Resident boils over new tax

Protest: Proposed parcel tax, cost of collaboration or bureaucracy?

A Blind Bay resident is taking some heat for protesting new taxation for lake protection.

The issue came to light when Sunnybrae resident Opal Hendrickson was angered that Darryl Chipman had posted an alternate approval form on some people’s Facebook pages (including hers) to make it easy to register opposition to funding the Shuswap Watershed Council through a proposed parcel tax.

If 10 per cent or more of the eligible electors sign and submit response forms noting their opposition, local governments cannot proceed with the proposed matter without first holding a vote.

“I’m just shocked; he doesn’t want it to be on our tax levy,” said Hendrickson, expressing concern about the protection of drinking water, tourism and possible threats such as quagga mussels.

“He would rather force the CSRD (Columbia Shuswap Regional District) to go to referendum, costing the taxpayer thousands of dollars to authorize a water board that the majority of residents feel is important to maintain the health of the lake.”

But Chipman, who was a member of the initial working group when the Shuswap Lake Integrated Planning Process (SLIPP) was in the early stages, is very clear that he is in total support of protecting the lake, he just thinks it should be done without adding a parcel tax.

“I believe in stewardship and believe we must be good stewards – we all share in that responsibility and we need to work hard to enhance organizations to give them the tools they need to do the job,” he said.

“We were originally supposed to be a co-ordinator to bring other agencies together, but in nine short years the bill has ballooned to $180,000.”

That amount is the total contribution for taxpayers in electoral areas C South Shuswap, D Falkland/Salmon Valley/Ranchero, E Rural Sicamous, F North Shuswap and District of Sicamous.

Each property owner would pay about $11 per year, but Chipman is concerned that amount could escalate in the future.

While he supports water protection, Chipman is opposed to contributing more taxes for boating safety education, something he says is covered by Transport Canada.

“Those are the types of things I am opposed to, taking on roles that are coloured to make them look like something new,” he says. “I am not against paying taxes for services received, but I think that it should be within the mandate of the organization that has been given that role.”

Chipman says he posted the alternate approval forms because he didn’t think area residents know enough about the proposed tax.

“There should be a very thorough discussion on everything that comes along, or are we just gonna get onboard,” he says, admitting he does not attend meetings. “I have put the form on some Facebook pages so people can make their own decisions. I  am not going to try to sway people.”

Chipman says he has had both positive and negative reaction to his actions.

Regional district chief administrative officer Charles Hamilton says Chipman raises some valid points and notes he had told the board it was one of the criticisms that existed in the community.

“We had a multitude of agencies with responsibility over the lake, water, water quality, drinking water safety, but no one jurisdiction that had exclusive responsibility,” he said, pointing out the concept of SLIPP, and now the council, is to establish some sort of permanency, to have one organization to encompass all the various agencies so they can work collaboratively and co-operatively on water issues.

“The board has supported this and now it’s up to the taxpayers to decide if they want to pay for it,” Hamilton says.

“The over-arching issue is we all have a vested interest in the water and regardless of who’s responsible, there is an obligation on governments collectively to make sure some mechanism is in place to protect the safety of our water.”

Area C director and chair of the Shuswap Watershed Council Paul Demenok takes issue with the notion that the council adds another level of bureaucracy.

“I would consider the watershed council to be anti-bureaucratic,” he says. “What it does is co-ordinates the activities of 17 government agencies, all of whom have a small individual responsibility for the lake.

“Without a co-ordinating body, there would be little opportunity for progress, collaboration, information sharing, cost savings and real results.”

 

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