Why rising taxes hurt the environment

If you care about the environment, you should also care about rising Whitehorse property taxes. So says Ranj Pillai, equal parts tax reformer and green enthusiast, who is running for council.

If you care about the environment, you should also care about rising Whitehorse property taxes.

So says Ranj Pillai, equal parts tax reformer and green enthusiast, who is running for council.

In the mind of this 35-year-old Copper Ridge resident, the two issues cannot be separated.

Case in point: he’s spoken to families who have balked at rising property taxes in recent years and voted with their feet. They’ve moved beyond the municipal boundary, more than willing to spend some of their tax savings on the additional gasoline they burn each morning to commute into town.

This erodes the city’s tax base, and it contributes to global warming.

Pillai quotes Councillor Doug Graham, who has said that property taxes have grown by 17 per cent in the past three years, when compound interest is included.

“The reality is, at some point, they need to get it under control,” said Pillai.

He wants to see the city’s spending frozen in real terms. That puts him at odds with the incumbent mayor, Bev Buckway, who has said she expects taxes to continue to rise by at least four per cent in 2010 and 2011.

The city may have polling data that supports increasing taxes to pay for existing programming, but Pillai has met his share of Whitehorse residents who disagree with this approach.

“It puts an immense stress on my young family,” he said. “I think everybody’s found this.”

He’s convinced that there must be smart ways to trim spending without harming the high quality of life enjoyed by Whitehorse residents.

That means shutting the Canada Games Centre is out of the question. The facility helps lure newcomers to the city, he said, citing the territorial government’s footage of its facilities in promotional videos.

This makes Pillai wonder if the territory could be persuaded to pay part of the centre’s operating costs. One of Pillai’s campaign promises is to ensure council works better with other levels of government.

And with the public.

“Many people in town feel they aren’t being heard,” he said. “There’s a lack of respect to the primary stakeholders.”

Pillai is an instructor at Yukon College, the owner of the Summit Hockey School, and an economic development consultant.

He’s the father of two young boys, ages eight and three.

He volunteers as a basketball coach, as secretary of the Whitehorse Elementary School Board, as a member of the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Society of Yukon, and sits on the college’s board of governors, among other commitments.

He’s also a member of the territory’s Liberal Party, and he supported Liberal MP Larry Bagnell in the last election. But he says politics at the municipal level should be above partisan interests.

“It’s about respecting all individuals in the city of Whitehorse.”

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.