Fentie’s cool to fuel tax idea

A one-cent fuel tax for municipalities doesn’t sit well with Yukon Premier Dennis Fentie. Asked about the tax scheme, Fentie said he…

A one-cent fuel tax for municipalities doesn’t sit well with Yukon Premier Dennis Fentie.

Asked about the tax scheme, Fentie said he doesn’t support it.

While he doesn’t want to stifle initiative at the municipal level, he’d rather get more people on the tax rolls than squeeze more out of existing taxpayers, said Fentie on Thursday.

“No, the government will not be doing that,” said Fentie about the tax initiative.

The proposal, raised by council on Monday, proposes to bring a resolution before the Association of Yukon Communities.

If passed, it would see municipalities lobby for a share of the fuel tax revenue.

The proposal is for a one-cent-per-litre territorial tax increase on gasoline and diesel.

The money raised, estimated at about $992,000, would help municipalities fund infrastructure projects.

Whitehorse would use the money for its transit system.

Other villages and towns would use it for roadwork.

The increase would be on top of the $6.5 million the territory collects on its 7.2-cent-per-litre tax on diesel fuel and the 6.2 cents on gasoline.

His government understands and shares the infrastructure concerns of Yukon municipalities, said Fentie.

But, those concerns have already started to be addressed and plans are in the works to provide more infrastructure money to Whitehorse and the communities without going back to the tax base, he said.

“We’ve raised the (comprehensive municipal) grant; we’re working with municipalities on the Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund and the Canadian Strategic Infrastructure Fund.

“Those are funding programs that put money towards infrastructure in the territory.”

Municipal governments are also receiving the majority of federal gas tax money being directed to the territory, a program that will see $48 million flow into Whitehorse’s bank accounts over the next few years, he said.

His government has already given money to the city for new buses and is trying to bring in even more money to the territory by working with Ottawa on another funding initiative, the Building Canada Fund, said Fentie.

“When you consider the transit issue that Whitehorse brought out, we’ve also recently dedicated over $800,000 that flowed directly to the City of Whitehorse for buses,” he said.

“You also have to look at the capital budget that the government has brought forward.

“In many cases, there’s an investment in municipal infrastructure in the territory, project by project.”

Therefore, he’d like to see the city get busy and bring more building lots to market, said Fentie.

“That can be done by quickly moving toward developing land and making property available within the city boundaries to grow our tax base,” he said.

“I think our focus here has to be more towards increasing the number of taxpayers instead of increasing taxes.

“There’s a huge demand out there.”

Mayor Bev Buckway still plans to push the idea of a gas tax.

The idea should go to the Association of Yukon Communities for discussion, she said.

Then, let the MLAs decide individually what they think of the idea, said Buckway.

“At this stage it’s not even a resolution that’s even been passed by city council.

“If it is passed it will go through the Association of Yukon Communities and go through processes there, and there will be a number of us that will give it good debate.

“You might find, I don’t know because I haven’t spoken to them, but you might find that there’s a number of MLAs that could see how this could benefit their communities; let’s give this due process.”

As for building lots, the city is moving as fast as it can with development.

It has lots in Arkell and the Stan McCowan property coming on line in the near future with more new lots in Takhini North and the lower Porter Creek bench scheduled for release in the next few years, she said.

“We will proceed with getting lots on the market as fast as we can.”

In the meantime, there are some other housing options being introduced, such as a new trailer park being applied for by businessman Barry Bellchambers, she said.

That project is still in the application phase, but if approved it would be located across the street from Bellchambers’ Takhini Mobile Home Park.

“There’s going to be a lot of housing opportunities. It may not translate into lots but we are going to see a lot of options for housing,” said Buckway.