The Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria says sweet things about a trio of local polititians, issuing its ‘candy cane awards.’
At the top of the ‘nice’ list this year is Oak Bay Coun. Kevin Murdoch for bringing forth a motion this fall at the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) conference to encourage provincial legislation to ban corporate and union donations for municipal political campaigns.
With similar legislation introduced for provincial elections, the timing was perfect, but not without a bit of a struggle. The motion for municipal ban was defeated at the UBCM, but was reintroduced by Mayor Lisa Helps of Victoria and eventually passed with a majority.
“In our view nothing is more important than building on the integrity of local politics,” says Stan Bartlett, chair of Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria. “Mr. Murdoch’s initiative was timely and gives us renewed faith in the political process.”
The legislation has just been given royal assent. It bans union and corporate donations and caps individual campaign donations to $1,200, and allows self-funded campaigns to double that to $2,400.
The second candy cane went to Langford Mayor Stew Young and council for using innovative ways to moderate property taxes through partnerships.
“As one of the fastest growing municipalities in the province, Langford has certainly been blessed with an ever-increasing tax base,” says Bartlett. “But quality services have been delivered while trying to manage the tax burden for residents.”
The YMCA/YWCA in the Westhills neighbourhood officially opened in the spring of 2016 and includes a lap pool, lazy river, warm water therapy pool, waterslide, health and fitness facility, daycare centre, free wifi and the Conservatory of Music.
The $30-million facility was a joint project of the YMCA/YWCA, Westhills Land Corp. and the City of Langford which contributes $750,000 annually toward operations. The facility is exempt from property and school taxes.
A third award went to the Town of Sidney for innovative financing at the Aranza, a five-storey, mixed-use and much-needed affordable housing development in the downtown area. In addition to 56 rental units for the workforce there will be commercial rental space at ground level.
“Affordable housing is a challenge in the entire region and this Sidney project accomplishes that without breaking the taxpayer’s bank,” says Bartlett.
Greater Victoria Rental Development Society’s (GVRDS) mandate is to provide well built, well managed, non-subsidized, new apartment units for lower to middle income families with a vision that by providing reasonable rent, home ownership can eventually be achieved.
The Town of Sidney contributed to making the units affordable through council waiving development fees related to the project, and providing a ten-year tax exemption on the residential portion of the development.
A similar arrangement was made between Sidney and the Saanich Peninsula Health Care Society. In an effort to help local patients find a doctor, the Town of Sidney loaned $192,000 to the non-profit primary care organization to help renovate a medical clinic.
Honourable mention went to the federal government for elimination of special tax treatment for municipal politicians and school board trustees. Starting in 2019, elected officials across BC and the rest of Canada will have 100 per cent of their remuneration (with just a few exceptions) subjected to payroll tax deductions, says Bartlett.
“Increased transparency is long overdue – equitable tax treatment of politicians helps restore everyone’s faith in the municipal political process,” says Bartlett.
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