Friday, November 14, 1997
Let's make a deal
There is a refreshing breeze of common sense blowing across Yellowknife Bay these days.
The new city council has decided not to pursue court action to overturn the Assessment Appeal Tribunal's decision that the city doesn't have the right to tax houseboaters.
Now that the confrontational approach that characterized the previous council's handling of the houseboat issue seems to have abated, there is an opportunity to begin a process of conciliation.
The first step is to put the argument over jurisdiction to one side. Whether or not the city has jurisdiction over the taxation of houseboats has nothing to do with the fact that houseboaters enjoy the use of the city's services, services that are currently paid for by the taxpayers in Yellowknife.
There can be no argument that houseboaters should pay for these services. What needs to be negotiated is a fair way of paying.
If the city is prepared to open the door to discussions about paying for services, the houseboaters should respond with some kind of collective representation, such as a ratepayers' association.
The city can't be expected to negotiate individually. The houseboaters should try to reach a consensus among themselves before approaching city council.
Once a process is worked out for paying a proper proportion of taxes, the next step will be to bring houseboaters into the general city plan.
Houseboats are a legitimate part of the community and should be given appropriate consideration. If the houseboat community wants sewage, water, garbage services or docking facilities, and as a group are willing to pay for same, then city hall should be looking at how this can be done.
Those houseboat owners who refuse to pay any taxes will miss the benefits of being ratepayers and will not be eligible for improved services.
It may well be that jurisdiction will cease to be as much of a problem when the advantages of being a paying member of the community is more attractive that living in isolation.
The near-simultaneous closures of the Yellowknife Achievement Centre and Project Change should not be the end of the idea of private schooling in this city.
Our public and Catholic schools are capable of providing a solid education to many students. But not all of them. Private academies serve a valuable role, an alternative learning environment for those who have found themselves outside the physical or intellectual mainstream.
With luck, replacement schools will soon rise from the ashes of the former. Whether it is government or private sources, let's hope the necessary financial help will be available.