THUNDER BAY – OPINION – It should be one of Thunder Bay’s key election issues. But the incumbents on city council have fought tooth and nail to keep it under the media’s radar.
City hall staff are still quietly working on a plan to create a new type of tax on the land where your home and business sits. Believe it or not, this new tax would cover the costs of getting rid of the rain that falls on your property.
It would be a tax like your water bill or the sewer surcharge to cover the costs of delivering the city’s wastewater to the sewage treatment plant.
The proposal for this tax on the rainfall tax first came to light in early 2016.
The big question since then has been how to sell the public on the idea.
The answer is no surprise: hire consultants. Aecom, the consulting firm, is conducting a “financing study” of the city’s new stormwater management plan. What they’re actually doing is studying satellite photos of your roof and driveway. Then they’re doing a calculation involving your lot size. In the end, if the incumbents on council are re-elected, you’ll be getting a brand new bill from city hall every month. It will range from $4 to $15 dollars depending on how much roof and driveway you have. City council has agreed to pay these consultants a quarter of a million dollars to do the work. That’s how committed councillors are to implementing the new tax.
When challenged, incumbents dissemble. They say there’s no tax. It’s to laugh. There be may be no tax just before an election, but watch how fast things move if the current council is re-elected.
That stormwater management plan, approved by council, is actually a good idea. It requires the city to spend about $150 million dollars over the next 20 years on new storm sewers, water retention ponds and the like.
The plan’s goal is to protect the city against catastrophic flooding like the storm in 2012 that caused tens of millions of dollars in damage to East End homes and the Atlantic Avenue sewage treatment plant.
The problem for many people is that city council can’t be trusted. They blew four million dollars on a bad bet the federal government would pony up money for an event centre. They’ve bet millions more a waterfront art gallery will provide a big boost for tourism, a very dubious proposition.
We pay for stormwater management now. It comes from out the taxes we already pay. Do we really want to give licence to this group of politicians to go on a brand new spending spree with the millions they’ll raise from this rainfall tax?
Creating the new tax also means hiring an entirely new bureaucracy to implement it and do re-calculations when homeowners challenge their bills.
We need to elect politicians we can trust. Not to spend our money on boondoggles and certainly not to try to fool us when they’ve already spent big dollars getting ready to come down hard…like an October rainstorm.
Candidate for Mayor
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At the October 11, 2018 Thunder Bay District Labour Council Mayor’s Debate, the issue of a Rainfall Tax was asked of three of the candidates. Shane Judge, a candidate for Mayor was not asked to respond on this issue. Councillor Paul Pugh, who is on Council as the McKellar Ward representative was asked to explain to the audience what a “Rainfall Tax” is. Councillor Pugh told the audience there is “no such thing” as a rainfall tax. NetNewsLedger reached out to Mr. Judge to allow him to respond to the issue.