Last week Vancouver's business community launched their Drive Out the Tax campaign aimed at getting Mayor Gregor Robertson to reverse his decision to support a 21% tax on local parking lots. As far as grassroots campaigns go, this one seems to be gathering a bit of momentum.
We contacted the organizers this evening to see how the first few days of their lobbying was going. They told us that within the first few days, their website received over 4000 hits. Over 52% of all website visitors registered to send an email to Gregor Robertson and TransLink regarding their decision. Just under 500 people have already contacted the 1-877-35NOTAX line and left a message with Robertson's office to register a complaint.
The anti-tax campaign has also caught the attention of lone NPA councillor Suzanne Anton. According to a media release issued earlier today, Anton is bringing forward a motion to fight Robertson's tax. She states:
The burden of this new tax falls overwhelmingly on parking and businesses in the City of Vancouver because that is where all the pay parking is located. It encourages businesses to locate outside of Vancouver where the parking is free. This is not a good environmental solution. He [Gregor Robertson] completely failed to defend the interests of the City of Vancouver. The Mayor talks about supporting business but fails to act.
Anton's motion to council states:
1. Translink has imposed a parking sales tax of 21% on pay parking;
2. The tax overwhelmingly applies to parking in the City of Vancouver;
3. The tax is very detrimental to businesses in Vancouver which rely on pay
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED
THAT Vancouver City Council requests that Translink cancel the 21% pay parking
tax and restore the tax to previous levels.
On their facts page, campaign organizers take direct aim at TransLink, who they claim is bloated with senior administrators. Here is an excerpt:
Translink according to the Comptroller Generals report has been responsible for :
A tripling of the debt since 2005.
Expenses growing by 3.5 times ridership.
Administrative costs growing at 101% since 2002.
No cost reduction targets in place for ‘09 and despite targets in ‘10 costs still growing by 2.7% almost double inflation.
CityCaucus.com has learned that Robertson is choked with the business community's anti-tax campaign considering he just provided them with a tax break in the recent 2010 budget. As fellow blogger Frances Bula eluded to in a recent post, the Mayor and his advisors are also peeved that they provided the corporate community with a tax shift, but they never bothered to show up to council to voice their support. If this sentiment lingers into the next budget cycle, you can expect that Vision's support for the tax shift will wain before the next election.
It should be noted that Robertson didn't even bother to show up to the Mayor's Council meeting for TransLink where they approved increasing revenues by $130 million dollars. Had he attended, it would have provided him with an opportunity to debate the merits of the 21% parking tax. He opted to send councillor Geoff Meggs to make the tough decisions instead.
For his part, Meggs has publicly chastised the downtown business community for their opposition to the tax hike. He states on his blog:
Of course, businesses won’t pay the taxes themselves, they’ll pass them on to the drivers. And year after year, Vancouver has some of the cheapest downtown parking in Canada. Calgary, Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton are all more expensive and as for New York and London . . . don’t ask.
As for the Drive Out the Tax campaign, it will be interesting to see if they can sustain the kind of interest they generated right out of the gate over the longer-term. If they do, Robertson can expect a lot more emails and phone calls demanding he soften his position on what the business community is calling an investment killing tax grab.