The 20 October 2018 Municipal Elections featured two Referendum questions placed on the ballot by the Cowichan Valley Regional District. The two questions asked voters whether they approved CVRD Bylaw 4201 and Bylaw 4202.
Both these Bylaws passed in the Referendum. DuncanTaxpayers.ca was opposed to both both Bylaw 4201 and 4202.
But now that both Bylaw 4201 and 4202 have passed by referendum, we think it is important to monitor developments on both continually. Both Bylaw 4201 and 4202 authorized new CVRD taxes and we believe the use of these taxpayers funds needs to watched very closely.
“CVRD Bylaw No. 4201 – Cowichan Housing Association Annual Financial Contribution Service Establishment Bylaw, 2018″, will allow the CVRD to annually requisition up to the greater of $765,000 or an amount equal to the amount that could be raised by a property value tax of $0.04584 per $1,000 of net taxable value of land and improvements within the service area to assist the Cowichan Housing Association with costs associated with providing programs and services related to affordable housing and homelessness prevention in the Cowichan Valley.”
Note that amount raised from taxpayers “to assist the Cowichan Housing Association with costs associated with providing programs and services related to affordable housing and homelessness prevention in the Cowichan Valley” can be “up to the greater of $765,000 or an amount equal to the amount that could be raised by a property value tax of $0.04584 per $1,000 of net taxable value of land and improvements…”
Note also that the “programs and services related to affordable housing and homelessness prevention in the Cowichan Valley” are not defined in the Bylaw. This is one of the primary reasons we voted No on this referendum question. We did not deem it prudent to vote Yes without specific details of the program being provided to voters beforehand.
“CVRD Bylaw No. 4202 – Drinking Water and Watershed Protection Service Establishment Bylaw, 2018“, will allow the CVRD to annually requisition up to the greater of $750,000 or an amount equal to the amount that could be raised by a property value tax of $0.045050 per $1,000 of net taxable value of land and improvements within the service area to establish a service for the purpose of drinking water and watershed protection within the Cowichan Valley Regional District.
Here is why I am against these two CVRD Referendum questions:
I don’t believe Bylaw 4201 will get a single unit of new housing built or get a single unit of new housing in existing structures.
The CVRD justifies this proposed tax, in part, by saying the Cowichan Housing Association will lobby senior levels of government for housing funds. But this can be accomplished for far less money.
One presenter at the CVRD Board meeting on this issue suggested that creating a CVRD staff position on housing issues could be created for far less money, approximately $125,00 as opposed to the $765,000 proposed in Bylaw No. 4201. That proposal made far more sense to me than what is being proposed in this CVRD Referendum question. A CVRD staff position would mean that the occupant of that position would be directly accountable to the CVRD Board, while the Cowichan Housing Association would be a non profit organization outside the CVRD administration.
Handling housing through a CVRD staff position would also mean that any funds collected by this proposed tax would remain on this CVRD books and under CVRD control. Turning these funds over the Cowichan Housing Association, as stated in the proposed Bylaw 4201, means the taxpayer funds collected are off the CVRD books and under the control of an non-profit organization outside the CVRD.
And lobbying the provincial government on housing could be accomplished by simply picking up a phone and calling our local M.L.A., Sonya Furstenau, who has the ear of government and who is very interested in housing issues. Lobbying the federal government could be done through our local M.P., Alistair MacGregor, who is also very interested in housing issues.
It would cost the CVRD nothing to pick up a phone to contact our local M.P. or M.L.A.
A common argument made in favour of Bylaw 4201 is that the CVRD needs to have a Housing Trust Fund similar to those maintained by other municipalities, such as the City of Victoria.
So I see no need for a new CVRD tax to raise $765,000 to simply give to the Cowichan Housing Association to create more studies and reports or to lobby the federal or provincial governments.
Apart from that, the CVRD is referring to this proposed new tax as a “financial contribution service.” Never trust any politician or bureaucrat who refers to proposed new taxes as a “financial contribution service.”
In short, this proposed new tax for housing will just produce more studies and reports; it will not produce any new housing. So I will be voting No on that Referendum question.
The water issue in proposed Bylaw No. 4202 is a bit different than the proposed housing Bylaw No. 4201. The CVRD currently has over 30 small water authorities running the water systems in small areas of the CVRD; Arbutus Ridge and Mill Bay are two examples among many.
A recent consultants’ report (the Innova Report) to the CVRD was quite scathing in its criticism of the current system of water governance in the CVRD.
Here is what the Innova Report had to say about current CVRD water governance:
The current CVRD utility governance model and subdivision approving authorities do not support the
goals and objectives of elected officials, staff, and, most importantly, the utility users. It has become
extremely difficult to effectively manage the expectations of utility users through the current disjointed
model that essentially provides authority and leadership through the Electoral Area Services Committee.
It is also a challenge to manage growth without jurisdiction. There are two recommendations for changes
to governance in the CVRD:
Establish a Utility Commission – There should be strong consideration given to the creation of a commission candidate profile supporting professional industry experts, not specific community advocates. This would support the long-term goals of amalgamating water and wastewater utilities and ensuring that all new utilities are acceptable to overarching plans and objectives…..”
So the CVRD understandably wants to centralize control of CVRD water systems and resources under a centralized CVRD water governance authority. That actually makes some sense.
But the CVRD is trying to sell this proposed new authority to the public on the idea of combating the effects of climate change and global warming, safeguarding drinking water and protecting the watershed.
The CVRD Referendum question on Bylaw 4202 also proposes to tax the City of Duncan and Municipality of North Cowichan residents for this new water authority as well as CVRD residents. Duncan and the Municipality of North Cowichan already have their own water systems in place and have had those systems in place for decades.
So my reaction to this CVRD Referendum question is, “Why should Duncan and Municipality of North Cowichan residents be taxed by the CVRD to fund a new CVRD water authority for CVRD areas?”
I will be voting No on both the CVRD Referendum questions.