Watchdog group accuses Saanich of exaggerating effects of new health tax

A local watchdog group questions Saanich’s messaging around the effects of the employer health tax.

Grumpy Taxpayer$ said in a release that the group “agrees and sympathizes” with findings from the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM). They show local governments including Saanich will feel a “significant” impact on their municipal finances as the new tax leaves Saanich with a menu of politically unappetizing choices.

“We question a tax policy that results in the funding of a provincial service (healthcare) through property taxation,” said board member Bruce Kennedy.“That said, we strongly disagree with the CAO and his alarmist message. There’s no need to cut off a limb, but simply a willingness to go on a diet.”

The provincial government plans to eliminate Medical Services Plan (MSP) premiums paid by each British Columbian (unless exempt) and replace them with the EHT paid by employers with 2019 as a transition year during which the provincial government will collect both MSPs and the EHT.

Saanich, according to the report, will pay $1.78 million to cover the new EHT plus $209,000 for employee MSP premiums with Saanich planning to split the additional cost between property taxes and user fees.

Comments from chief administrative officer Paul Thorkelsson suggests Saanich would find it difficult to absorb the increase without raising taxes.

“Saanich cannot manage a property tax increase [of 1.3 per cent] from this additional expense through simple ‘belt tightening,’” he said. “We would have to amputate a limb.”

Grumpy Taxpayer$, however, questions this language.

Kennedy said Saanich could be more selective in funding capital projects. “Saanich fails to consider slowing the pace of the new ‘nice to do’ capital projects, such as the $5 million next year and $8 million the following year budgeted for the Complete Streets initiative,” he said. “Just pushing that to three years could cover this issue with room to spare.”

Capital projects need a proper business plan and need to be prioritized, so we do what we can afford, he said.

“There’s also a million dollar strategic initiative fund — which even some councilors have termed a slush fund — with money outside the normal budgetary process that escapes scrutiny,” he said.

Just Posted

Commuter Challenge proves biking to work was the faster option on Wednesday

Greater Victoria teams raced from across the region to a downtown finish line

Sooke stop for African Children’s Choir

Concert date is June 2 at Sooke Baptist Church

BC Ferries asks boaters to learn signals and be careful around ferries

BC Ferries responded to 15 marine emergencies in 2018

Village Block Party returns to Cook Street

Sunday’s event brings vendors, entertainment and coveted dog race to Victoria’s Cook Street

BC Transit offers high school grads free bus rides

2019 grads can choose two days in June to ride for free

VIDEO: Journey of SD62 Aboriginal graduates recognized at ceremony

‘Enriching and empowering’ ceremony encourages students to hold onto their identities

POLL: Were you satisfied with the Game of Thrones series finale?

Millions gathered in front of their televisions Sunday night to watch the… Continue reading

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of May 21

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Unbe-leaf-able: Agassiz man finds more than 200 four-leaf clovers in a month

Walt Hardinge has found more than 219 four-or-more leaf clovers this spring alone

Crews fight fire with fire to keep blaze from northern Alberta town

The wildfire now covers some 920 square kilometres

Man in B.C. charged with murder and arson in 2016 New Brunswick death

He is charged in the death of 71-year-old Lucille Maltais, who was found inside a burned down home

Improve your life and theirs, adopt a cat from the BC SPCA

The BC SPCA holds an adult cat adoption promotion

RCMP probe if teen was intentionally hit with ski pole by mystery skier on B.C. mountain

The incident happened on March 20 on Grouse Mountain. Police are urging witnesses to come forward

Support growing for orphaned Okanagan child after father dies in highway crash

Family thanks emergency crews for assistance in traumatic incident

Most Read