August 31, 2016

The human cost of endless tax hikes

Paige MacPhersonAlberta CTF Director

(This op-ed was published in the August editions of "Business in Calgary" and "Business in Edmonton" magazine.)

It’s no secret that small business owners across Alberta have been hit hard this year. Rising property taxes are one of the factors at play, with many business owners facing property tax hikes in the double digits – some even in the triple digits. The 2016 business property tax rose 3.8 per cent on top of increased assessments.

Business owners across Alberta are grappling with an increasing minimum wage and increasing Canada Pension Plan payroll taxes. Restaurants are dealing with increased liquor taxes. Everyone is facing declining sales, as unemployment is spiking.

Darren Hamelin was the owner of Escoba Bistro in downtown Calgary, a wine bar that had been open for 20 years. Last spring, Darren’s property taxes were hiked by 97 per cent. Between declining sales and a bike lane slapped in front of his storefront that severely limited parking, the property tax hike was a hit.

Hamelin wasn’t going to let his small business be swallowed by tax hikes without a fight. He hung a giant “For Sale $4.7 million” sign on the front of his restaurant, based on the city’s assessed value.

Hamelin spent $14,000 fighting the increase. The city was demanding $67,000. He ended up paying $34,000.

He won. Hamelin could stop wasting time fighting the city and get back to focusing on his business.

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there.

This year, the city was demanding $55,000 in property taxes. It came at an even worse time than last year. A slumping Canadian dollar, a worsening downturn, a barrage of other taxes coming his way … and now this.

The property tax hike was the last straw.

On June 1st, he told his staff that he would be closing the doors to Escoba Bistro for good. After 20 years in Calgary. His 25 employees are now out of work.

The incoming provincial carbon tax will make matters worse, increasing the cost of inputs, heating, electricity, and driving up property taxes further. Despite a one per cent cut to the small business tax, the Restaurants Association of Canada says a carbon tax is the absolute last thing Alberta restaurants need right now.

The owners of Calgary-based Atlantic Trap and Gill faced a 37 per cent property tax increase this year, which they fear will force them to close their doors.

Co-owner Tracy Johnson penned an open letter to her MLA:

“Our business has been here for 18 years through hard work and perseverance. If there is no way to decrease this increase in taxes we will be closing our doors. I do not understand your government, as you will now be collecting $0 per year in taxes. And you will be throwing 28 people into the unemployment line.”

Nobody wakes up in the morning thrilled to pay taxes. But no one is calling on Mayor Nenshi to cut property taxes or Premier Notley to halt her carbon tax just for the sake of it. It’s because endless tax hikes have a human cost. In Alberta, we are witnessing that cost firsthand. Governments would be wise to open their eyes.

(Paige MacPherson is Alberta Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.)

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commented 2016-09-05 10:33:01 -0400
It is only a contraction brought about by the NDP and Liberals.But don’t worry Canada is back.I think he meant going backwards.
In Ontario we already pay a carbon tax on our hydro.This tax is open ended.I hope all you clowns that voted for this joke of a government are happy.
Time for a 1 or 2 or more Canada wide rally.Just stay home and buy nothing.Or shop in the USA.
commented 2016-09-01 18:01:34 -0400
Google proves things to you, Cameron? Good Lord.
commented 2016-09-01 18:00:11 -0400
Leftist policy makers are always stuck on stupid. Raise taxes and fees in the middle of an economic contraction? Great idea, Sherlock. If you are going to do such things, it is better in times when it will do much less damage, such as a good economy and robust oil price.
commented 2016-09-01 14:54:52 -0400
@dan Mancuso
The same reason why a crack head needs more crack, and I’m fairly certain we can all see where that leads.
commented 2016-09-01 14:34:17 -0400
Can someone please explain to me why – today – the ‘government’ thinks it has a right to collect tax on EVERY transaction!?
Three or four years ago I contacted some government archives in Ottawa requesting a list of all the things the ‘government’ collected tax on, since Confederation, broken down by ten year segments…over a year later I got a phone call from said archives that the information wasn’t available to me…
The following Government of Canada publication is undated and doesn’t include anything about the carbon-tax-scam:
“Overview of charging and collecting sales tax”
commented 2016-09-01 08:27:22 -0400
I’m moving to Ontario. With the increases in tax, carbon tax, car insurance, home insurance, home purchase costs and taxes going through the roof, constantly increasing electricity, and a whole slue of increased taxes promised by Wynne (the loser), what am I thinking?

My fiancée refuses to move back to racist Quebec. Damn!
commented 2016-09-01 03:12:34 -0400
Cameron tax freedom day was june 29 in 2000 under the libs, it was june 10 during Harpers last year.
commented 2016-09-01 03:10:49 -0400
Cameron they never say it does not need to be increased moron, the amount the left demands is too much. And you can use Google to get any view or answer. There is no internet fact checker.
commented 2016-09-01 03:09:09 -0400
Cameron that is more BS you pulled out of your ass.You sound more and more like Gordo every time.
He makes up stuff the same way. And sorry raising the minimum wage will just mean those people move into a taxable bracket halfwit.
commented 2016-09-01 02:19:57 -0400
It all ends in Communism, we will be sold to China, and shiny pony will ride off into the sunset in his Mercedes Benz 300SL. His only regret? Not being able to kick us around anymore.
commented 2016-08-31 21:39:16 -0400
During Ralph Kline time corporations paid 13.5% and small business paid 30% more in taxes than they currently do now. Land tax aside, that’s not provincial that’s rural and city. As for min wages the conservatives have been saying increasing it hurts economics for 60years like quit beating a dead horse. We all know by using google that is does not. It actually increases local spending in proportion of the increase. While also saving the government money for subsidies for welfare. But taking people off of welfare would never be in the conservatives agenda at all… And saving tax money… Sigh Ezra needs to give his head a shake.
commented 2016-08-31 19:56:11 -0400
Quote from this article " It’s no secret that small business owners across Alberta have been hit hard this year. Rising property taxes are one of the factors at play, with many business owners facing property tax hikes about 3.8 %" I WOULD LOVE TO HAVE PROPERTY TAXES GOING UP ONLY BY 3.8 %. HOW ABOUT 33 % !!!
commented 2016-08-31 18:33:15 -0400
I don’t know what it would take to get these pigs to stop raising taxes. The only way I see anything happening with it is if every working person in the Provence quite their jobs, gave up all their possessions, and squated on the steps of parliament until the economy implodes. That would send a message.
commented 2016-08-31 18:04:53 -0400
It will only get worse – voters get the government they deserve
commented 2016-08-31 18:00:36 -0400
Mental RAGE here !!!
It’s unbelievable what they’re doing to Calgary and rural Albertans
commented 2016-08-31 17:07:48 -0400
use the underground economy every chance you get. Only a matter of time till moonshining is back. The gov is setting up a perfect situation for shiners, it will be cheaper than the gov booze, they are creating the problem for themselves. They will get nothing soon IDIOTS
commented 2016-08-31 16:15:48 -0400
How progressive – Alberta is doing its best to have a capitalist-free oligarchy of elites, government union bosses and a vast poverty-stricken former working class.
commented 2016-08-31 15:40:53 -0400
Goobermint taxes = the new inflation

Stop spending folks – this is how to fuck these marxist pigs – trudeau, notley and wynne included