Why Can't Minister Larivee Answer A Simple Yes / No Question About City Taxes?
This morning, the Calgary Chamber hosted a breakfast with the Hon Danielle Larivee, Minister of Municipal Affairs, to discuss the new Modernized Municipal Government Act, City Charters, and Municipal Taxes.
After the breakfast, she hosted a press conference where journalist Rick Bell repeatedly asked her whether the NDP government plans to allow cities to bring in new types of taxes.
Listen to the exchange here, which really speaks for itself, or read a transcript below:
Rick Bell: Um, I just want to ask, as you said, it's a question everyone wants to know - city taxing powers. So, from what you said, what did you mean by there are no discussions about, there's not going to be any discussions about city taxing powers? Our assumption was there had been discussions about city taxing powers before.
Danielle Larivee: So we continue to talk with the municipalities, but really, uh uh, what comes out of these, the first couple of stages, the kind of, uh, [inaudible] we're engaging about with Edmonton and Calgary to talk about where we're going with the City Charters right now will define if there's any need to, to, have that kind of conversation. I mean this has always been about addressing the unique capacities and challenges of municipalities so we will continue to work with the municipalities to figure out where they need to go to be more sustainable, but no we have not had any clear conversations on on what needs to happen, on what needs to come out of this, because we don't know what Albertans are going to expect from the rest of the City Charter process, we'll define that conversation.
Rick Bell: Ok so as a supplementary - it sounds like the legislature - as a supplementary, um, are city taxing powers absolutely, categorically off the table for discussion, are they off the table, or are they on - are they possibly on the table?
Danielle Larivee: Again, the first few stages will really define whether or not there's even a need to engage in that conversation, so, uh, we will continue to to listen in good partnership with the municipalities to what they want, but it's not something they've been asking for at this point in time.
Rick Bell: But, but, I'm saying, is the province like - is the provincial government position that cities should not be granted new taxing powers? Is that the province's position? Or...? Or...?
Danielle Larivee: Again, it will be defined by the conversations that will happen with municipalities in terms of what their unique, ah, challenges and capacities are that come out of the conversations that are happening.
Rick Bell: Ok, so if, if, municipalities - I'll ask you the if question maybe to clear it, if municipalities bring up the issue of city taxing powers, and in the past some municipal leaders have done so, are you willing to entertain that conversation?
Danielle Larivee: You know, I think right now it's very challenging times for Albertans and any decision we make has to be respectful of the taxpayers in this province, so we will continue to work in partnership with the municipalities, and again it's not been something they've put on the table.
[Audio cut here to remove other media questions about pipelines]
Rick Bell: Last question, last quick question...
Danielle Larivee's Press Secretary: Minister Larivee does have to go to the round table, so last question.
Rick Bell: Sorry to be a pain in the butt this early in the morning... When I asked this question of former Premier Redford and when I asked this question of fomer Premier Prentice, both of them categorically - I wrote it down this morning - categorically said no. When I said are taxing powers, would you... are you willing to discuss... they said no, it's gone, it's finished, we're not talking about it, that is it, that's over. Why are you just unwilling to say no, we are not going to discuss it if they want to discuss it, if they don't want to discuss it, there's no way we're going to discuss it? Why don't you just say no?
Danielle Larivee: Well, we're doing the engagement process right now, we will be moving forward with that, announcing that this afternoon, to engage with the people of Edmonton and Calgary, to talk about what they want for their cities. This is a process that will be driven by Albertans, so I'm looking forward to hear, uh, what they want to have for the cities, and that will be the basis for which we make those decisions going forward.
Rick Bell: Thank you.
Danielle Larivee's Press Secretary: Thank you so much everyone.
Rick Bell: Thanks.