Indeed, incorporation will be a disaster for local farms.
David Borrowman—a former local trustee for the Islands Trust—wrote: "Once the rhetoric has settled, I expect that incorporation would mean moving from an under-serviced rural area to an impoverished municipality.” If Salt Spring wants to remain a rural area, it makes sense to look at what could happen to the farming economy if we were to vote to incorporate.
We know that farmers will be hardest hit by property tax increases. The provincial Farm Tax Exemption for farmers’ homes and buildings will be phased out over five years. The Urban Systems’ incorporation report estimates that farm property taxes would increase by $194/year on average, a 10% increase. Increases applied to all residential property would raise taxes even further. The district of West Kelowna incorporated in 2008. Five years later, after the transition period, farmers faced property tax increases of up to 240%, whereas the average homeowner had increases of only 17.5%. Small farms cannot afford large tax hikes.
The biggest impact on farming may come from increased development pressure. Farming on Salt Spring is often a labour of love and not very lucrative. A cash-strapped municipal government, facing big bills for road repairs, policing, water system upgrades, and a new fire hall, would be challenged to find extra funds to cover costs, many of which are currently paid by the province. Our island’s small and mostly residential tax base would not take kindly to big property tax increases. It’s easy to imagine that it would make financial sense to homeowners and municipal councilors to support new development to bring in more revenue. Land in the Agricultural Land Reserve could not be converted to other uses without approval from the provincial Agricultural Land Commission, but all the farms not in the ALR would be attractive to developers if land use decisions were made by a municipality and not by the Islands Trust. More development will bring more competition for scarce water supplies, and water for summer irrigation is already a big concern for island farmers.
Farmers have many reasons to oppose incorporation, not the least of which is that our current system is the only “green” local governance model in Canada, and recognizes the importance of agriculture and our small island farms. It has evolved over the years and could easily be modified to better meet current and future challenges. Incorporation cannot be rolled back.
As farmers, we are very concerned that incorporation will damage the local farm economy. Many thanks to all those who support local farms by buying local food. Your support is invaluable for helping us to stay afloat. Please help Salt Spring’s farm community again by voting NO on September 9th.
1. Caroline and Andy Hickman – Ganders Hatch Farm.
2. Michael Ableman (FOXGLOVE FARM)
3. Dave and Kathy Thomas
4. Harry Burton-Apple Luscious Organic Orchard.
5. Ron Puhky & Kim Hanson - Grandview Farm
6. Brian Swanson and Mary Laucks, Laughing Apple Farm
7. Gavin Johnston - Night Owl Farm
8. Gay Alkoff
9. Mark Stevens
10. George "Kanu" Bowie, Neptune Farm
11. Julia & Susan Grace, Moonstruck Cheese
12. Nick Jones
13. Rob Burns
14. Daria Zovi Jane Squier - The Garden
15. Tony Threlfall
16. Marsha Goldberg and Jane Schweitzer of Eagleridge Greenhouse Gardens
17. Carlos Grooms of The Paradise Within Farm
18. Conrad Pilon
19. Jan Steinman, EcoReality Co-op
20. Jim Erickson
21. Rollie Cook, redwing farm
22. Cathy Valentine
23. Gene Drzymala & Sharon Hawke
24. Edward Dodds
25. Margaret & Alan Thomson (Windrush Farm)
26. Kevin Kunzler
27. Cathy Valentine
28. Delaine Faulkner
29. Janet Simpson, Innisfree Farm
30. Mark Whittear
31. Mike & Marjorie Lane of Ruckle Farm
32. Elisa Rathje
33. Belinda Schroeder