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REPORTING · 19th August 2010
Walter McFarlane
Councillor Randy Halyk brought up the topic of Industrial Taxation as a notice of motion at the City Council Meeting on Monday, August 16th. Councillor Mario Feldhoff declared conflict and explained it was due to the nature of his work and left the room. Halyk explained this is a motion the Council would like to place at UBCM.

“Local government autonomy in apportioning property tax burden among assessment classes: Whereas the authority of municipal governments to apportion local tax burden within their communities among local assessment classes is an important and successful feature of local government in British Columbia and whereas the claim by some major industrial class taxpayers about problem competitiveness with municipal property taxes as yet unproven as municipal property tax forms very small portion of the cost of production of major industries and there is no evidence that shifting property taxes away from the owners of major industry onto owners of other property classes will either cause a failing industry to survive or cause a successful industry to fail or in any way affect the location decisions of major industry activities and whereas the UBCM committee examining the industrial taxation complaint has yet not had the benefit of any analysis which demonstrates the current system of appropriating property tax among assessment classes by municipal council has caused destructive taxation on industrial properties and where as, the provincial government has not chosen to study this matter as per the recommendation given by UBCM resolution 2009 B78, to fund a rigorous independent analysis to determine the statistic causality between municipal property taxation and industrial activity. Therefore, be it resolved that UBCM strongly endorse the current authority of municipal government to set a relative municipal property tax burden among the assessment classes within their respective communities and oppose initiatives to remove this important feature of municipal governments in British Columbia. And be it further resolved that the UBCM fund a rigorous independent analysis to determine the statistical causality between municipal property taxes and industrial activity,” read Halyk.

The silence in the Council Chamber was broken by Councillor Bob Corless jokingly asking for this to be read again, which drew some chuckles. Councillor Gerd Gottschling confirmed this was a difficult motion and asked for it to be easily explained.

Municipal Manager Trafford Hall explained about industries complaining about taxes being too high which is leading to them not being competitive with the rest of the world. They launched a media campaign. The District did some analysis of the local industries and found the taxes equalled less then one percent of the construction.

They brought forward a motion last year at UBCM to look at this. “There is no problem, the complaint is simply to shift taxes onto the residential property tax payer which is the exact same complaint the residential taxpayer has, the business taxpayer and the light industry taxpayer. We also notice the only parties in the debate are the benefiting parties. They are well organized, well financed and well plugged into government while the people who are going to take the burden of this tax break, which is really hundreds of millions of dollars, are not at the table at all. So we entered with the resolution to endorse the existing system,” said Hall.

Hall explained on how the existing system allows local Councils to set how much every group pays and how UBCM unanimously asked the government to fund a study last year into whether this is destructive taxation. The government rejected the study and started moving this through the system.

The resolution above asks UBCM to study this. Councillor Richard McLaren wanted to know if the government can change the rules. Hall replied they can. However, it would be unpopular as it would shift tax dollars onto British Columbians.

Monaghan called the question, it was unanimous.