Supreme Court of Canada dismisses Catalyst Paper’s tax appeal
The Supreme Court of Canada has dismissed Catalyst Paper‘s appeal of their North Cowichan property taxes.
The court sided with the district of North Cowichan, saying the community tax bylaw was not unreasonable and that municipalities can apply different tax rates to different kinds of property.
Catalyst Paper had appeal their assessment because they said the taxes were too high and they bore no relationship to the municipal services they actually used.
The ruling was a unanimous 7-0 decision.
“Municipal councils have extensive latitude in what factors they may consider in passing a bylaw,” wrote Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin for the unanimous panel.
She said councillors “may consider objective factors,” such as how much water or other municipal services are consumed by a business. “But they may also consider broader social, economic and political factors that are relevant to the electorate.”
The decision says councillors, not courts, are in the best position to weigh all the competing considerations and they deserve deference by judges.
Catalyst Paper’s Reaction
Catalyst spokeswoman Lyn Brown said the company was disappointed by the decision, but said it gives the company clarity in its talks with the district.
“We will certainly be following up with the municipalities where our mills are located to continue to press for adjustments,” Brown said.
“We’re prepared to pay our fair share, but clearly the Supreme Court in the decision did point out there is no doubt that the impact of the bylaw in North Cowichan is harsh.”
Catalyst had also refused to pay its full tax bill in three other southwest B.C. communities. The company had paid $6 million of a $23 million total owing to North Cowichan, Campbell River, Port Alberni and Powell River when it took the issue of municipal taxing powers to court.
Catalyst later paid the outstanding amounts to all but North Cowichan, pending the outcome of the high court case.
Supreme Court sides with B.C. community in tax fight with paper company (Winnipeg Free Press)
Tax battle with paper company won by B.C. town – Supreme Court of Canada sides with North Cowichan in unanimous decision (CBC)
Canada’s Supreme Court upholds municipal taxing powers (The Star)
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