The foundation of the plan is to offer incoming businesses breaks on property taxes for five years. Each applicant would be assessed according to certain criteria, such as use of technology, creation of new jobs, innovation and so on.
Points would be awarded on a scale of 100. If a business receives 17 points, it would be eligible for a 17 per cent property tax exemption for five years. If it got 100 points, it would get 100 per cent exemption for five years.
Now here’s the thing. A municipality cannot bestow a benefit to a particular business. City council can’t say, we like you, we’re going to cut your taxes. But you, the other guy, we don’t like you. No tax cuts for you.
You can set up a zone and establish criteria for tax breaks to encourage businesses to go there, but you have to offer the same to everybody in the zone, including already established businesses.
Indeed, Kennedy proposes “targeted locations” for incentives. But, indeed, the City already has two tax revitalization zones, one downtown and the other on the North Shore. Kennedy actually proposes three zones, downtown, the North Shore and the airport. The latter is an idea that has been around a long time, but has never taken off, so to speak.
Kennedy did not appear to be aware the City already has two such zones, nor of some of the restrictions on them.
He explained that his proposal is based on one in Regina, where they might do things a little differently than in B.C. “We know there’s some things that have to be ironed out in it,” he admitted, and promised to take another look at the details.
He said the proposal was actually drafted by his campaign manager, Chad Moats.
When I talked to Moats a short time later, he added another twist, which is that the plan is indeed intended to apply to all businesses, not just those in targeted areas. Businesses that did locate in a designated area would simply be eligible for additional points.
When I mentioned that City Hall’s view of the Community Charter — which governs such things — sounds to me to rule out such an approach, he begged to differ.
“I don’t think it runs afoul,” he said, but added later, “These things aren’t set in stone.”
I have some familiarity with the Community Charter and was involved in a few meetings and workshops when it was being developed but I am definitely not an expert. Few are.
When an idea is floated that depends on the legal ability of a city to do it, I’m going to reside in Missouri. But even if Kennedy and Moates are a little shy on all the facts, tax incentives for businesses are a legitimate election issue.
And the fact that they’re thinking in some detail about how to approach that issue, rather than taking the easy route and tossing out vague discussion points, raises his credibility as a candidate, in my book.
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It was a case of the media interviewing the media yesterday when I got a call from Pique newsmagazine about the candidacy of Cathy McLeod.
I offered up some background and opinions and it was an interesting conversation, especially when the reporter mentioned that McLeod had refused to be interviewed for the article.
Based on anecdotal evidence around town, and now from a guy at a newsmagazine, it would seem McLeod is testing the waters very carefully. She’s been reluctant to comment on a number of issues until she becomes more familiar with Conservative policies.
Presumably, she’ll be emerging from her shell all in good time.