An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
GOVERNMENTS EVERYWHERE are doing all they can to keep us safe and whole, but what about City council?
The Kamloops council is taking every possible measure with social distancing but it’s lagging behind on financial relief. Other than suspending transit and parking fees, things are pretty much as usual on the tax front.
So what about doing something about this year’s property taxes? Deferring payments is being done across the country in all sorts of situations.
BC Hydro has implemented a customer assistance program under which consumers affected by COVID-19 may defer payments. Ontario Hydro offers flexible payments and financial assistance for those who need it.
Federal student loans payments have been deferred. There’s a rent deferral program. The six largest banks are offering a six-month mortgage-payment deferral. ICBC customers can defer monthly insurance payments.
The deadline for income taxes has been extended to June 1.
It all helps those who are taking a financial hit from the virus.
So why can’t the City extend the property tax deadline? The reason given by City Hall is that it’s up to the provincial government, not City council, but there’s not exactly a full-court press from mayor and council to make it happen.
Ontario and Alberta are way ahead of us on that score. The provincial governments there have taken the lead and City councils are jumping in to give their citizens a tax break, extending deadlines and forgoing late-payment penalties for taxes and utilities.
It didn’t happen all on its own — City councils pushed for it. B.C. already has a property-tax deferral program for seniors and the disabled; all it needs to do is provide the same option for those impacted by COVID-19.
Kamloops council should be pushing hard to make it happen.
I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He writes five commentaries a week for CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.