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Grants in Lieu of Property Taxes: Questions to Provincial Leadership Candidates

On March 13 I sent the following letter to the candidates in the ongoing PC and NDP leadership races. I asked them to ask them to answer two questions on their positions on grants in lieu of property taxes, outlined below. I will post their responses over the next few days on my social media platforms, with the first one tomorrow.

Aside from water fees, every property owned by the provincial government is exempt from city taxes, despite contributing heavily to use of city services like roads, garbage collection, and public transit. As the capital city, St. John’s hosts a big proportion of our most important provincial facilities, but the province has chosen to pass the disproportionate tax burden of the associated services directly onto city taxpayers. To read more, check out a letter I wrote to the Independent on the topic last year.

Dear [candidate]:

Thank you for putting your name forward as a potential leader of one of the Province’s major political parties. I appreciate the hard work and sacrifice that entails. At this critical moment in our province’s history, we need all the leadership we can get.

I’m not currently a member of any political party. I won’t be endorsing or voting for any candidates in this year’s PC or NDP leadership races. But I do see this year’s races as an opportunity to promote a substantial and respectful conversation about one important issue confronting St. John’s and other Newfoundland and Labrador municipalities.

Like other Canadian governments, the Province is exempt from property taxes. But unlike almost every other Canadian government, the Province doesn’t pay grants in lieu of taxes to help fund the municipal services it uses. This hurts St. John’s as the capital city particularly hard, but it also hurts many other municipalities in the Province.

In that light, I’d like to ask you two questions:

1. In principle, should the Province pay grants in lieu of taxes to municipalities?
If so, how can the Province move to implement grants?

2. If the current financial situation is too difficult to introduce grants immediately, how would you implement grants over time? For example, would you pass legislation to phase in grants over ten years?

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