The provincial government is proposing to change the way oil and gas wells and pipelines are assessed for municipal property tax purposes. Its goal is to improve the competitiveness of the oil and gas industry. No one questions the reality that the oil and gas industry is facing hard times. However, many other Albertans are also struggling right now.
Recently, Rocky View County (RVC) council announced it was contacting area MLAs and government ministers to express their objections to the proposed changes. We would like to throw our support behind the County and the growing opposition to the province’s plan to download its latest assistance package for the oil and gas industry onto the backs of rural municipalities and rural Albertans, the very people whose support forms the backbone of the United Conservative Party (UCP).
Whether it makes sense to provide targeted support to the oil and gas industry is a decision for the province. However, because it is the province’s choice, they should be required to use their own revenue sources. This would ensure the costs of the support are shared by all Albertans. As proposed, these changes will not be borne equally by all Albertans. Instead, they will have much more dire consequences for rural municipalities. These detrimental impacts disproportionately target poorer, more rural municipalities, many of which have indicated they will have to double or triple their residential and non-residential property tax rates to compensate for the changes being imposed by the province.
The province appears to have completely forgotten the critical role municipal infrastructure plays in supporting the oil and gas industry. Without this property tax revenue, how will rural municipalities pay for the roads and bridges the oil and gas companies need to get to their wells and pipelines? This is downloading at its worst.
To rub salt into the wound, according to information released by the Rural Municipalities of Alberta, the benefits to the oil and gas industry aren’t even well-targeted. Apparently, no evidence was presented to explain how the reduction in property taxes will improve the industry’s competitiveness. As well, a substantial portion of the benefits from reduced property taxes will go to large multinational oil and gas companies, not smaller Alberta-based companies that are more likely to reinvest in the local economy.
In closing, for ratepayers who share these concerns, we’d like to echo RVC’s encouragement to contact the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Kaycee Madu, and your local MLA.
Rocky View Forward