February 28, 2019 7:38 pm

Warning of Winnipeg property tax hike could be a tactic, say experts

WATCH: Political scientists say Mayor Brian Bowman's hinting at a major tax increase Wednesday might have been strategic.


There may be a strategy at play when it comes to a warning from Winnipeg’s mayor about an increase in property taxes just before Budget Day.

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The City of Winnipeg will release it’s operating budget for 2019 Friday. Winnipeggers are already bracing for a major tax hike after Mayor Brian Bowman hinted it might be necessary to offset what he calls a provincial funding shortfall.

READ MORE: Bowman hints at higher-than-expected property tax increase, decreased roads spending

Bowman said Wednesday a freeze in funding from the province means “difficult decisions” had to be made.

“There are various options that have had to be considered, to make up the gap in the 2018 budget, a variety of things had to be considered,” he said.

“One of which is increased debt, one of which is less capital being spent — which compromises our ability to build Winnipeg for the future, and the other would be tax increases.”

Bowman openly admitted he campaigned on a promise to control tax increases, but said that promise came with a back door.

“What I campaigned on was limiting tax increases to 2.33 per cent unless there was incremental cuts from the provincial government.”

An increase as high as 7.1 per cent is what would be needed to offset reduced funding, Bowman said. Combined with the predetermined 2.33 per cent bump, the total rise in property tax could add up to 9.4 per cent.

READ MORE: Mayor Bowman challenges competitors to reveal in-depth tax plans

Political scientists like Royce Koop from the University of Manitoba says putting the blame on the province is a tactic.

“It puts a lot of pressure on the provincial government. He’s involved in this dispute for more funding from the province and if people direct their anger over such a high tax increase to the provincial government, that helps the mayor,” he said.

READ MORE: Winnipeg delays tabling of city budget

If the tax increase is less than 9.4 per cent, it could be an example of the ‘door-in-the-face’ tactic, says University of North Dakota Instructor Robert Warren.

“You want people to be surprised tomorrow when the increase is (announced) but not surprised in a really bad way, so you’re really setting expectations.”

“You’re trying to cast the light on someone else for why you’re providing the bad news, so you look better than you would normally … so anything they can do to deflect the blame or to portray someone else as a bad guy really works well for them.”

Warren added the technique is highly effective and commonly used, especially in politics.

READ MORE: Manitoba Hydro requesting 3.5% rate increase

Registered psychologist Syras Derksen says this also happens in every day life.

“If you went to a restaurant and the server asks if you want dessert or something like that and you say ‘no’, and then they say ‘oh would you like a coffee?’ Well, people are twice as likely to say yes to a coffee after they ask for a dessert,” he said.

One way or another, Winnipeg citizens will find out exactly how high property taxes will go up, Friday.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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