Iqaluit mayor holds off on motion to tax churches

Mayor Kenny Bell says a similar motion was already passed in February

Mayor Kenny Bell says he stands by taxing churches, but city council already passed a motion earlier in the year that would set gears in motion to do so. (Photo by David Venn)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Iqaluit’s mayor no longer plans to bring forward a motion to make the city’s churches pay municipal property taxes.

Mayor Kenny Bell announced Monday he was backing off on the proposal, which he announced in late June, shortly after national news stories drew attention to graves containing the remains of former residential school students in southern Canada.

Bell says that when he pitched the idea of taxing churches in a June 24 tweet, he had forgotten that city council had passed a motion he introduced in February that called for the creation of a policy that would revisit how non-profits, including churches, are currently exempt from paying property taxes.

For that reason, he said he wouldn’t table another motion to tax the churches during Tuesday’s council meeting.

“I’m not backing down,” he said. “I mean, I doubled down, really. I mean, I tripled down.”

Bell said that he tweeted about wanting to tax the city’s churches recently after hearing the news that 751 children’s remains were located in unmarked graves at the Marieval Indian Residential school, east of Regina, Sask.

“It literally broke my heart,” he said. “And I was sitting there, like that, [thinking] as a white man, I don’t know what to do.

“The only thing we can do is hold the church accountable.”

Currently, there are 16 organizations under the city’s property tax exemption bylaw, eight of which are religious institutions.

During the finance committee’s February meeting, corporate services senior director Alison Drummond said the city was giving up more than $400,000 in property taxes by exempting non-profits.

“However council view that is up to council, but that is a large chunk that is being exempted fully right now,” she said.

Drummond said that a review she conducted found that more than half of municipalities in Canada do not exempt non-profits from paying property taxes, and those that do have far fewer than 16 organizations exempt.

The motion that then passed directed city staff to draft an application for not-for-profits to apply for a tax exemption based on a sliding scale.

It was carried unanimously at both the finance committee and council meetings.

The sliding scale policy has not been created yet, and Bell said he hasn’t seen any drafts, but it is supposed to “promote fairness and transparency [and] establish criteria so everyone is evaluated the same,” Drummond said.

Staff are still working on the policy, Bell said, and will bring it to council at a later date. It would then need to be approved by council.

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(18) Comments:

  1. Posted by Backed Down on

    Any way you slice it, he backed down.
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    Churches have protected their tax exempt status for the past 2000 years.
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    Sliding scale… right off the table.

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  2. Posted by Hello on

    CBC news: Mayor said that firefighters who are homeowners (pay taxes) provide service to the community too and so should have equal status to the church. Salary might not be anyone’s business but that is a major difference. Church employees work for low salary or NO salary for the community.
    They are on call like firefighters but there is a HUGE difference. The church buildings belong to the church. The not paying of taxes doesn’t go into the church employee pocket.

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  3. Posted by Joiner on

    It is not the tax points being focused on. the Iqaluit mayor has done this when the gruesome discoveries. not because they should pay but the timing that is quite wrong.

    The thinks he can join when it is a horrific time and he decides to add taxes as a fix? it adds more upset and is not the fix at least not now this way.
    If he wants to tax churches a discussion should have been done long before or long afterwards without an association to the current news.
    How cruel is the mayor?

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  4. Posted by Public drinking on

    Cool so can you now move onto the public drinking crisis? Where are these “enforced patrols”? Is bylaw going to help enforce them? Oh right, those laws can only be enforced before 5pm, and no one cares by then because they are already home.

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  5. Posted by Thirsty on

    The city in conjuction with the Fed’s recently gave the Utuuq society $400,000. Now they mysteriously cite they have a funding shortage. Maybe stop spending all your funding on “Managers” and get more front line staff to do the work the managers don’t want to deal with, namely the homeless.

    The staff are overwhelmed and cannot keep up with the amount of substance abuse. Men don’t even try to hide their 24 pack of beer, I watched 3 of them carry in cases yesterday evening. Not one staff member tried to stop them, one was on his smoke break and didn’t seem the least bit concerned. I see they cleared up the beer can stash mountain under the building only to have it re appear a week later.

