Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker said the federal government is unfairly targetting municipal politicians to pay more income tax.
Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MP Dan Ruimy had sympathetic comments, despite Becker’s criticism of the Liberal government.
Municipal politicians have been able to claim one-third of their salary as tax exempt, but that will come to an end with the government’s tax reforms.
Becker told his council colleagues the issue has been “kicked around” by Metro’s mayors.
“The federal Liberal government, as part of its desire for revenue, has among other things, decided to terminate the one-third tax exempt portion of local government salaries,” he said, calling it “cynical and disappointing.”
Becker said the rationale for the tax break is council members incur costs attending fundraisers, travelling, buying raffle tickets and providing sponsorships. It has been tax policy since 1947.
“It’s going to be low-hanging fruit – to pick on local government politicians, because nobody likes politicians.”
Becker said he awaits a staff report, and hopes to bring forward a motion to increase council compensation to cover the new taxes.
“This is just a tax grab,” agreed Coun. Janis Elkerton, saying the amounts involved are “peanuts.”
Pitt Meadows politicians make among the lowest salaries in Metro, with the mayor getting $71,000 and councillors $27,000 per year.
“This is ridiculous, especially for small municipalities,” said Elkerton.
Coun. David Murray said he knows of about eight other councils already looking at this issue. Edmonton city council recently increased salaries to cover the loss of the tax break.
Ruimy said he has already had conversations with Becker, and brought his concerns to the attention of the finance minister.
“I’m empathetic – I know how hard councillors work,” said Ruimy.
But Ruimy said the public expects a lot of their local councillors, who host town hall meetings and regularly engage the public. He said he attended Becker’s safety and security web events, hosted on Saturdays.
“They were extremely well done, and he put heart and soul into those things,” said Ruimy. “And that’s what the public wants them [politicians] to do.”
He said of councils in smaller cities, where earnings are lower, the tax breaks will be more important to council members.
The federal government plans for its tax changes to take effect no later than Jan. 1, 2019.