Red Gate Community Update - Feb. 2020

It's been one month since we launched our fundraising and political action campaign to help us with our insanely high tax bill which has skyrocketed to over $4000 per month, and to put pressure on the various levels of government and bureaucracy to change the rules which require this. Many other worthwhile organizations are suffering under the same unfair system, in which commercial tenants are compelled to pay taxes based on the highest possible values of nearby developments, even if they occupy older "undeveloped" buildings. We're not trying to carve out an exemption for ourselves, but to change the rules for the benefit of every struggling cultural group in the city.

Fundraising Report:

Many thanks to everyone who has donated to our cause! We've raised over $7000 toward our outstanding tax bill, which gets us most of the way to our goal. Along with the money that we've raised through our regular events, we're now almost 3/4 of the way to being able to pay off the outstanding debt and also next month's rent (at the new increased rate.)

We've also bought a bit of time from our landlord, who has agreed to give us two more months (but only two!) to settle our outstanding tax bill (which has now increased to > $10,600.) We were able to make a down payment on this debt with the funds raised, but we will still need to make up the difference before March 31st.  Here's the breakdown for those who like numbers:

Outstanding taxes = $10,600 - $5000 down payment = $6,600 still owing. Rent due mar.1 = $12,300. Total owing = $18,900. Savings/earnings/donations as of Feb. 15 = $12,400. Shortfall as of Feb. 15 = $6,500. (Note that of the almost $23,000 total, including the $5000 down payment, approximately $15,000 or almost 3/4 of this total is just taxes!)

Political Action Report:

Progress on this front is more difficult to estimate. Our petition to the City and Province has received almost 2000 signatures, and many incisive and articulate comments, so our humble and heartfelt thanks to everyone who took the time to do that!  Within a few days of the publication of our open letter, the Province announced legislation to be introduced in the spring session which will supposedly allow municipalities to have much greater flexibility in creating tax exemptions for non-profits, and it seems that the timing of this announcement was not a coincidence.

However, the proverbial devil is in the details, especially where legislation that has a potential impact on corporate profits are concerned, and we have been unable to find any information about what exactly is being proposed. Our contacts at City Hall are also in the dark about this so we'll need to keep the pressure on if we want an actual solution to come out of this proposed legislation. The problem is that the current tax regime is a complicated mish mash of laws, policies, and guidelines involving multiple bureaucracies and levels of government, and so making changes is somewhat akin to fixing the engine in your car while driving it down the highway. It's also a safe bet that entities that are in a position to influence the exact wording of the proposed legislation will make every effort to create future loopholes which they will be able to exploit. We think there needs to be an open, public conversation around these issues, and that the whole decision making process needs to be much more transparent.

The Bad News: Because of this inherent complexity, it seems unlikely that a satisfactory resolution to the crushing tax burden being loaded onto local non-profits and small businesses is likely to be in place by the time the 2020 tax assessments are determined. This means that it's likely that it will be another entire year before anything substantial changes in this regard, which will be too late for many marginal enterprises, many of which will be forced out of business before this promised help arrives.

The Good News: Many City of Vancouver officials seem to be aware of the inherent irrationality of taxing non-profits and small businesses at the same rate as new multi-story developments, and the deep contradiction between this tax regime and their own stated goals of supporting cultural activities and local independent enterprises. Without legislative changes at the provincial level, they claim to be unable to influence tax assessments, but they have suggested that we apply for an emergency grant to cover some of these taxes, which would have to be brought to CIty Council for consideration. Accordingly, we have submitted such an application and are now waiting to find out if or when we can expect a decision. The agenda for Council meetings are published one week prior to each meeting, so the earliest this might happen would be the 25th or 26th of February.

So that's where things stand. Thanks again to everyone who's shown their support, over and above the financial and operational assistance, it's giving us that much more confidence and determination to keep up the fight!