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    • Posted by Nunavutmiuta on

      I am a client at the men shelter, it is very true, the Uquutaq society keeps say there is no funding for anything much less finding or helping the clients with substance abuse, true lots of us men there got substance abuse problem, that is from all the verbal. sexual and physically abuse we endured from the dominant society, and there is no treatment for anyone with that problem now or even in the new future.
      Now with the beers being brought in to the shelter, there is not alcohol tolerant what so ever, from first hand experience the only way to bring in alcohol to the shelter is to sneak it in and even then there is no guarantee you will be successful, backpacks are check if you are known to be a drinker upon entering.
      we the clients at the men shelter are in seriously need help at the shelter, we Inuit are looked down on, and we are expected to live out our life in a different culture, our Inuit value are not respected what so ever, and yet the management expect us to be like the southern life style which is very alienated to us. the management do not even provide interpreters for the elders when they hold in house meeting, and one would think they are the most important clients in our tradition at lease.

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      • Posted by Shelter on

        On the radio news today the low barrier shelter costs 1.3 million per year to operate. Its been in operation for almost 3 years. 3.9 million would be a lot of housing for the homeless, that doesn’t touch on the 150k ++ a year the director gets with her subsidized housing. As well as the other managers. Laurel shoud spearhead the movement to take a wage freeze to help the people who advocates for. She has the most power to change the system while herself being a part of the problem.

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  6. Posted by Chris West on

    The Mayor got pie in his face. He doesn’t understand the policy set out by the federal government year ago. Just being a hot head won’t get votes. Time for the city to be looking for the next real Mayor, someone who is patient and intelligent, get the facts before shooting off as Mayor Bell has done so many times. This has caused more separation in the community rather than bringing the community together. When asked a question regarding the DeBeers diamond project just some 82 km from Iqaluit the Mayor’s representative said the Mayor has no comment as he is not aware of any such project. This project could have built a road right through his cabin and has been in the process for the last 10 years. The mayor needs to get informed on tax’s and what’s happening around his community and the other communities he serves as President of NAM.
    While it is extremely unbelievable that the findings off these innocent children is real people need to come to terms and there are ways of handling this the proper way. Time will take care off all the injustices but whatever your religious beliefs are people still feel there is a greater power. The churches are places of worship they did not take it upon themselves to do what they did and there is no excuse for it at all. However they were employed by the federal government to do the job.
    What is more sickening is to hear the Prime Minister asking the churches to cooperate. The federal government has access to the records and the recourses to get from any church the records they need. They shouldn’t ask they should go and get the records.
    While the MP is right about a independent prosecutor, she should have made this a campaign promise, she is acting like this is all new news. Canada and the world knew of these injustices for years. The blood of these children are not only on the hands of the churches but every Politian in the federal institution.

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  7. Posted by Thanks NN on

    Thanks for the clarification Nunatsiaq. Kenny’s tweet about this was poorly worded and didn’t convey his point very well.

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  8. Posted by whatever on

    Temper, Temper, Temper there Kenny. Remember the time you taped your mouth shut????? Ahhhh the good ole days 🙂

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  9. Posted by george on

    The comment originally made about wanting to tax churches was motivated by retribution. I’m glad he backed down but these types of things can’t be the motivating factor when it comes to managing finances for the city.

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  10. Posted by Umingmak on

    Incredibly weak display by Bell. As always, a politician ran away like a coward instead of finally standing up to the corrupt religious institutions.

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    • Posted by kenny on

      better to retract than move ahead in the wrong direction, not representative of the voters. I do NOT like what he did but his back tracking earned him back half a point.

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  11. Posted by The Old Trapper on

    And no tax relief for the hundreds, possibly thousands of people in Iqaluit who pay homage to the one true God!
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    Certainly families that demonstrate the true Pastafarian zeal weekly, some even daily, by cooking and consuming noodles, or spaghetti, or even the basic ramen should be offered a refund on their property taxes!

    The FSM is every bit as real as those “other” gods!

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