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Vancouver's mayor stands by property tax hike during pandemic

Last Updated May 6, 2020 at 8:50 am PDT

FILE - Vancouver City Hall (Lasia Kretzel, NEWS 1130 Photo)

Vancouver's mayor continues to resist calls to cancel or reduce this year's property tax hikes

Stewart says cutting the seven per cent hike approved back in December

The mayor predicts that tax hikes would lead to major service cuts and job losses

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The mayor of Vancouver is dismissing calls to cancel or at least reduce property tax increases.

Kennedy Stewart says cutting the seven per cent hike approved back in December is not something the largest city in B.C. can afford to do. “More importantly, the centre of the economic recovery,” he says.

Stewart says Vancouver’s already losing $5-million a week, so cuts amounting to as much as $60-million would lead to massive job losses.

“And then, if we get into much deeper cuts, then we’re talking about police and fire response times starting to drop, so would a couple hundred bucks to a retailer make a big difference over a 12-month period? Probably not. Would it make a huge difference to our city finances, it absolutely will. We have to make sure we don’t cut off our nose to spite our face.”

Stewart says Vancouver’s already laid off 20 per cent if its workforce, while managers and other non-union employees had their pay cut 10 per cent.

“Staff will do their absolute best to deliver top-quality service, but it may be less frequently. The homeowners wouldn’t really notice a cut, but our city finances would certainly feel it. If people default on property taxes? Again, I don’t think it’s a fiscally responsible thing to do.”

Speaking at City Hall earlier this week, he adds Port Coquitlam’s recent move to eliminate this year’s property tax increase will only cost that much smaller city 300-thousand dollars, but completely cancelling Vancouver’s previously-approved hike is not fiscally responsible.

“If we reduced, for example, our residential property taxes from seven to zero, it would cost the city immediately 60-million dollars.”

He says even a minor cut could lead to major service reductions.

“A one per cent tax increase is about eight million dollars, and you spread that across, you’re actually talking less than pennies a day for homeowners. We already know we’re losing five million dollars a week, so that would mean layoffs. That would mean even deeper layoffs. And remember, our competitor cities, Toronto and Montreal, for example, are in a much better situation to secure funds from the federal government.”

Stewart also says other levels of government have yet to approve his request for a bail-out of as much as $200-million.