Watchdog group accuses Saanich of exaggerating effects of new health tax

A local watchdog group questions Saanich’s messaging around the effects of the employer health tax.

Grumpy Taxpayer$ said in a release that the group “agrees and sympathizes” with findings from the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM). They show local governments including Saanich will feel a “significant” impact on their municipal finances as the new tax leaves Saanich with a menu of politically unappetizing choices.

“We question a tax policy that results in the funding of a provincial service (healthcare) through property taxation,” said board member Bruce Kennedy.“That said, we strongly disagree with the CAO and his alarmist message. There’s no need to cut off a limb, but simply a willingness to go on a diet.”

The provincial government plans to eliminate Medical Services Plan (MSP) premiums paid by each British Columbian (unless exempt) and replace them with the EHT paid by employers with 2019 as a transition year during which the provincial government will collect both MSPs and the EHT.

Saanich, according to the report, will pay $1.78 million to cover the new EHT plus $209,000 for employee MSP premiums with Saanich planning to split the additional cost between property taxes and user fees.

Comments from chief administrative officer Paul Thorkelsson suggests Saanich would find it difficult to absorb the increase without raising taxes.

“Saanich cannot manage a property tax increase [of 1.3 per cent] from this additional expense through simple ‘belt tightening,’” he said. “We would have to amputate a limb.”

Grumpy Taxpayer$, however, questions this language.

Kennedy said Saanich could be more selective in funding capital projects. “Saanich fails to consider slowing the pace of the new ‘nice to do’ capital projects, such as the $5 million next year and $8 million the following year budgeted for the Complete Streets initiative,” he said. “Just pushing that to three years could cover this issue with room to spare.”

Capital projects need a proper business plan and need to be prioritized, so we do what we can afford, he said.

“There’s also a million dollar strategic initiative fund — which even some councilors have termed a slush fund — with money outside the normal budgetary process that escapes scrutiny,” he said.

Just Posted

‘Police are ready’ for legal pot, say Canadian chiefs

But Canadians won’t see major policing changes as pot becomes legal

Homeless Action Week: Our Place Society asking for blankets, sleeping bags

The fundraiser is off to a slow start as the days get colder

OBITUARY: Remembering Sooke’s Bill Wilson

Local entrepreneur died on Oct. 6.

SOOKE GARDEN CLUB: Another year of gardening adventures

Fall is the time when gardeners typically take stock

Surge in requests for help, reports of sexual assault since #MeToo

Growing demand for Victoria Sexual Assault Clinic’s services in first year of #MeToo

Video: An up-close look at beluga whales in Hudson Bay

An up-close look as some belugas greet whale watchers off the coast of Churchill, Manitoba

Advance voting begins Oct. 10 in Greater Victoria

The polls open at 8 a.m. for the 2018 municipal election with the general election taking place Oct. 20

Find your future at Black Press career fair in Victoria

More than 70 booths expected at Bay Street Armoury on Oct. 25

Canucks: Pettersson in concussion protocol, Beagle out with broken forearm

Head coach Travis Green called the hit ‘a dirty play’

5 tips for talking to your kids about cannabis

Health officials recommend sharing a harm reduction-related message.

NHL players say Canada’s legalization of marijuana won’t impact them

NHL players say the legalization of marijuana in Canada won’t change how they go about their business.

Automated cars could kill wide range of jobs, federal documents say

Internal government documents show that more than one million jobs could be lost to automated vehicles, with ripple effects far beyond the likeliest professions.

ELECTION 2018: Vancouver Island politician ending unprecedented 40-year run

Mike Kokura served on the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District board since 1972

Private marijuana stores should shut down, Mike Farnworth says

B.C. has approved 62 licences, but they still need local approval

Most Read