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Tax cases 'undermine partnership' with province: James

NDP leader Carole James waded into B.C.’s milltown tax mutiny on Thursday, and urged the province to engage in discussions with Catalyst Paper and other companies that are withholding millions of dollars of property taxes from small cities including Campbell River, Castlegar, Kitimat, North Cowichan, Port Alberni and Powell River.

“The dispute between industrial rate payers and local governments should never have been allowed to go to court. It’s undermined the partnership that should exist between you and the province,” James told a crowd of local government officials at this week’s policy convention of the Union of British Columbia municipalities.

“Can you imagine if you called up Victoria and said, ‘Hey, I didn’t use Highway 1 this year. Would you please take highway maintenance off my tax bill,’” the opposition leader continued. “Or, ‘My kids graduated last year. So don’t bill me for education.’”

The NDP leader elaborated her position in comments made after her UBCM address.

“Let’s remember: Paying your taxes is the law. And everybody should follow the law,” James said.

“Do I believe that the government needs to sit down with municipalities and industry to talk about how we address these kinds of challenges during these difficult economic times? Yes, I do,” James continued. “I’ve had mayors and councils who’ve made suggestions around things like low-interest loans during difficult economic times, to help companies get through these times. But first you have to be willing to come to the table.”

Premier Gordon Campbell is scheduled to speak to the municipal convention on Friday.

Monte Paulsen reports for The Tyee.

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