When it comes to paying taxes, Canadians have a tendency to grumble a bit then accept whatever level of taxation is thrust upon them.
From a local perspective, the trend of ever-rising property taxes – both commercial and residential – has been gaining speed for more than a decade.
With the economy still sluggish in many sectors, absorbing tax increases at a rate higher than the growth in GDP has a net effect of eating into the bottom line for businesses year over year, and takes more money out of the pockets of homeowners.
Amalgamation of municipalities does not seem to be on the table in the Capital Region. But as Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO Bruce Carter indicated last week, having separate services in virtually every municipality for things like garbage pickup and public works is not a sustainable system.
If we’re serious about keeping taxes in check, our local politicians need to look harder for more efficiencies – ones that require a sharing and streamlining of long-duplicated resources between jurisdictions.
So what are the alternatives?
We’ve become accustomed to provincial governments cutting services to reduce deficits or balance their budgets. Municipalities do not have the luxury of running deficits, so it means the choices are even tougher.
With the current rate of expansion slow everywhere except Langford – their tax hikes have been kept to zero or nearly so – we have to get used to city hall cutting services to keep tax increases at par with economic growth. Or, we become open to the idea of allowing new revenue sources. Those may take such “unsavoury” forms as a downtown casino, or other consumption tax scenarios.
We all must decide what we’ll put up with. And with an election coming this fall, we need to press local politicians into telling us how far they’re willing to go to help stem the flood of rising taxes.