Mayor Robertson says he can't lower taxes for the Billy Bishop Legion. Oh, really?
The Billy Bishop Legion has started lobbying Vancouver Council to provide it with a tax break similar to what legions receive in other Metro Vancouver municipalities. In those municipalities, the Legion is provided with a full tax exemption in recognition of their contribution to our country.
During the last term of council, Vision's Raymond Louie made a point of courting the Legion vote. He made many attempts to embarass the previous NPA administration by dropping in last minute motions such as the one whereby he asked council to provide all veterans with free parking. That's why Mayor Robertson's lacklustre response to the Legion's request for tax relief is somewhat puzzling.
Robertson claims that he cannot provide the Legion with any tax relief because the City of Vancouver is bound by the Vancouver Charter and has its hands tied by provincial legislation (see video from CTV above). I think this is utter poppycock.
If the Mayor and his Council really believed in providing tax relief to the Legion they could do one of two things. Firstly, rather than simply "talking" to the Province, Robertson could pass a motion officially asking for this type of authority. Considering that every other city in the province already has this authority under the Community Charter, it's highly doubtful the Province would turn Vision down.
Rather than taking the time to pass this type of tax relief motion at some point during their first nine months in office, Vision has made a priority of passing a series of other motions condeming senior levels of government on a range of issues. A lost opportunity indeed.
Instead of throwing up his hands and saying that he can't do anything, perhaps the Mayor and his colleagues might want to commit to the Legion they will introduce a motion at next Tuesday's council meeting. That would be a good first step and bit of concrete action.
Secondly, the other option for Council is to simply provide the Legion with the tax relief they are asking for and challenge the Province to penalize them for doing so. Does anyone really think the Province of BC is going to waste a minute worrying about Vancouver providing the Legion with a few dollars to help them keep their doors open? Especially when every other city in BC has the authority to provide their Legion with tax relief. If the Province did attempt to block Vancouver's efforts, it would make all the bad press they've received on the HST look like a walk in the park.
So clearly the Mayor and his colleagues have a couple of realistic options if they were truly interested in providing tax relief for the Legion. However, by doing so, the Mayor and Council are probably concerned about the legions (pun intended) of other worthwhile community groups who will approach them with their hand out.
Regardless of the possible implications, Robertson shouldn't be blaming the Province for his lack of ability to provide the Legion with the tax relief most people would consider as a no-brainer.
Check out our new online poll and have your say on whether you think the Legion should pay municipal taxes.