Green taxes on local government agenda

Municipal leaders are gathering for their annual convention in Vancouver at the end of September, and they'll be calling for changes to green taxes imposed by the B.C. government.

Municipal leaders are gathering for their annual convention in Vancouver at the end of September, and they’ll be calling for changes to green taxes imposed by the B.C. government.

The Union of B.C. Municipalities executive has given high priority to a resolution from Smithers calling for changes to the province’s carbon offset program. Municipalities and regional districts, along with school districts and health authorities, are required to buy greenhouse gas emission credits to make their operations “carbon neutral,” with proceeds going to cleanup projects such as natural gas and cement plants.

Smithers council is calling for carbon offset payments to be retained by each local government, to use for their own building retrofits, fuel-efficient vehicles or other emissions reduction strategies. Environment Minister Terry Lake has indicated he is considering such a change, after complaints that the carbon offset program is costing cash-strapped schools and hospitals millions every year.

The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District is calling for a portion of carbon tax on fossil fuels to be directed to transit funding. That mirrors a proposal considered by Premier Christy Clark, who will be making her first keynote speech at the UBCM convention on Sept. 30.

Resolutions from the Cariboo Regional District and the City of Colwood call for the province to reverse its ban on incandescent light bulbs, citing concern about the disposal of compact fluorescent lights.

Fort St. John council has a resolution calling for five per cent of B.C.’s liquor store revenues to go to local drug and alcohol awareness and prevention programs for youth and adults. The UBCM passed a similar resolution in 2004, calling for a share of provincial liquor revenues to support homeless shelters and detox facilities.

The District of Metchosin is seeking federal and provincial help to control its population of Canada geese, which has ballooned to between 3,000 and 5,000 with considerable losses to crops. The resolution says geese were introduced to southern Vancouver Island in the 1950s “to provide stock for hunting purposes.”

UBCM delegates will also vote on a resolution to allow local governments to offer online voting. The City of Vancouver has a pilot program in the works for advance polls in local elections, which take place across the province this November.

Another hot topic at the convention will be Clark’s promise to create a new municipal auditor-general. Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Ida Chong says the auditor will do “performance audits,” such as looking at projects cost-shared by the B.C. and federal governments to see which communities used them more efficiently.

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