Posted on: April 27, 2015 | General News
Dear Minister of Conservation:
After reading the Winnipeg Free Press April 22 article “Pallister wants fee-hike freeze” I honestly can’t decide if you have a learning disability or if you are preparing to retire to your beloved Ontario cottage on your generous taxpayer funded pension immediately following the April 2016 election. If it is the former, then I extend my humble apologies for sending you the email string below containing rather complex examples, facts and figures which appear beyond your level of comprehension. If it is the latter then I congratulate you for being well on your way to achieving your objective.
I suspect it is the latter but your NDP MLA colleagues may not share your desire for an early retirement, therefore, I am copying them in the hope that some level of rational thinking on this critically important issue of hugely increasing provincial park cottage land rental and service fees may prevail.
In the above Winnipeg Free Press article you state “…if there is a two-year freeze, that costs taxpayers $3.3 million”. Really? Recall that the annual CLPA invoice to park cottagers includes components for both lease fees and service fees. I note that you conveniently do not mention to the author the millions of dollars annually the provincial government reaps from provincial park cottagers through the cottage lease fee component which more than offsets this alleged “loss” to the taxpayer presumably based on the service fee component only. Your statement is therefore either made out of ignorance to the facts or is nothing more than a deceptive half-truth designed to mislead the public.
The article also states, “the average service fee increase for cottagers in provincial parks last year was $247”. Again, a clear attempt by you to publicly minimize the issue by not mentioning the huge increases in the cottage lease fee component to date and scheduled for years to come.
The article continues, “the increases were introduced to bring in line what cottagers pay in provincial parks to those who pay municipal property taxes outside the parks”. Again, really? Why? How are municipal property taxes on private land, about 50% of which are school taxes, and provincial park cottage lease and service fees on leased land related? If some Manitobans are being grossly overcharged by the municipality and the local school board on their recreational property taxes is it then ethically and morally acceptable for this Manitoba NDP government to overcharge provincial park cottagers in the interests of “parity”?
Furthermore, your department’s willingness to engage provincial park cottagers in consultation on this issue continues to be nothing short of appalling.
If you had sent representatives from your department to attend the Whiteshell Cottagers Association (WCA) annual general meeting April 23 they would have seen the level of anger and frustration that thousands of voting cottagers and their families have with this government over the issue of hugely increasing provincial park cottager CLPA lease and service fees.
If you had sent representatives you would have had the opportunity to present your case to the cottagers justifying these huge fee increases and then had the opportunity to respond to their feedback.
If you had sent representatives from your department they would have seen how two PC MLAs indeed took the time to present the PC’s position on this matter and then spoke individually with some cottagers after the meeting, listening carefully to their concerns as elected officials should.
If you had sent representatives from your department to attend the Whiteshell Cottagers Association annual general meeting you would have heard the plea from an elderly single woman who retired 10 years ago and has now returned to work so that she can afford the cottage lease payments demanded from her by this NDP government. She stated that she will likely be forced to sell her modest little cottage thanks to your plan for “fairness” in provincial parks. I am guessing that she is neither a multi-millionaire fat-cat cottager nor part of the Nygard family thereby not fitting your stated definition of a typical provincial park cottager.
If you had sent representatives from your department they would have had the opportunity to listen to various ideas from cottagers for revising the CLPA lease and service fee structure. One cottager at the meeting wisely proposed reducing the annual lease fee component from 4% to 1% of raw land value and then adding to that the allocation for full service cost recovery. This is an example of “thinking outside the box” to arrive at a total combined provincial park cottager lease and service fee that would represent full service cost recovery for the government while ensuring affordable cottage ownership for the people. Sadly, it appears your government is increasingly incapable of such a constructively innovative thought process.
Of course, not surprisingly your department has as yet chosen not to reconvene discussions with the WCA on this issue either, further demonstrating its revulsion towards even basic consultation on this important matter. The non-existent level of creativity, consultation, openness, transparency and fairness this NDP government continues to demonstrate would make a North Korean dictator surely fall on his knees and weep with envy.
However, much to the chagrin of this tired, untrustworthy and morally bankrupt government we operate within a democracy in Manitoba and I therefore predict a landslide victory for the PCs in the 2016 provincial election.