NCC working to find mutual solution with unorganized townships on tax concerns

The cost of protecting pristine conservation areas should not fall on small rural communities such as the Robinson Local Services Board. Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Mike Mantha has called on the provincial government to find a solution to the dilemma being faced by communities when conservation groups come calling.

SILVER WATER – A representative for the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) says that with the announcement that it has acquired one of its largest- ever single property acquisitions in Ontario, 7,608 hectares of the Vidal Bay forests and shoreline property the organization  realizes there are still a lot of concern among Robinson and Dawson townships that tax revenue shortfalls will included with the purchase; but the NCC is working towards what they hope will be a favourable position for both the NCC and the local unorganized townships. 

“We certainly realize that there is a concern among the local communities and how it is important to them,” Esme Batten, NCC midwestern Ontario program director, told The Expositor. “It is important that we work cooperatively with both Robinson and Dawson to find the best way forward for all parties; to find the best solution for the townships and the NCC.”

Meanwhile, Michael Mantha, MPP for Algoma-Manitoulin told The Expositor, “one thing this situation needs is greater responsibility being taken on the part of the government. This purchase by the NCC will create financial hardship for the municipalities, their local services board and roads boards. They will be losing lands, and tax revenues and the government needs to step in and provide programs to ease the financial hardships on municipalities and unorganized municipalities.” 

“’Everyone agrees these lands are key and need to be kept pristine environmentally for future generations, and for public access,” said MPP Mantha. “This will create economic dollars, but the dollars generated in larger, higher populated areas in southern Ontario are not on the same level as they are in smaller areas in northern Ontario. Something needs to be done by the government to address the financial shortfalls created in these smaller communities.”  

“Something needs to be in place so smaller communities’ finances remain stable while these types of lands can be set aside for future generations,” said Mr. Mantha. 

“We remain optimistic a successful resolution can be found for each party involved,” Ms. Batten told The Expositor. “We will continue to work with the communities to find what is mutually acceptable for both.” 

Earlier this fall, the Expositor reported on the same issue and MPP Mantha had said that the province either has to increase eligibility for these unorganized townships by making them eligible for Ontario Municipal Partnership Funds (OMPF) or make up the shortfall on the reduction they have in lost tax revenues.

Tim Mackinlay, chair of the Robinson Local Services Board (LSB) had said at an LSB election meeting held on September 12, “once NCC receives tax exemption status on the lands they purchased, the next year potentially could be a tough year, especially for the roads boards.”

And with tax exemption status, “the NCC realizes it will be a fair hit for both townships and are working with the MPP and our local boards on a solution.” The Robinson LSB is expecting to lose between $5,000-$6,000 dollars (yearly) and the roads board will lose substantially more.

John Van Every, chair of the Dawson LSB, told The Expositor previously he and other representatives of the board have been meeting with the NCC, MPP Mantha and government officials on the issue. He said that, overall, the potential loss in tax revenues for Dawson and Robinson could potentially be significant.

Mrs. Van Every also said the NCC is not the problem, getting the government to make changes to accommodate the situation would solve this.