Less talk, more commitment needed on taxpayer pledge

CFIB seeks action on its request to municipalities to line spending up with inflation

Laura Jones

Guest comment

What do you want from your next municipal council? If you are like the majority of British Columbians you like the idea of candidates getting back to basics.

Fair taxes, spending restraint and accountability strike the right chord.

Unfortunately, many municipal governments aren’t even close to delivering those basics.

Operating spending, for example, has been rising twice as fast as population and inflation growth over the past decade. This does not include capital spending on infrastructure.

In some municipalities, such as Prince George, operating spending has increased almost five times as fast as population and inflation growth.

Not surprisingly, property taxes and other fees continue to rise for everyone.

Small businesses are hit hard because they pay higher property taxes than residents on the same valued properties.

How much higher depends on the municipality.

In Vancouver, businesses pay almost five times more. Across the province, businesses pay an average of three times more than residents on the same value properties.

The impact of punitive property taxes is ruinous. One Coquitlam restaurant owner saw his property taxes jump from $48,000 to $71,000 in one year.

Another Coquitlam business owner says: “I am almost in tears as I pay my $9,300 property tax bill on a unit assessed at $360,000. This money would otherwise be used to support my wife and eight-month-old daughter.”

Stories such as these have pushed the Canadian Federation of Independent Business to go beyond highlighting the problems. It’s time municipal candidates commit to solutions.

To help them do that we launched the CFIB Taxpayer Pledge last week. Municipal candidates who sign the pledge, pledge to do three things:

• Keep property taxes fair for small business by reducing the tax gap between businesses and residents each year;

• Keep taxes and fees reasonable for everyone by holding operating spending increases to no more than population and inflation growth, or the growth in disposable income;

• Support the creation of a municipal auditor-general who will do independent reviews to ensure that taxpayers are getting good value.

Each plank of the pledge is reasonable.

In its first week, the pledge already had 10 signatories including Darren Inkster, mayor of Sechelt; Suzanne Anton, Vancouver councillor running for mayor; Mike Klassen, Vancouver candidate; Chris Coleman, Victoria councillor; Diana Dilworth, Port Moody councillor; Linda Reimer, Coquitlam councillor; Andy Shen, Coquitlam candidate; Ken Charko, Vancouver candidate; Terry O’Neill, Coquitlam candidate and Jason Lamarche, Vancouver candidate.

On behalf of B.C.’s small businesses and taxpayers, thank you.

We again extend the invitation for all candidates to sign. Taxpayers want it. Taxpayers deserve it.

Laura Jones is senior vice-president of research, economics and Western Canada with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.