Council’s decision having negative impact on seniors, says writer

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Editor’s note: The following is an edited version of a presentation made to the Happy Valley-Goose Bay town council on May 28.

As a resident of Happy Valley-Goose Bay I am troubled by recent decisions and actions carried out by a council that was only elected eight months ago.

The decision to eliminate the seniors discount on property tax was first discussed in November 2013, just two short months after being elected. Then in a special meeting held in December 2013, council voted unanimously to eliminate the discount, with any public consultation

Following the March 25th council meeting, I had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with some members of council and management staff. It became abundantly clear the rationale that council is using for this move. During the discussions a counter argument that was presented to me was, “What about (wealthy seniors)? Why should people like that get a discount?”

I would like to touch on that argument.

Last Sunday, at a gathering of seniors at the Legion, I was chatting with Max Winters and I mentioned to him the (wealthy seniors) point that some councillors raised with me. Max then told me of his memory of seeing Mel Woodward (a prominent Labrador businessman) when he first started his oil business in what was then Happy Valley.

Max told me of seeing Mel Woodward hauling fuel to homes in the Valley before there were even proper roads, and that Mel Woodward went out of his way to ensure no one was cold. Today, Mel Woodward is a senior citizen who continues to call Happy Valley-Goose Bay his home.

From the meagre beginnings of his business back in 1960 to what today is a multi-million-dollar enterprise that employs over 800 people provincially, over 100 of which happen to work and live in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Many employees over the years have since retired and continue to live in this great town. Essentially, we are talking a substantial tax base.

I would like to instill in council that your attempts to get more tax dollars out of the Mel Woodward’s of this community are having a very negative impact on the well-being of the majority of seniors that call Happy Valley-Goose Bay their home. To me this is a case whereby the ends truly do not justify the means. After all it is important for council to remember that property tax and mill rates are set based on real property and not an individual’s income.

In the March 25th council meeting, it had been stated by council that it is required by the Cct in which it follows to have a consistent tax rate. However, the Municipalities Act clearly states it is within council’s power to have a varying mill rate, which was the case for the past 23 years.

I urge council to pause and truly take stock into the actions it is carrying out. These quick, rush-to-judgment decisions are having negative impacts on seniors. I ask council to make a motion that reverses the previous motion(s) which resulted in the elimination of the seniors discount.

Return to the tax structure that was in place prior to September 2013. Then take the time and truly consult with seniors and together develop a strategy that works for everyone involved.

— Waylon Williams writes from Happy Valley-Goose Bay

Geographic location: Happy Valley, Goose Bay, Labrador

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