This week, for the first time in quite a while, I made my way to Prince Rupert council on Tuesday night.
Anyone that has read my articles in the past will know that I’m a big fan of fairness, making sure that what is good for one group is good for the other. I’ve said it in the past when it came to cuts to the community enhancement grants – the way to do it is a blanket cut so no one group is given favoritism over the other – and this time it has to do with the tax exemptions. In this case the lack of fairness to different groups in the community is so blatant that it just can’t be left without comment.
When Jamie Malphus came before council to request that the curling rink be given complete tax exemption, he was hit with questions from council about applying for grants and whether or not the members would be able to pay a little more to offset the increased tax burden that the club didn’t face before.
And when it came time to vote on the tax exemption bylaw, council didn’t acknowledge his presentation, his presence in the gallery, or really anything he said. It was like he was never there, and that is certainly council’s prerogative. But what council did do in the same lack of breath about the curling club was pass a tax exemption for the Prince Rupert Golf Course and the Racquet Centre.
Now both of these are owned by the City of Prince Rupert, so tax exemption was not necessarily surprising. But when you look at it closer, it raises some serious questions.
All three of the entities in charge of the racquet centre, the golf course and the curling rink – the Prince Rupert Racquet Association, the Prince Rupert Golf Society and the Prince Rupert Curling Club – provide the same function and are largely the same:
– They provide recreation to the residents of Prince Rupert
– They charge a fee for membership
– They are run by volunteers
And yet for the next three years curlers will have to pay about $960 in municipal taxes, which totals $2,880 between 2013 and 2015, while people who enjoy playing racquetball or hitting the links will be paying nothing.
Nada. Zip, zero, zilch.
When it comes to fairness, it is easy to see that targeting one group for municipal taxes while exempting two very similar groups simply does not fit the description.
So before city council passes the tax exemption bylaw at their next meeting, a bylaw that will create an unlevel playing field in the recreation community in town, perhaps they should think about the following questions:
1. How do you justify asking curlers to pay their fair share into the City coffers while not asking golfers or racquetball players to do the same?
2. If the answer to the above is because those two facilities are owned by the City of Prince Rupert, how are you justified in owning those two facilities, but not the curling club building?
~ Shaun Thomas