rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Expert Panel on Business Taxation sides with local governments

UBCM keynote address. Photo: BC Gov Photos/Flickr

Hundreds of mayors, municipal councillors and regional district directors are meeting this week in Victoria at the annual gathering of the Union of BC Municipalities. And not surprisingly, one of the major topics of discussion in the first three days has been the taxes local governments collect to provide their services.

The local government leaders heard some good news about their taxes that have been under attack.

In the past few years organizations like the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation have undertaken a frontal assault on local governments in B.C. In the 2011 local elections, the Taxpayers Federation got 90 candidates to sign a promise not to raise taxes.

The common line has been that local property taxes are out of control. They are rising irresponsibly and they are damaging business. They follow on from Catalyst Paper's action in 2009 when they refused to pay their industrial property taxes to several communities.

The province listened closely to these complaints about local taxation. Despite arguments that local governments were more regulated than any other government, B.C. created a new office of Municipal Auditor General. So far this seems to be languishing at the appointment stage. The government also created an Expert Panel on Taxation and a separate Major Industrial Taxation Property Review. 

The Expert Panel has reported and this was the topic of discussion on the first day of the UBCM.

Port Coquitlam mayor Greg Moore told the assembled local government leaders that the report of the Expert Panel had accepted virtually all of the positions put forward by the UBCM. Among the key points relating to local governments in the report were:

-  Municipal taxes have little effect on business competitiveness

-  B.C. municipal taxes are low compared to other provinces

-  Business property taxes are higher than residential property taxes in most jurisdictions

-  Municipal costs are rising faster than inflation but this is often due to issues beyond the control of the local government such as downloading of costs from provincial and federal governments

Moore gave examples of downloading that had increased taxes. These included dikes, cuts in library grants, policing policy, fire fighting, first responders, and new regulations governing water and sewer water and sewer.

Later in the afternoon Professor Harry Kitchen, an Ontario economist specializing in local government, reported with more cheerful news for mayors and councillors. B.C., he told them, had lower property taxes than most other provinces. Kitchen also identified other jurisdictions where local governments had access to other taxes including sales and income tax.

One wonderfully ironic aspect of this is that one of the members of the Expert Panel on Business Taxation was Laura Jones, a senior vice president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. It must have been painful to have her named attached to this report after railing against local taxes for so long.

Photo: BC Gov Photos/Flickr

What's Harper up to?  Award-winning journalist Karl Nerenberg keeps you in the know. Donate to support his efforts today.

Thank you for reading this story...

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all. But media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our only supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help.

If everyone who visits rabble and likes it chipped in a couple of dollars per month, our future would be much more secure and we could do much more: like the things our readers tell us they want to see more of: more staff reporters and more work to complete the upgrade of our website.

We’re asking if you could make a donation, right now, to set rabble on solid footing in 2017.

Make a donation.Become a monthly supporter.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.