Mayoral visit to Victoria to discuss Celgar taxes
Photo: Castlegar mayor Lawrence Chernoff
Castlegar mayor Lawrence Chernoff and city manager John Malcolm returned yesterday from a trip to Victoria to meet with provincial authorities regarding the current taxation conflict between the city and its single largest taxpayer, Celgar.
Malcolm said the city scheduled the day of meetings to be sure no stone was left unturned in the search for a timely solution to the matter.
“We met with Minister of Community and Rural Development Bill Bennett and five of his senior staff members, as well as Forestry Minister Pat Bell and senior members of his staff,” Malcolm said. “The province is aware of the issue, and it was encouraging to see the ministers took the time, on Budget Day, to meet with the mayor.”
Chernoff, however, seemed somewhat less enthusiastic about the outcome of the meetings.
“The term I’d use would be ‘interesting’. I guess my expectations were that the government would take a leading role in the task force on major industry taxation, and that doesn’t appear to be what’s happening,” he said, explaining Bennett intends to further the issue through the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM).
“We really think it’s a provincial issue, and I think there needs to be a defined timeline so it’s dealt with in a reasonably expedient manner. I think the issue is urgent – what we’re going through today, I sure don’t want to go through again next year.
“This isn’t going to go away.”
He said it’s really the provincial government that introduced the current plan and taxation structure, so it’s up to the province to help design a more balanced approach, for both municipalities and major industry taxpayers, as we head into the future.
“What I’m really looking for is a partnership, and a solution that goes beyond the specific Celgar issue and addresses the major industry taxation problem province-wide,” Chernoff said, adding the UBCM process is a time-intensive one, that may not produce the complex results he feels the issue warrants. “I know they (the provincial government) have got so much on their plate with the deficit to deal with, but if we don’t deal with (major industry taxation issues) today, it’s going to get worse.”
Finally, he did say the forestry minister agreed to look at ways to assist specifically in the Celgar issue, such as reviewing stumpage rates.
City council is scheduled to meet next on Sept. 8 at the Community Forum beside City Hall.