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Carson Binda: Vancouver turns Polly the parrot into a cash cow

The latest example of bird-brained bureaucracy, writes Carson Binda
To help offset property taxes, the city of Vancouver is imposing a new slew of fees, including a tax on exotic birds. | Charlotte Bleijenberg / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Vancouver City Hall has a reputation for wild ideas and even wilder spending.

But with a new plan to tax parrots, they’ve reached new heights of bird-brained bureaucracy.

Yes, you read that right, bureaucrats at city hall want to turn Polly the parrot into a cash cow to pay for the politicians’ pet projects.

The new parrot tax was recommended in a report by city staff alongside a slew of new fee hikes.

On top of creating a brand new, $300 licensing fee for exotic birds like parrots and cockatoos, City Hall is also going after businesses, contractors and tradespeople. Trade contractor licenses are going to be doubled, licensing fees for businesses are going to be increased by almost 50 per cent and general contractor licenses will be increased by more than $130.   

The city claims that they need to raise licensing fees so that they become revenue generating mechanisms.

Here’s the problem, licensing fees are supposed to cover the cost of issuing the license. When they are turned into revenue generating instruments, they become taxes.

When the city is in the middle of a housing crisis, increasing taxes on the tradespeople that build houses is exactly the wrong direction to go. