Westward Independent

LtE: CVRD Taxes and Burdens

by WWIND Team
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Dear WWIND,
Cowichan Valley residents came out en masse, in the middle of a cold, windy, wet afternoon, to make it known that they are at their limits, many even beyond them. Constituents are struggling in ways that I think were not fully grasped nor being taken seriously until a petition of over 3000 signatures was generated in a very short time and presented to the Regional Directors, following multiple speeches of hardships and strong opposition to this year’s tax increase of 19.33%. The back drop of the CVRD’s board meeting was a side walk filled with umbrellas and soggy cardboard signs expressing statements such as: “16 YEAR OLD REFERENDUM IS 2024 RESIDENTS FINANCIAL BURDEN!”, “FAMILIES TAXED TO THE MAX”, “CVRD PARKS CAN’T FEED/HOUSE FAMILIES” & “TAXED ENOUGH ALREADY!”.

I personally attended the protest, however, was unable to get into the building. Instead, I spent time on the sidewalk with fellow friends and neighbours. We watched the media interview protesters, expressing that we were witnessing a “TAX REVOLT ‘’, and in many ways I think they are correct. While listening to the board meeting online, I was moved by many of the speakers and the delegation, whom took time out of their work day to be present and voice their concerns, which turned out to be the concerns of many.

I have thought a lot since the meeting, thinking of how we can move forward as a “WE” and not a “THEY vs. THEM”. There is so much disconnection and festering emotions, and sometimes I think we forget that we are all living in this valley together, and yet not all living the same realities. For some it seems the worry and fear is in the distant future of “potentials” and “fear mongering projections”, while others are worried and fearful of what they are CURRENTLY living through and grasping at straws to try and keep their homes and feed their families. I’m grateful every day to not be living in either of these camps at any extreme, however my family and I do have to watch our dollars and cents with the hopes that we can make it through this very challenging time, and still have a place to call home once inflation and taxation settles down.

In our home, we are also avid nature lovers, appreciate green spaces, and feel a sense of pride that we live in such a beautiful part of the country. I’m curious if maybe the reason we are at such a heated tipping point, is not necessarily because residents “oppose” or “disagree” with the Park Land Acquisition Fund and other mandated forms of extracting money from us… but if its more in how the system works. Times are tough, this is a fact, its also a fact that when times are tough, people have less tolerance and are more willing to stand up and push back. I think what the main issue might be, is that people have had it with being told they “will pay for this, no exceptions”. Where is the choice? Where is the understanding that not everyone’s priorities are the same? Where is the reasoning that families and seniors being able to keep their homes is less of a priority then being able to acquire green spaces?

I wonder if municipalities and regional districts, instead of mandating payments through taxes and the like, what if they gave the opportunity for those in the community that would and could prioritize larger “donations” to the Park Land Acquisition Fund, to do that, while not putting that huge and sometimes life altering burden, on those in our communities that simply CANNOT take on any more strain, or quite simply do not agree that this is of top priority?

If the Rob Douglas’, Christopher Justice’s, Alison Nicholson’s and David Slade’s of the valley feel so strongly about funding the PLAF, no one should stop them from forgoing bottles of wine or cups of coffee, and putting whatever amount they feel comfortable with personally donating to the fund, equally though, the families of the CVRD whom are reaching out to neighbours for extra canned goods, or dropping their children out of sports teams just to pay their essential bills, should not be forced into funding the PLAF.

I would suggest the board lower the PLAF to somewhere between $200,000-$500,000 and allow the opportunity for individuals to add extra to their property taxes should they CHOOSE to. What seems to be lacking in our lives is choice. We are told we must pay for this even if we do not use or do not want it. Bring choice back to the people, and I believe people will be happier and better off for it. The Park Land Acquisition Fund is only one of many areas where I think choice could be, and should be, brought back to the people. Imagine a little check box, where property owners could mark “yes” to $20, $50, $100’s extra on their property tax bill, knowing full well that in that moment they can afford it and not have to break the bank to do so. Thank you for considering my words and thoughts, I’m not an elected official, I don’t know how things run at a board table, but I am a mother of two and a property owner. I strive to feed my family healthy nutritious foods, local when possible, and I forgo the idea of little luxuries, outings, and adventures all the time, to make sure that I am not sacrificing the basics that I feel are essential for raising strong, healthy and vibrant daughters. In better years, I may even be one of the CVRD residents who would CHOOSE to donate extra to the PLAF, but for now it is not in my family’s best interest, nor is it of top priority, and I will not be shamed, guilted or fear mongered into what some other person’s priorities are.

Savanah Wright. Duncan, Area B

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