By Trevor Busch
The trickle-down effect on municipalities of the province’s upcoming carbon tax levy will be felt at the grassroots level with town council voting to pass on the municipal cost to local taxpayers.
At their Oct. 24 regular meeting, town council voted 6-1 to add a one per cent increase to its budget in 2017, and corresponding amounts in 2018 and 2019, to cover the provincially-imposed carbon tax increase to be added to the property tax increase. Coun. Randy Sparks opposed the motion.
Responding to a question from Mayor Henk DeVlieger, finance director and acting CAO Devon Wannop indicated that after totalling projected increases in 2017 for electricity, fuel and natural gas, this would come to $104,000, a large percentage of which is attributed to the NDP’s carbon tax levy.
“About $70,000 of that would be considered an increase because of the carbon tax.”
Such a reality forces the municipality to consider some hard choices in upcoming budget planning.
“I know we’d have to increase our property taxes somewhat in order to keep up,” said DeVlieger. “But this $75,000 or $90,000 that you’re talking about, I think is forced upon us, besides our tax increases. I personally would think we have to pass that on to our own taxpayers.”
According to Wannop, a one per cent increase to property taxes in the municipality amounts to a roughly $83,000 increase in annual property tax revenues. He went on to warn that the upcoming fiscal year will only be the tip of the iceberg for the carbon tax levy, with more increases scheduled in ensuing years.
“And that’s just 2017. The carbon levy actually increases by 50 per cent on top of 2017 in 2018, and it’s projected to be the same — not another increase — but they actually haven’t released the 2019 numbers.”
Unfortunately, passing on the municipal cost of a carbon tax levy to local taxpayers will in effect have them paying two pipers, according to Coun. Laura Ross-Giroux.
“What a shame that we have to do that, because they’re going to be hit at home with their own costs.”
DeVlieger was unswayed by this argument.
“I know, but the way we’re discussing it’s hard to cut, but if there’s already $80,000 that we can agree upon, that we feel like it has to be passed on, because we’re sitting here as a municipality as a lame duck. We have to accept this cost from our Alberta government. It has to go to somewhere.”
Coun. Randy Sparks, who voted against the motion, suggested the Notley NDP government has lost touch with rural Alberta through a ham-handed attempt at a “tax grab.”
“I find it interesting in the province of Alberta, concerning this carbon tax, rural Alberta has overwhelmingly voted against it, yet the city of Edmonton has overwhelmingly voted for it. I feel that our government has lost touch with rural Alberta, and the impact it has on all municipalities, and everyone involved with this province. It’s just another tax grab. They’re double dipping through municipalities, through individual people, they’ve really lost touch. And I don’t think that we as a council, or other councils throughout the province, or individuals, need to take this sitting down. If we don’t like it, we need to be vocal, because this isn’t right, and our government is abandoning the citizens of this once-great province. I still believe it’s a great province, but it’s not good.”
In a follow up motion, town council voted unanimously for the Town of Taber to send a letter to the provincial government voicing opposition to the imposition of a carbon tax.