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Cowichan Valley Regional District residents say lowered tax proposal is ‘still not good enough’

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On Wednesday, a Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD), B.C. budget meeting faced a citizen-led tax revolt opposing the District’s proposal to increase property taxes by a whopping 19.33%.

Despite the pouring rain, close to 200 people participated in the rally, holding signs outside the CVRD offices to raise awareness, while others spoke more formally about the issue indoors during the in-camera meeting.

“You cannot keep raising taxes to feed your spending habits, which are totally out of control,” said the founder of the nonprofit Land Keepers Society which helped organize the grassroots pushback, when it was his turn to address the board.

McLeod, a dairy farmland owner who has lived in the region for 45 years, said the CVRD staff and directors should be ashamed “to pass a motion raising taxes on CVRD residents by almost 20%.”

Instead, McLeod says they should focus on reducing what he perceives as their own excessive spending on things like buying parkland when “within 15 minutes wherever you live, you are in a park-like setting,” and “building million-dollar trails.”

“Go back to operating government, instead of buying more private sector operations to acquire more control and rise and raise taxes,” he added.

Jackie Broughton, a young resident who started a petition to halt the high tax plan, also took the mic during the meeting.

“Truly what I cannot respect is the way in which some individuals seem to have forgotten the plight of their constituents,” Broughton stated after sympathizing with the chair directors’ position to have to make impactful decisions.

“Many residents of the CVRD are suffering financially in ways that I’m not sure are fully realized by those who are making our decisions,” stated Broughton, adding that some community members are also “in danger of losing their homes” or having to “leave the Cowichan Valley” area due to the “rapidly increasing cost of living.”

Broughton described how her own family is also feeling a financial strain trying to keep up with their monthly obligations.

“If you approve a 19% increase today, you are causing undue stress for the CVRD residents. If you leave today with an increase of 15%, you are still putting incredible pressure on your constituents.”

After more pleas from the people were heard, the CVRD did backpedal on their 19.33% proposal, but not as much as those protesting the hike think is fair.

In line with some of what McLeod and others had spoken to, the board dropped the $2.5 million regional parks acquisition fund top-up portion of the proposal to $958,000, bringing the newest projected property tax hike down to 16.3%.

“It’s still excessive,” McLeod said in a statement to Rebel News. “They should be getting down to a 6 or 8 percent tax increase maximum.”

“A 16.3 percent increase is outrageous,” added Jack. Others who attended the protest also agreed with Jack’s sentiment.

In a statement to Rebel News, Jane Forsyth, who moved to Cowichan Valley from the country’s capital just over two years ago, says the 16.3% proposal “is not a fair compromise.”

With hopes of serving her community flowers, eggs, and produce from a standoff her small hobby farm, Forsyth says she’s taking note of many of the ways local government is becoming “increasingly intrusive on our property rights – water rights and the taking of farmland.”

“The tax hike is just another attempt to make our lives difficult with the excuse of ‘climate change,'” Forsyth added.

Joyce Benson, a 5th generation Cowichan who formerly served on the North Cowichan council, also feels as though the district’s tax hike proposals are reflective of a larger problem with the overreach of various governments.

“Local governments’ main responsibility is water, sewer, roads, garbage, and over the years they’ve added in recreation and facilities, but it is not deciding where all of our parks and lands should be,” Benson tells Rebel News.

“They have no real credibility in my mind or in many other people’s minds, to decide what lands should be purchased for the future,” she added.

Benson tells Rebel News that she doesn’t believe that it’s the local government’s job to be responsible for pursuing land acquisition and climate for the future.

“We are being charged a carbon tax in North Cowichan for 10 years at 5%. We pay carbon tax at the municipal level, the provincial level, and the federal level. We are being overtaxed to death, and there’s no accountability. Governments do not know what’s best for us. We do,” Benson concluded.

Last year, the CVRD’s tax increased by 11.49%, which is still a higher amount than other Vancouver Island communities such as Victoria, which lowered their property tax to 6% last year, and Campbell River’s 3.45%.

The CVRD board is expected to vote on the new budget and make their decision on the tax on March 13th.



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