Pledging to stop Property Taxes – apparently easier than stopping them.

This story made me laugh. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is asking Mayoral and Council Candidates to commit to not increasing property taxes at a rate higher than inflation without either a referendum (yeah, there’s a fiscal plan), or Council pay cuts.

Not surprisingly, few incumbents are signing it, because they know the reality of municipal budgeting, and how tax increases are being forced upon them by agents well beyond their control, like aging infrastructure and senior government downloading. They understand that “no new taxes” is a silly pledge to make, as costs are rising, and the demands for services and amenities only goes up.

I especially laughed because of the guy behind the campaign: new CTF campaign manager BC Director, Jordan Bateman.

If that name is familiar, he not only worked on several BC Liberal campaigns for Provincial Lord of the Sith, Darth Colemen. He was also, until very recently, a Municipal Councillor for the Township of Langley!

So is this a simple case of another BC Liberal insider telling people to “do as I say, not as I do”? How depressingly predicatble.

Reading the “pledge” that the CTF wants candidates to sign, there is little doubt of where they stand:

“I will not vote to raise property taxes beyond the provincial rate of inflation (unless I get approval from taxpayers in a referendum)—and will diligently try to get increases lower than that”

“I will support the introduction of a Taxpayer Protection Bylaw… that financially punishes any mayor and council for raising taxes above the rate of inflation with a one?year, 15% pay cut.”

A few years before asking future Councillors to make this pledge, here is what Councillor Bateman said during his 2008 campaign for re-election when asked if he would support tax increases :

“I am committed to keeping taxes as low as possible. But we also owe it to Langley’s children to build the infrastructure that will keep them safe and healthy and to improve public safety….we must balance both the present and future needs of the Township.”

To me, that sounds like a much more nuanced and realistic approach to municipal taxation, and one that is similar to Wayne Wright’s comments at the Queens Park Residents Association meeting: (I paraphrase):“It’s easy to cut taxes, just tell me what services you want cut!”

However, Councillor Bateman’s comments were in the heat of the campaign. Let’s judge him instead on his actual record as one of Langley’s most popular City Councillors:

2008: he voted for a 5.0% Property Tax increase (more than twice the annual inflation rate for BC of 2.1%).

2009: he voted for (and vociferously supported over some vocal opposition from the new Mayor) a 5% increase (significantly more than the BC inflation rate of 0.0% in that recession year).

2010: he supported a 4.95% increase, (more than twice the annual inflation rate of 1.3%).

2011: just before jumping ship to join the paid staff of the CTF, Bateman voted for another 3.95% tax increase.

(Data on inflation rates is available here)

No problem, he couldn’t keep within the CTF guidelines because of extenuating circumstances – 4 years of extenuating circumstances, apparently – so did he face the punishment of the taxpayers for not managing the City’s finances more responsibly, and volunteer a 15% pay cut as suggested by the CTF? You know the question is rhetorical. The sad reality is that he voted for a 55% increase in Council members’ pay in 2009.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not arguing that taxes are too high or too low, or that councillors get too much pay or not enough. I am just pointing out the hypocrisy of the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation’s entire “pledge or hedge” program.

2 comments on “Pledging to stop Property Taxes – apparently easier than stopping them.

  1. In my mind the CTF has no credibility on tax issues. They campaigned vigorously against the carbon tax, a tax widely recognized as the most efficient way to encourage the society to reduce carbon emissions (a provincial policy).

    Of course they were really arguing against the science of climate change.

    So the outcome was; in order to push an agenda on denying climate science (which they had no claims to be experts in), they publicly advocated against an efficient tax implemented to carry out provincial policy.

    They chose the interests of climate change skeptics over those of tax payers.

    Jordan Bateman: one of the founders of “Get Moving BC”, the astro turf group behind the BC Liberal’s Gateway project. He didn’t seem to have any problem with wasting taxpayers money there either…

  2. Jordan Bateman, of course is correct is asking for aligning salaries and beenfit packages at cities and Translink to be adjusted to private sector norms. Bus drivers making over $80,000, transit cops over $100,000, city planners, park maintenance workers and secretaries making far more than private sector equivalents with far higher job security .. THAT is where the overspending starts .. no wonder we cannot afford clean electric subways or new LNG buses but rely on old diesel-spewing monsters, as our spending on civil servants or quasi-civil servants, i.e. employees of crown corporations, is out of control:

    If WestJet, AirCanada, FedEx, Tim Horton’s, Safeway, Wal*Mart or any other smaller privately owned corporation [ I own two, btw ] where run like this they’d all be bankrupt. But these monoploy employers can always go back to the tax payer .. again and again.. threaten a strike .. and get more .. and more .. and more .. as such this recent “no” vote was not a vote for more transit, but a vote for sanity in public sector pay ! With a $5B+ budget across all 20+ municipalities in MetroVan with 70%+ of it in wages & benefits, a modest 20% cut to private sector norms would have freed up ALL the money required for sustainable transporttation sought in Metrovan (700M). The money is already collected today from the tax payer, it is just improperly allocated, namely to too many overpaid municipal employees.

    If all those carbon taxes we are now facing would be moderated by tax relief elsewhere, and associated public sector wage & benefit cuts, of say 25-30% to bring them to private sector norms, then we’d actually have a sustainable model.

    Sustainability consist of THREE elements: environmental, social AND FISCAL .. and all those crying for more “green” taxes under the banner of sustainability conveniently never mention this third element of sustainability ! That is the inconvenient truth, untold in schools, of course !

    City councils spend too much on salaries, and especially benefits, and THAT is the true reason why we cannot afford subways.

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