Mayor encouraged by AMO talks

·3 min read

OLIVER PAIPOONGE, ONT. — It was a whirlwind tour of provincial ministries at the Association of Municipalities Ontario annual general meeting held Aug 14-17 in Ottawa, but Oliver Paipoonge Mayor Lucy Kloosterhuis feels they made some inroads on some key issues.

Kloosterhuis, who went to Ottawa with current councillor and fellow mayoral candidate Brandon Postuma and municipality chief administrative officer Wayne Hanchard, had face-to-face time with the ministers in Finance, Health, Transportation, Infrastructure, Municipal Affairs/Housing as well as Environment, Conservation and Parks.

The biggest concern Kloosterhuis voiced to Ontario Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy was the levees being charged to municipalities for exterior ministries with the formula based on municipality and property tax assessments.

“Being taxed on an assessment system on property assessment is very unfair,” said Kloosterhuis, who has been mayor of Oliver Paipoonge since 2003. “That’s the wrong way to tax us on the value of our home. There’s got to be a different way to do it.

“Whatever the assessment is of the municipality, that’s the amount we have to pay to exterior agencies such as (the District of Thunder Bay Social Services Administration Board), ambulance and the health unit.

“If the assessment of the municipality goes up, we have to pay more to those exterior agencies, then we have to charge people more on taxes, but your income hasn’t gone up. The higher our assessment goes, the less grant money we get from the province. The poor taxpayer is the one caught in the middle.”

The veteran politician did get the ear of the finance minister, leading to a rare occurrence at a AMO general meeting regarding property tax assessment.

“We’re just asking them to do a tax review and just reassess the process,” said Kloosterhuis, who will go up against Postuma and current councillor Rick Potter for the mayor’s seat on Oct. 24. “We’re not saying people shouldn’t pay tax. What we’re saying is please take the people stuff (ambulance, health unit, etc.) off our property tax. Those are people things, those aren’t property things.

“There’s various ministries that are involved with property tax, but we had a very good discussion with (Bethlenfalvy). He asked for more material on this topic, so we’re putting together a package for them with some more information coming from our perspective. We were encouraged. That’s the first time ever that they have asked for a little more input on the topic.”

Kloosterhuis and her crew also met with Environment, Conservation and Parks Minister David Piccini regarding the producer pay recycling program where product producers will have to foot the bill for recycling.

Kloosterhuis said her municipality spent almost $114,000 in 2021 collecting blue box materials and only received $34,000 from Stewardship Ontario, the operators of the province’s blue box program.

The producer-pay model starts kicking in next year and is supposed to be wrapped up sometime during 2025 with Kloosterhuis feeling the program won’t be implemented in Northwestern Ontario until the latter part of that window.

“The future promise was that the producer will be paying for the recycling system,” Kloosterhuis said. “(The producers) will be paying for the blue boxes and all the recycling that we do.

“We were promised that the time will come where our residents will not be paying for that, the producers will.

“They told us that it will change around in the future, but it’s going to take some time, longer up here (in Northwestern Ontario) than in southern Ontario because they have the recycling plant so close by, but it is going to change.”

John Nagy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal