According to a report in the Abbotsford News Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce president Mike Welte told Abbotsford Council that businesses in Abbotsford “account for 31.6 per cent of the total municipal tax revenue but make up only 5.2 per cent of the total tax folios in the city.”
Welte went on to say “This further illustrates the point that business and industry, who grow our economy and create jobs for our citizens [emphasis ours], pay a highly disproportionate amount of tax. According to the objectives & policies of the bylaw – tax distributions should be set to attract commercial and industrial development in an effort to maintain or strengthen the financial health of the city.”
Really Mike? You Really Want To Go There?
In his remarks Welte forgot to mention a number of things:
- While business may well account for 31.6 percent of total tax revenue, most residential property owners don’t make money off of their home ownership. That’s why the property tax system was set up that way.
- The most important facet of business taxes is whether or not they attract or repel new investment, not whether or not businesses who have already decided to locate hear can make more profit at the expense of residential property owners
- The primary reason for this year’s miniscule reduction in municipal taxes has to do with cancellation of the Abbotsford Heat contract – a project the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce supported, promoted and cheered from its inception to its recent demise.
- The other major continued drain on taxpayers’ wallets is the mostly empty Abbotsford Centre which is of almost no use whatever to the citizens of Abbotsford who will have paid almost $500,000,000 for the white elephant by the time all is said and done. Another Chamber of Commerce-supported-initiative.
- (I would mention the $300,00,000 new water system we didn’t need but that might be seen as piling on)
- Abbotsford’s residential taxpayers paid the lion’s share for the construction of two new overpasses over Highway 1 – a federal responsibility – so that businesses in Abbotsford’s old downtown could benefit from an increase in traffic. Whether or not the overpasses caused an increase in traffic to downtown Abbotsford has never been substantiated but residential taxpayers have certainly paid for the improvements.
What Growth? What Jobs?
If business and industry “grow our economy and create jobs,” as Welte contends, what on earth has Abbotsford’s business community been doing for the last decade other than spending other people’s money on schemes which have almost bankrupted their fellow citizens in order to protect and promote existing business interests? None of those massive expenditures have grown our economy or created jobs.
- We have the worst record of unemployment in Western Canada
- The quality of the jobs in Abbotsford consists mainly of warehouse, service sector, minimum wage and part time employment
- Anybody hoping to sustain a mortgage has to either own a business, work for the government or commute somewhere else to make enough money
- Our population growth has stalled
- Business investment has stalled
- The only serious business investment we have enjoyed in the last decade has been as a result of tax breaks and taxpayer cash given away to businesses at the expense of residential property owners
The Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce, which represents only 800 of the roughly 6,000 businesses in Abbotsford,and its president would be well advised to keep a lower profile when it comes to complaining about the taxes they pay lest everyone start asking what role the Chamber has played in creating the enormous financial mess the new council is trying to clean up.
The less the Chamber says about taxes and public policy in Abbotsford … the better. And the less anyone at City Hall listens to them … the safer Abbotsford taxpayers’ hard earned money will be.