There's an old political philosophy, coined by the French court of King Louis XIV 350 years ago, that still rings true: "The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest amount of feathers with the least possible amount of hissing."
The TransLink mayors forgot that axiom last year when they spent millions trying to convince taxpayers to hand over a new sales tax to TransLink -- an agency widely reviled for its wasteful spending. The people hissed loudly in the plebiscite vote, voting down the mayors' plan in a landslide.
Fast forward 15 months to a public consultation process on other tax hikes for TransLink, and we can see the TransLink mayors only partly heard the hissing.
First, a little bit of credit. Last year's sales tax plan did not include a single dollar of efficiencies at TransLink. This new plan changes that, with $124 million in surplus property sold to help cover the upfront cost, and $16 million per year in TransLink efficiencies reallocated to the operating costs of the new service. It's very modest ($16 million is about 1 per cent of TransLink's annual spend), but it's a start.
Still, there is room for improvement from a taxpayer point of view.
Still, there is room for improvement from a taxpayer point of view. The proposed property tax increase of $3 for the average Lower Mainland home worth $678,313, comes on top of the baked-in annual property tax hikes (up to 3 per cent) handed over to TransLink.
Business property owners should also be aware that the tax hike will be much larger for them -- $45 more for the average business property.
As tax increases go, $3 a year would be pretty light, if it was the only property tax hike facing the people already struggling with the Lower Mainland's high cost of living. But it comes on top of the legislated hike for TransLink and the usual big increases for cities themselves.
A better solution for taxpayers would be for every city council in the region to announce that they will reduce their own property taxes by the same amount TransLink is raising theirs. Given the eye-popping increases we have seen at city halls, it is very doable for mayors to find the equivalent of $3 a year on savings in their own city halls and pass those savings on to taxpayers to cover the TransLink hike.
Such an effort would no doubt be appreciated by many of the taxpayers across the region, and would help restore some trust in the TransLink mayors, who were so soundly rejected in the sales tax vote.
The DCC plan also offers an opportunity for city politicians to show they sincerely care about affordability in their communities. Adding another tax to new housing will make new homes more expensive, so mayors should be scouring their cities' overly complicated development processes to find ways to cut costs, red tape and processing time for new homes. Vancouver, for example, already has 107 different taxes, fees and levies on new housing -- there is a lot that could be done to offset a new TransLink DCC.
TransLink mayors claim these tax hikes are needed for a healthy region. But being able to afford to live here is also necessary -- that's why taxpayers should continue to hiss for more savings at city halls and TransLink itself.
Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook
Also on HuffPost:
Location: Stuart Lake, B.C. Price: $175,000 American Island is 8 acres (3.24 hectares) in size, and has a kilometre of shoreline to run around on. The island is the seventh-largest in B.C., running 90 kilometres north-south, and 13 kilometres east-west. It has plenty of trees, and two bays good perfect for mooring boats. (Photo: PrivateIslandsOnline.com)
Location: Stuart Lake, B.C. Price: $85,476 Like American Island, Sweet Island is also in Stuart Lake — a great spot fishing rainbow trout, char, lake trout, and sturgeon. Sweet Island has a high elevation with no cliffs and boasts tons of pine and aspen trees. There's already old house for accomodation, and a half-acre clearing for a garden. The entire island is 66 kilometres long, 10 kilometres wide, and has 170 kilometres of shoreline. And if anyone ever needs a break on the mainland, the town of Fort St. James is also on Lake Stuart's shoreline with full services like lodges and motels. (Photo: Private Islands Online)
Location: Tusket Island Chain, Yarmouth County, N.S. Price: $65,000 A great place for a summer retreat, the Big Tusket Island Parcel is actually two pieces of land that total 37 acres of size. The chain, a group of granite islands located off of Nova Scotia's Southwestern coast, is primarily uninhabited. The islands offer a very natural environment and is home to a number of unique lighthouses. There's electricity on both islands, and amenities are available in Comeau's Hill — an attractive Acadian coastal town. (Photo: PrivateIslandsOnline.com)
Location: Lama Passage, B.C. Price: $249,000 Lizzies Cove Island is a magnificent 6.5-acre, virgin-forested island with almost two kilometres of ocean front. Cruise ships and killer whales regularly pass by one side of the island, and fishing in the area is "superb," according to its listing. The nearby town of Bella Bella offers plenty of amenities, including a hospital, post office, and liquor store. (Photo: Private Islands Online)
Location: Mahone Bay, N.S. Price: $90,000 At 11.5 acres, Tancook Island is the largest island in Mahone Bay — an area with lots of fishing and about 125 year-round residents. (Photo: Private Islands Online)
Location: Stuart Lake, B.C. Price: $431,482 Johnson Island is a private, 20-acre space that has been occupied by the same family since 1947. It has about one kilometre of shoreline, and the cabin's beachfront has stunning views of the northern lights and stunning sunsets. The cabin, built in 1949, is made of reclaimed old growth timber from the island. It has a large front room divided into a kitchen, as well as a comfortable dining room. The house, which sleeps six people, also has a detached shower room and smokehouse. Access is by float plane or boat, the latter of which can be launched from the nearby village of Tachi. (Photo: Private Islands Online)
Location: Ontario, near Manitoulin Island Price: $103,000 Little Island, or Jenny Island, is a historically significant commercial fishing outport, where the fisherman and their families lived for the season during the 1800s and early 1900s. The land is accessible both by boat and by plane. (Photo: Private Islands Online)
Location: Southern Gulf Islands, B.C. Price: $380,000 This 7.5-acre property has been left entirely in its natural state. Located in the southern Gulf Islands, it's a completely private island with an impressive fir forest. The island isn't far from Ladysmith, and sits in the Stuart Channel. (Photo: Private Islands Online)
Location: Mitchell Bay, N.S. Price: $150,000 Just 290 metres from the mainland, Tidmarsh Island has 24 acres of land that boats a thick forest a natural cove for mooring. Halifax is about two hours away, and the town of Sheet Harbour — with shops and amenities — is less than a half-hour trip. (Photo: Private Islands Online)
Location: B.C. Price: $449,000 Echo Island, which is a 25-minute flight in a float plane from Williams Lake, is made up of four, one-acre lots. There's a dedicated road just for the island, a bridge crossing for ATVs, and pedestrian access from mainland to island. There's also a 15-metre dock neighbouring the two-bedroom cabin. (Photo: Private Islands Online
Follow Jordan Bateman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jordanbateman