General News · 23rd August 2017
There seems to be a misconception that “everyone” gets to vote and have their say in a RD referendum. This is definitely not true. Voter eligibility for a referendum is exactly the same as for any other election held by the RD. Why might this be important?
A few years ago, I made some inquiries about how much of the total tax revenue for Cortes Island comes from waterfront properties. The Government of BC, in its wisdom, provides all tax data used to compile aggregate information like this to a third party private company that charged, at the time, over $500 minimum for a proper written response to such a question. The person I was speaking to on the phone said he could quickly look this information up and provide me with a verbal ballpark number over the phone. He indicated it was about 50 to 55%, not including water leases for aquaculture and docks.
Now, please stop and consider how much of this high value, highly taxed property is owned by part time residents who live somewhere else in BC (restricted to one vote per property), people who live in Canada but not in BC (not allowed to vote at all) or people who live outside of Canada (not allowed to vote at all). Not only do these folks not get a vote in referendums, they also don’t get to vote for Regional Director. Yet they pay a very considerable portion of the total tax revenue for Cortes Island. Does someone else have the right to decide what “is best” for their tax dollars?
I also happen to know that many of these same people have and do contribute very generously to our medical clinic, seniors housing, the museum, ambulance service, fire protection service, Cortes Community Radio, the WCC, etc. Perhaps the more we tax them without any right to vote, the less likely they are to contribute voluntarily to our community institutions? If a property based hall tax is implemented, perhaps we should not be surprised if they start to say “No” more often.
Response to Ron
Comment by Yifan on 24th August 2017
Ok, so you've left me a bit to unpack here. I didn't necessarily mean to suggest that you have personally implied that non-resident property owners are being victimized but that is certainly a sentiment that is being expressed. I am simply expressing my disagreement with that sentiment.
Also, just because you and some others are an exception to the general trend that part-time water-front property owners are not in the top income brackets does not negate that fact that this is a general trend. When I say "humans are bipedal", one does not respond by naming a list of amputees.
You've suggested that I think wealth should impact someone's role in the democratic process; I do not and in fact I'm arguing the opposite. However, I'll humor you with a thought experiment. Let's say everyone who pays a tax on something gets to vote on matters related to that tax. Well, a quick review of the tax system will easily reveal that those with more property, more investments, more business activity, and more assets will generally pay a greater variety of taxes. What we end up with is a demographic of people who have a greater say in government tax policy due to their assets. Is there a problem with this? Well, only if you consider that taxes are collected and allocated towards programs that benefit society as a whole.
Finally, if the implementation of a $35/year tax that is standard in municipalities throughout the province dissuades people from making contributions to community institutions they would otherwise support...well, doesn't that seem a little petty?
Response to Yifan
Comment by Ron Kroeker on 22nd August 2017
First of all, I am simply highlighting a factual error in previous posts. That is, that everyone impacted by this issue gets a vote if a referendum is held. I’m not “painting” part time residents as anything, you are. In the context of property taxes and the regional district, they are disenfranchised. They cannot vote. What about my post suggests anything about “oppression”?
If you wish to suggest that somehow you or anyone else should be in a position to judge the income and wealth of others and determine how that impacts their democratic rights, have at it. That is a completely different discussion. But, I would suggest you be careful about the assumptions you make. My partner and I purchased waterfront property on Cortes quite some time ago for a very reasonable price. For many years, we were not resident, but paid property taxes and could not vote here. My income during some of those years was below Canada’s poverty line. While I am now a full time resident and get to vote, I do wonder if non-resident property owners in a similar situation would get some kind of special dispensation in your system of judging who is “enjoying the benefits of that kind of wealth”?
Secondly, this is not about non-resident taxpayers “choosing to exercise their democratic rights elsewhere”. Whether they vote in the local jurisdiction where they reside has absolutely no bearing on their inability to vote in regional district elections or referendums. That is what my comments relate to. For the record, yes, I do believe that if someone is paying a tax, they should have a political voice in matters related to that tax. As an aside, if you have paid any attention to Provincial politics for the last ten years, you should know that we do live in a society where the value of someone’s voice is sometimes directly correlated to their wealth. Again, a matter unrelated to “Everyone gets to vote”.
Finally, your ideological assessment of the responsibilities and funding rates of other levels of government aside, the reality is that one of the potential outcomes of how the matter at hand is settled may be a net negative financial result for some Cortes Island institutions that have no part in this issue. If you are suggesting that the SCCA is somehow an essential public service and in need of federal or provincial funding, one last time, a very different discussion than “Everyone gets to vote”.
Who gets to vote
Comment by Les on 22nd August 2017
Here is a question, Who does get to vote, property owners or just anyone who land on Cortes and claims it as their home.
everyone gets ONE vote at their primary residence
Comment by Yifan on 21st August 2017
First of all, I'm going to go ahead and make an educated guess here and say that most part-time residents, especially water-front property owners, are in the upper income bracket and enjoy many of the benefits of that kind of wealth. I think it's a bit of a stretch to paint them as an oppressed, disenfranchised demographic.
Secondly, Ron, you seem to be implying that it is unfair for part-time residents who are citizens to be denied a vote in regional politics if they choose to exercise their democratic rights elsewhere. Would you prefer that they be allowed votes in all districts where they own property? Do we want to live in a society where the value of someone's voice is directly correlated to their wealth?
Finally, I appreciate that many wealthy part-time residents choose to be generous and donate to our local services. However, this misses the point that the clinic, fire department, and ambulance are essential public services should not function through philantropy. If donations are essential to the functioning of public institutions, then there is something seriously wrong with the way the federal and provincial governments are allocating tax dollars.
Not eligible to vote, but must pay
Comment by Jack on 21st August 2017
Ron is quite right in pointing out that there are many who would have to pay this proposed hall tax but cannot have a vote on it.
On the road where I live, more than 50% of the property owners cannot vote in a referendum or vote for a Regional Director because of one or more of the reasons outlined in the above article. This is not an unusual situation on Cortes. These people all pay the maximum tax rates on their properties yet have no representation as they cannot vote. Seems like an unfair and discriminatory system.
Think about this, is this right?