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General News · 9th November 2017
Maureen
Ruminations on a Hall Service Tax Referendum - One parcel One vote

If the residents of Cortes Island are confronted with a referendum on a parcel tax, the way it would be democratic (instead of, shall we say, kleptocratic) is if we had a one-parcel—one-vote rule.

Democracy usually means how we govern ourselves. This definition highlights the biggest problem with democracy today – the disconnect between cause and effect. When one group asks government to pay for its hall, it doesn’t consider how government must get the money by force from their neighbors. This force is known as taxation. A small group benefits from taxation but the cost is spread over many taxpayers, and in the situation with land parcels, the cost for some is spread further still. This dispersion numbs special interest groups to the true cost of their special treatment. Special treatment for well-organized special interests hurts everyone else because we are no longer free to choose how to spend the money we’ve worked hard to earn.

Why would a one-parcel—one-vote referendum rule be democratic instead of kleptocratic? On some parcels of land on Cortes Island, one family resides. On other parcels on Cortes Island, many families reside. This means multi-family parcels have more voting power than single-family parcels, and at the same time, less tax burden—two obvious inequities. A democratic process demands a one-person—one-vote system to give equal weight to each individual. To be democratic, each parcel must have equal weight, therefore it too must have one vote.

When our representatives rely on the advice of special interests, we lose control over our leaders, our labour, our lives.
Oh Maureen...Really.
Comment by Jon from Whaletown on 13th November 2017
Blood sucking vampires?
Taxation as a form of death?
Sounds like Ayn Rand Ultra Right Teaparty stuff to me.
Hard to believe it's here.

Look...
The Community hall is not for a special interest group as some suggest; exactly the opposite. It's a public place where anyone and everyone can gather as a community and host programs and events for the betterment of anyone taking part; for example the play school program and the annual Christmas dinner. All that is being proposed is to preserve this great tradition by ensuring basic operating support so, for one thing, that staff don't have to spend as much time fund raising. 27 cents a day per house hold, that's it!

Owning your own home implies privilege; none of us got here all on our own, and with privilege comes responsibility. If you think you taxes are well spent, as in this case some of us do, you should be proud to make an investment., it says you have arrived, You owe it in my opinion.
The just-one- café-latte-per-day argument
Comment by Maureen on 12th November 2017
One argument tax hike proponents use to justify their desire for your money is that the tax hike is a very small amount, the equivalent of one café latte per day—just chump change, no big deal. The problem with this argument is that every special interest group wants their latte, and these add up after a while. In fact, more than 40 percent of our income goes to pay for these lattes. Pretty soon Joe-taxpayer won’t be able to afford a Cuppa Joe, let alone a fancy latte from a Starbunker.

Think of taxation by latte as a form of death by 1,000 tax hikes. Each hike takes just a small drop of blood but once all the vampires have landed to feed, the taxpayer has been completely exsanguinated.

So how to stop local politicians from decaffeinating taxpayers? Instead of saying, well, I have to pay for stuff I don’t want so everyone else should too, start to question why taxes are so high and the morality of being forced to pay for something you disagree with. Instead of just rolling over and taking it, stand up and question it.
Last reply
Comment by Walker Evans on 12th November 2017
Don: "Our ferries are subsidized by people who never ride them. Our highways subsidized by people who don’t own cars. Medical services are utilized by the elderly more so than the young"
The difference is that these costs are spread out between millions of taxpayers throughout the province. The proposed Hall tax is not. There are roughly 1000 people living on Cortes. Of these people probably less than half are landowners (I don't know the exact figures). This is a special interest tax levied against one minority group who may not share this special interest. Tyranny by the majority. Historically this odious technique has been used to deny rights to minorities including women, First Nations peoples and coloured people. Now that is reprehensible.
It's not that the $85/year is a huge amount of money although for some poorer land owners it represents an increase in property taxes of 25%. That's not a small increase. We don't laugh off ferry fare or Hydro rate increases of 5% do we ? If we impose a hall tax it sets a dangerous precedent. After five years that $85/year could be increased to.....who knows. And it all comes with no accountability over hall spending. Once the financial pressure is eased there may be even less incentives to balancing the books.
So I'm kind of onside with Mike's idea. If you signed the petition to impose an $85/year tax on property owners perhaps you can all show your goodwill towards your precious hall by donating $85 right now. Heck, if it's voluntary I just might donate $85 myself.
carts, horses, and canoes
Comment by Wendy L. on 12th November 2017

Getting down to grass roots ‘general suffrage’- most local interest groups stipulate you have to become a member to vote at their meetings. If you own property and don’t want to join up, you can’t vote even on an issue affecting the taxes you could be forced to pay.

A referendum is only one of the voting assent processes used by Local governments.

The Campbell River Mirror reported on the hall tax/referendum item at the October Electoral Areas Services Committee Meeting:

“Whether or not the issue goes to a referendum is still up in the air, however the CAO of the Regional District stressed that at this point a lot more information needs to be gathered before a decision can be made on whether or not a hall tax, or even a referendum, is appropriate.”

