Murray commits to 2023 property tax freeze during CBC's Winnipeg mayoral debate
Loney says 'yes' to opening Portage and Main in televised debate featuring 5 mayoral candidates
Glen Murray was the only mayoral candidate to commit to freezing Winnipeg's property tax during a live televised debate on CBC News Wednesday evening.
Murray had previously not commented on the tax freeze.
The revelation came during a rapid-fire question round when CBC Information Radio host Marcy Markusa, the debate's moderator, asked the five candidates who participated to hold up a "yes" or "no" sign to indicate whether or not they would raise the property tax as mayor.
While all other candidates indicated "yes," Murray, after some apparent hesitation, held up his sign saying "no."
WATCH | CBC Manitoba's 2022 mayoral debate:
It was one of a number of significant points of difference that emerged during the one-hour debate, in which five of the 11 mayoral candidates — Scott Gillingham, Kevin Klein, Shaun Loney, Murray and Robert-Falcon Ouellette — told voters why they should be elected on Oct. 26.
When asked to clarify, Murray, who was mayor of Winnipeg from 1998 to 2004, repeated his intention to push the province to replace the city's operating grant with a single percentage point of the seven per cent provincial sales tax.
WATCH | Glen Murray won't 'raise the tax burden' if elected:
"I believe we really have to build the tax base. I think we've exhausted it," said Murray, who also served as a member of Ontario's Provincial Parliament from 2010 to 2017.
"We are in a hyper period of inflation right now.… Property taxes, if you raise them, you are raising the tax burden significantly."
In an interview following the debate, Murray did not say how he would balance the budget without the planned 2.33 per cent increase the city has imposed each year for the past eight years.
"I will take the first year to do the in-depth engagement and long-term budget planning that I committed to, and we will lay out a plan that will show how that will happen," he said.
Murray's tax plan 'irresponsible': Klein
Other candidates challenged Murray on how he could accomplish the tax freeze with only months until the city's next budget is presented to council.
"You don't have nearly enough time," Klein, an outgoing city councillor who was elected in 2018 to represent Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood, said in an interview after the debate.
WATCH | 5 Winnipeg mayoral candidates question one another:
Klein has committed to keeping the 2.33 per cent tax increase for at least 2023, the final year of the four-year budget process, but said he would look for ways to reduce it in future years.
"It would be irresponsible for me to say that I could fix the budget in 90 days before it has to go to council," Klein said during the debate.
"We will let the four-year budget play out, as bad as it is, and we will take the next 12 months to fix it and bring in a budget that people can be proud of, that they can see through and that they know that every dollar is being spent properly."
Gillingham goes after Murray
Gillingham, the outgoing two-term councillor for St. James and a former pastor, also criticized Murray over his record as the leader of the Pembina Institute, as an Ontario Liberal MPP and as Winnipeg's mayor.
A CBC News investigation published in September found Murray's time as Pembina's executive director was mired in complaints about his management. A Globe & Mail investigation published in 2018 revealed the mayor of Caledon, Ont., accused Murray of trying to pressure her into approving a housing development. The Winnipeg Free Press reported Murray got into conflicts with Winnipeg's police chief and Coun. Harry Lazarenko when Murray was mayor.
"It's a pattern, and it's your pattern, and it's a pattern of unacceptable behaviour. You're not fit to be the mayor of our city," Gillingham said.
Murray, who has denied the allegations, responded that Winnipeggers don't want these kinds of "personal attacks."
"I've answered these questions over and over again and I see little value in going around the mulberry bush on this," Murray said.
WATCH | Gillingham grills Murray on Pembina Institute allegations:
Portage and Main revisited
Candidates also differed in their responses when asked whether they would reopen the intersection of Portage and Main to pedestrians, an issue that was the focus of a plebiscite in 2018. Voters overwhelmingly chose to keep the intersection closed to pedestrians.
Only Loney — a social enterprise activist who founded organizations such as BUILD (Building Urban Industries for Local Development) and the non-profit Aki Energy — committed to opening the intersection.
WATCH | 5 mayoral candidates weigh in on downtown Winnipeg renewal:
In an interview after the debate, Loney said the intersection needs repairs, and the city can find ways to mitigate disruptions to traffic, such as rerouting buses down Fort Street.
"There's lots of things we can do to make sure that everybody's happy, but that requires political leadership."
Although Klein and Murray both said no to the reopening, they left the possibility open that there may be a case for it at some point in the future.
Klein argued the barricades should have been removed in 2014, when repair work was supposed to be done on the intersection, but the issue then became "a political hot potato."
WATCH | Kevin Klein on 'political hot potato' issue Portage and Main:
Millions of dollars of work still needs to be done at the intersection — both above and below ground — and Klein said once that's done, "if it's more cost-efficient not to put up the concrete [barricades], we won't put it back up."
Murray, who championed the idea of removing the pedestrian barricades when he was mayor, said the city should respect the result of the plebiscite and focus on redeveloping areas around the intersection.
"If there is going to be any changes at Portage and Main, there is a process that we have to go through, and those changes may be very different from anything we could imagine now."
Crime, homelessness and addictions
During the debate, Ouellette repeated his support for End Homelessness Winnipeg's goal of creating 1,340 new units of transitional and affordable housing.
Ouellette represented Winnipeg Centre as a Liberal member of Parliament from 2015-19. He also ran as a mayoral candidate in Winnipeg's 2014 election, finishing third.
"It is not normal for us to live in a city with so much homelessness," he said.
WATCH | Robert-Falcon Oullette on homelessness in Winnipeg:
WATCH | Winnipeg mayoral candidates discuss crime in city:
Gillingham and Klein answered "no" when asked whether they would support a safe consumption site in the city, while Murray, Loney and Ouellette indicated they would support it.
Klein called for the city to put more police on the street, while Loney said the city needs to help people involved in crime find jobs.
"You guys aren't thinking nearly big enough," Loney said.
WATCH | Shaun Loney supports crime prevention through jobs:
Wednesday's debate comes one week before election day on Oct. 26.
There are 11 candidates running to become mayor. CBC Manitoba limited participation in the debate to candidates who polled above 10 per cent, factoring in the margin of error, in a Probe Research poll released at the end of September.
Idris Adelakun, Rana Bokhari, Chris Clacio, Jenny Motkaluk, Rick Shone and Don Woodstock are also running for mayor.
WATCH | Scott Gillingham on recapturing momentum downtown:
WATCH | Yes or no? 5 mayoral candidates weigh in on various topics: