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Council rejects Midland's call for federal property tax relief

'I think it sounds great in principle but I think it’s totally unrealistic,' says Hehn of idea that feds waive property taxes for residential and commercial properties
council committee april 20
Orillia City Council committee met virtually this week. They opted not to support an idea from Midland calling for the feds to, essentially, cover municipal taxes in 2020.

The Town of Midland recently sent a letter to the federal government asking them to waive all property taxes for most homeowners and industrial and commercial enterprises.

They have asked local municipalities to support their plan - and add weight to their pitch - aimed at providing relief to people impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

City Coun. Ralph Cipolla tried to get his colleagues to support the initiative during a virtual council meeting this week, noting such a plan would not cost the city a cent.

Waiving taxes would “be most appropriate to help citizens of our community that need assistance,” said Cipolla. “We assist all other countries - and I believe we should - but I also think we need to help our own citizens locally.”

The majority of council did not agree.

“I think it sounds great in principle but I think it’s totally unrealistic,” said Coun. Pat Hehn, who questioned how landlords could be forced to pass along the relief to tenants.

She said she prefers the NDP’s idea to send a cheque for $2,000 to every citizen.

Coun. Mason Ainsworth said he was “quite shocked” to see the proposal on council’s agenda. He said he could not support the plan for “numerous reasons.”

“This is something that’s not going to happen,” said Ainsworth. “If they do it for Orillia and Midland, they have to do it for every municipality in Canada and it’s just not feasible.”

Coun. Ted Emond agreed, noting there’s only one taxpayer and adding the federal government is spending “hundreds of millions of dollars to assist people” during the pandemic.

He also had an issue with providing relief to all taxpayers, noting “many have not been touched at all” by this issue.

”Measures such as the one Midland talks about treats everyone equally. It's an extremely gross and unfair way to use limited dollars available now for which we are going to have to pay back in the future,” said Emond. 

He called the proposal a “no go. That won’t work,” he said, noting Simcoe County council also recently rejected support of Midland’s proposal.

Midland is asking the federal government to waive 100% of property taxes for houses assessed at below $500,000 or less, 50% for properties assessed below $1 million and 25% for properties assessed above $1 million. 

The town is also asking that the federal government waive 100% of the 2020 property taxes for all industrial, commercial, and farm properties currently assessed at or under $10,000,000, 50% for properties currently assessed between $10,000,000 and $50,000,000, and waive 25% for all such properties assessed above $50,000,000.

The proposal calls for the federal government, in lieu of the annual municipal property taxes, to transfer funds to municipalities across Canada as a one-time grant. That grant would fund the operations of the municipalities.

“It's a very, very simple concept, yet very far reaching in terms of leaving money in people's hands and taking stress off them," said Midland Mayor Stewart Strathearn. "Money can then circulate through the local economy, when and as people have needs."

"We put these numbers in there just conceptually," he said. "For houses with an assessed value of up to $500,000, that covers a lot of people. And they are presumably likely to be the most stressed in terms of income."

In a press release, Midland officials noted many residents were strapped prior to the pandemic.

“Canadians enter this time of crisis with a high amount of household debt, and many in our region are no different,” said Amanpreet Sidhu, chief administrative officer, Town of Midland. “This simple step we are proposing should alleviate some of this financial pressure and allow for residents and businesses to focus on more important matters during this time.”

--With files from Mehreen Shahid


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Dave Dawson

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Dave Dawson is community editor of
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