Vancouver council weighs in on giving tax break to business property owners

NPA Coun. Hardwick: ‘It literally feels like you’re having to cut a baby in two to try and solve a problem.’

Vancouver city council voted 6-5 Monday to give business property owners a tax break of two per cent over the next three years and shift the financial burden to homeowners.

The vote split the five NPA councillors and disappointed Mayor Kennedy Stewart, who voted against the shift with councillors Colleen Hardwick, Christine Boyle, Jean Swanson and Melissa De Genova.

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In favour of the shift were councillors Lisa Dominato, Sarah Kirby-Yung, Rebecca Bligh, Michael Wiebe, Adriane Carr and Pete Fry.

A link to the story is here.

The following are quotes from Stewart and the city councillors.

Those who voted against the tax shift…

Mayor Kennedy Stewart: “We’ve worked so hard to make housing more affordable, but yet this motion kind of signals the opposite. I don’t think the vast majority of people, when they read about this, are going to be very happy.”

NPA Coun. Colleen Hardwick. Photo Dan Toulgoet

NPA Coun. Colleen Hardwick: “This is one of the ones that’s worthy of the wisdom of Solomon. It literally feels like you’re having to cut a baby in two to try and solve a problem.”

COPE Coun. Jean Swanson: “When I crunch the numbers, it really doesn’t make sense to me. For example, the person who cuts my hair would save about $45 a month, the price of one haircut. I don’t think that’s enough to make or break a business. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart, which is owned by four of the 10 richest people in the world—the last time I checked—is going to get thousands of dollars from this.”

OneCity Coun. Christine Boyle: “I don’t think this is going to get us where we wanted to get us in terms of protecting and saving the small businesses that mean so much to each of us in our neighbourhoods. If it’s just about sending a signal [by approving the tax shift] to our small businesses, it feels like a very expensive signal to be sending.”

NPA Coun. Melissa De Genova: “For families and people in poverty, even an extra $12 to $20 a month can mean the difference between nutritious food, swimming lessons for kids and a field trip or a babysitter.”

Those who voted for the tax shift…

NPA Coun. Lisa Dominato: “The small businesses are really fundamental to the character of our community, to our city, and when I talked to homeowners about [a tax shift], it was welcomed—they understand that it might be $40 or $80 more on their property tax. I didn’t feel there was a divide of homeowners versus businesses. It was very much that we value our small businesses, we value having jobs in our community so people can work here and live here.”

NPA Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung: “I don’t want to live in the kind of Vancouver where we don’t actually support character and the viability of our neighbourhoods.”

NPA Coun. Rebecca Bligh: “I don’t always take my five minutes [to speak during debate]—I rarely do—but you can see how impassioned I am with this. Because I think it’s so, so important. I, at 21, needed a job, had a baby, a small business hired me, it got me here, end of story.”

Green councillors Adriane Carr, Pete Fry and Michael Wiebe. Photo Dan Toulgoet

Green Party Coun. Michael Wiebe: “We have a lot of small businesses really in a dire time right now in Vancouver. We have areas of the city that are really emptying out.”

Green Party Adriane Carr: “I particularly think that we need to be inventive and creative in terms of the ways in which we approach support for the small, independent locally-owned businesses.”

Green Party Coun. Pete Fry: “I’m very sympathetic to the small business situation and I do think we need to signal that we are taking this seriously.”






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