Average Albertan could pay $911 more per year
The province’s decision on whether to grant cities a series of controversial taxation powers has been postponed, pending “further consultation.”
At stake is the creation of at least six new possible taxes that cities can pass on to their residents, including an amusement tax, property tax, tourism tax, vehicle registration tax and a new development levy to support local services.
The government’s decision to consult further with stakeholders, individuals, and city leaders has irked critics who think the issue is better suited for a public referendum.
“Taxpayers are your stakeholders. The millions of Albertans who could be saddled with these new taxes are the ones you need to consult with,” said Scott Hennig of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
“Consultations are nice, but they aren’t anywhere near the protection that taxpayers deserve to have when it comes to something as serious as potentially four new taxes.”
He estimates that a family of four in Alberta would be hit with an additional $911 in new city taxes if the province grants these new powers.
Premier Ed Stelmach suggested last month that cities could further bolster their argument for the proposed taxation powers through a referendum in upcoming civic elections.
But the minister’s council on municipal sustainability — comprised of Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel, Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier, Taber Coun. Donald Johnson, and Calgary Ald. Bob Hawkesworth — argued in their report to the province that cities, at their discretion, should be able to collect these new taxes as a means of “strengthening municipal capacity to address ongoing operational sustainability.”
Hawkesworth said their proposal for more taxes will assist the average property taxpayer while giving cities more flexibility to respond to growth pressures.
“These fears that this is a tax grab are overblown because there is a very strong accountability mechanism in place right now between local councils and their electorate,” he said. “If a community council does not feel that these taxes are justified or required in their community, they’re not going to go ahead with it.”
Bill Strickland, a government spokesman for municipal affairs, said the province needs to hear from a broader audience and will conduct their consultations over the next few months.
“It would probably be based on a regional area so we would go into a region and invite stakeholders to it, or it could be an online survey,” he said.