Taxes expected to be hot item at mayors’ meeting

Mayors from large and small municipalities throughout B.C. meet this week in Penticton to talk about issues.

Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray says he thinks there could be a call for a new deal for municipalities in B.C. when as many as 86 mayors from across the province meet in Penticton  later this week.

Gray, who said yesterday he had not seen an agenda for the inaugural meeting of B.C. mayors yet, said he expects the principle focus will be the impact of the federal, provincial and municipal government on taxpayers.

“The three levels of government all have their hands in the taxpayers pocket but to much different degrees,” said Gray.

He said 50 per cent of the taxes people pay go to the federal government, 42 per cent go to province and “we have to run this place (municipality) on eight per cent.”

The mayors’ meeting, a first for the province, will gather mayors from large and small municipalities throughout B.C. to talk about issues on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Organized by Surrey’s Diane Watts, some have questioned if it is an attempt to replace the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention which is held each September.

But  Gray echoed the comments of organizer Surrey Mayor Diane Watts, who has said that is not the case.

Watts has said it is modelled after similar mayor’s meeting in Atlantic Canada, which give the leaders of municipal governments a different forum to speak to one another.

Gray said he hoped there would be some informal talk among the mayors about starting a discussion on the the possible decriminalization of marijuana.

Gray was asked to sign on to a letter that carried the signatures of eight other mayors, including James Baker of Lake Country, recently calling for the decriminalization of the drug.

Gray said he declined but offered to ask UBCM to put the issue on its agenda for the fall convention in order to start what he hopes will be a national dialogue on the issue.

Gray said he also hoped to get a better perspective from the province’s “big city” mayors at this week’s meeting because he feels his city is becoming a “big” city and is now shares many of the same problems larger urban cities encounter.