Cranberry Portage Heritage Museum

Ottawa ponders, province waits while Cranberry pays

Date: October 7, 1957

Winnipeg Free Press
Cranberry Portage, Man.

When the federal government establishes a major project beside a small community, its coming creates many “headaches” for the people of that community. To the project come many permanent workers and their families—with children for whom schooling must be provided.

Under provisions of the British North America Act education is not a federal responsibility. It is the responsibility of local and provincial governments, and on the local level is financed by fixed provincial government grants plus taxes levied on local property owners.

Not Many to Tax

In a small community there are not many properties to tax. Taxable properties being few, are unduly high. Example—on a house here that would sell for about $5.000 taxes are $200 a year.

Where many new children come into the community by reason of the federal project having been established, local school costs spiral—and, with them, local taxes spiral. That is the situation at Cranberry Portage today.

Incredible

The local tax rate here is an incredible 114 mills

This year’s budget for Cranberry Portage is approximately $20,000, the money spent as follows:
Schools $18,000
Town maintenance and improvements $500/
Administration, etc. $1,500.

What Isn’t There

Meanwhile in Cranberry Portage:
There is no sewer and water system.
There is no garbage collection.
The local power plant is privately-owned.
There is no street lighting—yet.
There are no sidewalks—except what each homeowner builds for himself.
There are no paved streets. Main street is graveled.

To Examine Situation

Officials of the provincial education and municipal affairs departments will come to Cranberry Portage this week to “examine” the situation.

If this town were an incorporated town, village or municipal district the “town fathers” could probably do something about it.

Cranberry Portage is not incorporated, operates as a “local government district” under supervision of the provincial municipal affairs department. Running the community’s affairs under this supervision is a three-man advisory council headed by Gordon Bowles, a town planning committee under the chairmanship of Robert Shewfeldt, and a local school board, Ralph Sallows chairman.

Nothing Came of It

More than a year ago, it is reported, the Manitoba government asked the then Liberal government in Ottawa to make a contribution in some form, by some formula, to help the community overcome its financial difficulties created by the new federal project. Nothing came of it.

Now a similar request is to go—or has gone—to the Progressive Conservative government. Meanwhile Cranberry Portage residents await the outcome.

Simpson Investigated

Robert Simpson, Flin Flon MP for Churchill, on a recent visit investigated the situation and said the people of the community ”certainly had a legitimate complaint.

Cranberry Portage officials told Simpson they realized they could not tax radar installation buildings but they felt a federal tax should be paid to the community on land occupied by the site as well as all living quarters and homes, recreation buildings and such things as eating places and merchandising establishments located on the site grounds.

This, they claim, is the only solution.

“Turned Request Down”

Following a subsequent trip to Ottawa Mr. Simpson said “apparently the (former) federal government turned this request down” and the people of Cranberry Portage were left with nothing.

Mr. Simpson was reported as saying the problems facing Cranberry Portage are “quite involved” and that matters would be discussed by authorities “in the near future.” However, because of many technical points involved, he said, no decision would be reached “for a few weeks.”

“Likely” Remedy Itself

Their plight, Mr. Simpson said, would “likely” remedy itself “in time.” Provincial authorities, from cabinet level down, stay mum. Everything depends on what Ottawa does about it.

Meanwhile taxpayers here are “left holding the bag.” Despite the sharp increase in taxes, the money raised meets current expenses only. There is no money left over.

The school plants are in need of repair and, in fact, the entire settlement should have numerous improvements, left undone because of continual lack of funds.

Hopelessly Belated

Townspeople feel any assessment now and subsequent taxation of federal property would in any case be hopelessly belated.

Any assessment, they say, which may be finally made will not apply before 1958 and that taxes then levied would not become payable and come into the community’s coffers til about October, 1959, two years hence, and two years is a long time to wait for money that is needed now.

Two Schools

Meanwhile in operation here are two school plants, the high school with one teacher and enrolment of 24, the elementary with four teachers and an enrolment of 160 pupils. Some 70 students at the two schools are from families of personnel employed at the local federal installation.

Last spring, when this year’s budget was made up, the local tax rate was to have been struck at 147 mills, but the provincial government came through with an “emergency” grant of $5,000 for school purposes, bringing the tax rate down to the present 114 mills.