per cent) versus those aged 18-34 (56 per cent). Women (36 per cent) are less likely than men (52 per cent) to favour infrastructure over other priorities.
Overall, nine in 10 respondents agreed with the statement, “Our communities need help.”
AMM president Doug Dobrowolski said the results show Manitobans now understand the fiscal bind faced by local government.
“This survey just reinforces what we already believed — most Manitobans will support additional revenue for municipalities if the funds raised go directly to an area of great need. That area is infrastructure.”
The AMM’s call for new revenue streams was the focus of its Putting Communities First campaign in the leadup to last October’s election when AMM held meetings with municipal leaders and other community representatives across the province to talk and list specifics on infrastructure needs. Over half of all towns listed streets and roads repairs and water infrastructure as top priorities, with deteriorating sidewalks, playgrounds in need of upgrades and halls in need upgrades and repairs as other major concerns.
The AMM has calculated a dedicated tax would generate about $240 million in additional revenues which the province’s 197 municipalities could then share through per capita distribution. The province’s estimated infrastructure deficit is at $11 billion, or $10,000 for every Manitoban.
In a recent op-ed piece, Dobrowolski cited Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ calculations that showing for every $1 spent on infrastructure, the federal, provincial and territorial governments received 35 cents through new income and sales tax.
“In other words, infrastructure spending is not a drain. It is an investment that will help communities,” he said. Premier Greg Selinger told delegates at the AMM Annual Convention in November that he would not consider a municipal sales tax. AMM will hold its annual mayors’ and reeves’ meetings in March.
The survey was conducted among the Probe Research Online Panel between November 14 and 21 last year with 657 persons, or 24 per cent of those approached, responding. As per guidelines established by the Marketing Intelligence and Research Association (MirA) no margin of error is given for this online survey.