The various Legion's in Vancouver should be given special status in recognition of their service to our country. Photo: Windsor Star
Earlier this year the Billy Bishop Legion in Vancouver was pleading with council to give it a break on its property taxes as a means of ensuring their doors could remain open to Canada's veterans. We contacted the Legion today to confirm they have yet to receive any tax relief.
At the time, Mayor Gregor Robertson simply shrugged his shoulders and pointed the finger at the Province claiming his hands were tied regarding possible tax breaks. Robertson argues the Vancouver Charter currently doesn't permit him to provide tax relief to organizations like the Legion, even if they are in desperate financial straights. Meanwhile, other cities in BC do provide tax relief as they are covered under a separate piece of legislation known as the Local Government Act.
As I stated in my earlier post, I think it's either disingenuous, or ill-informed of Robertson and company to say they can't do anything for Vancouver's Legions. That's because I can't imagine a scenario whereby the Province of BC would take Vancouver to court challenging their authority to provide tax relief to their veterans. Clearly that would be political suicide on the part of the Province if they ever attempted anything like this.
In advance of Rememberance Day, Vision should announce they will establish a program to provide the Legion with some sort of tax relief. They should then work with the Province to change the Vancouver Charter to reflect this new reality. A solution to this problem is not all that complicated. Especially when you consider Vision could easily find $850,000 for costly renos to their offices and foyer on the third floor of City Hall earlier this year.
It would appear I'm not the only one who takes this position. In response to my earlier post, a number of commenters agreed with my position. Here is what Doug Mcarthur (we're not sure if it is the Doug McArthur) had to say on the subject:
The Billy Bishop is a great neighourhood gathering place. I am sure it has to struggle in the face of high costs, including taxes. Regardless of what you feel about wars, service men and women deserve our recognition. I agree, a request to the province should be made by Council. But in the meantime why not go ahead and 0 rate the Billy Bishop and see who tries to stop it.
Another commenter wrote:
A salient feature which seems to be missing in this argument is the thousands of dollars the Royal Canadian Legion raises annually for charity. For instance The Billy Bishop branch alone raises one third of all funds collected by Greater Vancouver’s annual Poppy Campaign. Throughout the year the proceeds from all fund rising events in every legion branch must go to charity. A cardinal element of the RCL’s constitution is that any ‘profit’ made must go to charity. In most jurisdictions this is recognized and appropriate tax breaks are granted. In Vancouver legion branches are taxed as though they are ‘for profit’ businesses – like pubs and restaurants – Shame on you Vancouver. Who’s going to service these charities if the Royal Canadian Legion goes down? Have you thought of that Mr. Mayor? Do you really care Mr. Mayor? You’re well heeled, got a good job and I hope will never need to rely on charity. So I don’t suppose it matters to you whether the RCL and in particular the Billy Bishop branch exists or not. One thing is certain, if you help us to get our taxes reduced you and your party will be welcome at the Billy Bishop when the next election rolls around. If you don’t help us I suggest you give The Billy a miss the next time you’re looking for votes.
I have it under good authority that Billy Bishop is not the only Legion in Vancouver struggling under the burden of heavy property taxes. Therefore, the time has come for Mayor Robertson to stop pointing fingers and start taking action. Prior to the election campaign his Vision team did everything they could to secure the veterans vote and they receieved it. Now that they're in office, it would appear they're turning their backs on a group of Canadians that deserve more than just our respect. What do you think? Check out our new online poll on this subject.