Yesterday in Nobleford, Lethbridge County held its first of just over a handful of open house sessions to discuss the future of infrastructure in the county including rejuvenating dilapidated bridges and roads.
It was stated in the Lethbridge Herald last week, as the county is faced with the inevitable crumbling roads and bridges problem (which is an issue throughout the province and across the country), the county is proposing a new tax on livestock and farming operations to collect an extra $3.5 million a year to keep rural farm traffic flowing through its “market access network.”
According to the news report, the county is suggesting a livestock tax per head plus special taxes on irrigated and dry farmland. The taxes, according to the news report, are to kick in this year but the open house sessions are being held to hopefully explain the situation being faced by the county. The report stated back in the day, about 50 years ago, roads and bridges were designed for much-lighter trucks and the infrastructure has lived its life and its health is failing, miserably. But, the news report added, no final decisions on collection of a proposed tax will be made until some public consultation. The proposed tax bylaw is expected to have first reading at county council Apr. 7. So, what would a tax of this nature mean to local Joe and Sally Farmer? Well, if said farmer has a heck of a lot of livestock it would mean putting out some extra green to help offset county infrastructure. And if you are a dryland farmer or rely on irrigation to farm — you too would have to cough up some more extra dollars to help the cause. But, is it a small price to pay to keep the wheels of agriculture-related progress and commerce turning and moving forward?
During the last provincial and federal elections, the need for infrastructure spending across the board was discussed to help the country rebuild and update aging infrastructure Canadians rely on everyday to travel, to work, to play and to eat and drink. Canadians need to be able to get from point A to point B — safely and without too many hassles, vehicle and body intact.
Ponder this. What about just a plain old tax increase for all county residents, as a whole? Pretty much all county residents drive on county roads but so do city folk. So, perhaps a southern Alberta tax could be obtained from all southern Albertans to offset the costs associated with sprucing up failing infrastructure in all municipalities? How about toll highways on both secondary and primary highways? Where drivers pay a toll to drive on said highway(s) and/or a licence is photographed when on the highway and then a fee is sent to the driver each time he/she drives on said highway(s)? This happens in other parts of Canada to help pay for aging infrastructure and keep traffic moving smoothly.
But what about municipality excess and funds misspent? Are there certain areas municipalities could cut back on to help offset costs? Taxpayers always shutter when they think they need to pay more taxes but excess and misspending still continues within municipal organizations everywhere.
Canadians, do need to chip in to help pay for aging infrastructure but Canadians expect the money to be used wisely that is already paid as a tax. Maybe public money needs to be spent better with more input from the public before it is excessively or needlessly spent on other things. But the open houses scheduled are a good starting point indeed to begin a discussion on the topic. But shouldn’t the public also know how its taxes are being spent now or have been spent? Paying for infrastructure is not frivolous, it needs to be done but perhaps there are other ways to go about collecting funds.
How about a municipality holding a fundraiser such as a bake sale or bingo? Maybe municipal staff and/or council can put on their swim trunks and Hawaiian shirts and put on a car wash? How about an old fashioned sock hop, garage sale, yard sale or flea market? Or perhaps staff and/or council could go door to door to sell cookies? The ideas are endless but a new tax is also in the works.
Hopefully, county residents will attend one of the open houses to see what’s up and to perhaps voice an opinion on the topic and engage with the powers that be to come up with a fair solution, suitable for everyone.