To Gord Mackintosh, minister of Conservation and Water Stewardship.
This is an open letter to push back 2014 Manitoba cottage billing fees. We are a retired couple. Our family has had a simple cabin at Wellman Lake in Duck Mountain Provincial Park since the mid-1950s.
Overview: New park service fees and land rent are piled on each other in an overwhelming load. Reject!
Our bill states that “park cottagers can continue to enjoy services.” Wellman Lake cottagers have few direct services. Gravel road grading (three times in 2013); no water to cabins, no cabin garbage pickup, nor most of the services provided year round in local areas. There are many park tourist services. After new park office and campground have been built, it appears that cottagers now face those costs. We have little say about the services we wish to limit. Our bill claims “consulting firm methodology … ensure that cottagers only pay for services attributed to them.” Say what? “Attributed” is a meaningless word here. There is no clear public awareness of the distinction about which park services are used and paid for, by whom. With cottagers, assign and strive to cut costs. Reduce or remove new service fees.
The bill informs: “42 per cent of (service) costs contributed by cottagers” now! We question that cottagers in a five-month season, use year-round hunting, recreation and tourist park services to the extent we pay for now. Yet suddenly, cottagers must pay up in less than 30 days! Is it just an overworked Crown Lands office? Cottagers have very little time to deal with an overwhelming increase.
Our bill information says land rent is “based on comparable land assessment in similar areas surrounding park districts.” Nearby Minitonas, with similar property/house, has property tax $128. School tax is paid if a home. Our park property 2014 bill is $560! Why the huge difference? One answer: huge assessment jump, based on what?
As recently as 2012, our park property was at $10,000. Now $50,000! Our bill names Falcon Lake, Nopiming and Riding Mountain National Park (with buildings) values. The huge increase in property valuation did not come from comparison with a surrounding area.
Another answer, known by Manitobans: proportional assessment. Raw assessment is multiplied by a factor (i.e. Minitonas, .45) so taxable assessment goes down —below one-half. Not on our park bill! Another answer: Our bill charges waterfront rate of four per cent (like a mill rate). Nearby Swan River mill rate is 23.58 (roughly 2.4 per cent). So lake property with hydro and a road is charged a rate almost twice that of a fully serviced local town. Ouch! Do what is claimed — value property locally. Reduce land rent to a fair local level!
Our total bill has increased from $673 to $884.98 (even with the so-called rebate) — a 32 per cent rise! Right there on our bill are the smash-mouth rent and service fees for each year of the next 10 years: $2,000 (property land rent) plus $482.89 (Wellman/Glad Lake service fees) plus $50 (permit renewal — now) plus entry fee for each auto, was about $20; paid separately equals $2,552.89. Starting from our payment of $673 as baseline, that’s a 379 per cent rise or a 37.9 per cent divided increase each year for the next 10 years!
How can we Manitobans possibly afford to keep a basic cabin?
Many fellow Wellman Lake cottagers, with deep sadness and real anger, said something heartbreaking. In Manitoba, cottage ownership will only be for the rich. We call upon you to deny this by significantly reducing excessive provincial park cottage fees now!
Thank you for speaking (Brandon Sun, Feb. 27, 2014, “New Fee System …”) on provincial cottage ownership. Thank you for serving Manitobans as a leading member of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly. We appreciate your public service and seek your immediate assistance.
If this huge, unfair park cottage billing is not reduced, our cost will be way beyond our ability to pay. We also note that Manitoba Cottage Planning says there is no appeal of land rent and service fees in Manitoba. Unacceptable!
CLAREN AND PATRICIA TURNER
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition April 3, 2014