As such the CAO stressed to the Committee and public gallery, any hall tax/referendum petitions and correspondence were putting the cart long before the horse.
In my view it’s called paddling down the river before the canoe has even been built.
all those voting yes, donate 85$ now to show support of this
Comment by mike malek on 12th November 2017
I think this is the fairest referendum style. The hall could use your support and it would indicate communitys willingness to pay.
In what universe redux
Comment by Don Tennant on 11th November 2017
I’m asked where in the article it says that only property owners would have the vote. It’s implied throughout. One parcel, one vote, with Walker Evans talking about taxes, it’s pretty clear that only the land owners pay taxes.

Canadian citizens, resident on Cortes, that’s it, that’s who gets to vote, sorry if that doesn’t align with how you’d like to see it, but that’s the law.

Our ferries are subsidized by people who never ride them. Our highways subsidized by people who don’t own cars. Medical services are utilized by the elderly more so than the young, should that be put to a vote?

When a referendum appears, lobby hard to make your case. If you win, great, if not, the will of the people has spoken. The notion of restricting voters to affect the outcome is reprehensible.
Unconvinced...
Comment by De on 11th November 2017
The general subject (of taxation, democracy, regressive vs progressive taxes etc) is too large to tackle in any detail in a mere Comment; but I'd like to mention a couple of thinking points.

1) A community is not made up of land parcels. A community is made up of people, and enfranchising the people to vote on issues affecting their community is the bedrock of modern democracy. It's true that universal suffrage is a relatively recent idea: restricting the franchise to property owners (to male property owners, actually) was the norm just a century ago in N America, and widening the franchise was bitterly contested at the time. However, most people (especially those enfranchised!) agree that universal suffrage was an improvement, and I for one am not keen on turning the calendar back to 1919 or earlier ... when we had "the best democracy money can buy".

2) I benefited from many taxpayer-funded institutions as a young person starting out in life. From libraries to State-subsidised education to public transport, the tax-funded amenities of a modern democracy helped me on my way. Now that I am old and fairly well-off, now that I have the great good fortune to own my own home, I feel that "paying it forward" is the least I can do - to invest in my community and raise the quality of life for younger people in my turn. I don't consider taxation for core community amenities a theft or an imposition - even if those amenities don't serve me personally at this time - but as my willing and grateful passing-on of the help I received when I was young. Just another way of looking at it.

3) Part of life in a democracy, imho, is acknowledging that prevailing public opinion is not always in line with one's own, and being ready to make compromises. I personally do not agree with all the ways in which my tax dollars are spent; I certainly do not agree with all the decisions made by my government (local, regional, national). However, I do recognise the legitimacy of the democratic process and the rule of law, and the enormous general benefit to me of living in a functioning civil society. The price of enjoying the benefits of our civilisation is to play by its rules and allow the democratic process to function. If there is a division of opinion among us - and there certainly seems to be, on this issue - imho the best & healthiest way to resolve it is by open discussion followed by a popular vote.

4) Have to say, our mountain here seems to me a bit of a molehill. The assessment increase being discussed. last I heard, was around $85 per year. My internet bill is $70 per *month*. A ferry ride to town for 2 people plus car is around $60. Dinner for two at a moderately nice restaurant is $80 or more these days. In other words, while perhaps not quite chump change, this is fairly small potatoes; most of us find it pretty easy to spend this kind of money on ourselves with neither hesitation nor regret; I personally don't find it a whole lot harder to spend this kind of money on quality of life for my community. We're looking at about $7/month here -less than one pack of smokes.
Multi-family parcel lesson in democracy
Comment by Maureen on 11th November 2017
I'm not sure in which part of the article it says only property owners would vote. Surely, as harbingers of democracy, a multi family parcel would vote first on which position to take so that the one vote would represent the majority opinion of parcel occupants. It would be a great exercise in democratically choosing which position has the greatest popularity.
In what other universe
Comment by Walker Evans on 11th November 2017
Don: I think that your righteous indignation is a little over the top and not helpful to the discussion. Nobody is calling to restrict anyone's vote in federal, provincial or municipal elections. I think you need to reread Maureen's letter which is very logical and free from emotional rhetoric.
In what universe is it ok for people who aren't landowners to impose an $85/year tax on landowners to pay for their own private club. That is a form of tyranny. How is it fair that 10 people living in a land share agreement would only pay $8.50/year while those who own 5 parcels and rent them out would pay $425/year ? A truly democratic solution to the Hall's financial woes would be user pay. I'm sorry that you can't see that.
Two Parcels
Comment by michael on 11th November 2017
would I be able to vote twice?
In what universe ?
Comment by Don Tennant on 10th November 2017
In what universe is restricting voting to only property owners democratic?1449 As long as you are wishing to travel down that road, why not restrict it to only white male property owners? Universal suffrage was long fought for, why would anyone want to go backwards ?
BC used to ban First Nations, Chinese, and conscientious objectors from voting, are we going there too?
If the only way you can win at the polls is by restricting the vote, perhaps you should examine your motives.
Great idea.
Comment by Walker Evans on 10th November 2017
Now that is truly democratic. Some parcels that have 10 families living on it in a land sharing arrangement would have to get together and decide how to vote. And those with 4 parcels of land would get to vote 4 times because they would potentially have to pay 4 times the hall tax. Ideally this extremely divisive issue should not even have raised its ugly head but if this referendum is to be forced through then one vote per parcel is the way to go. How about it Noba ?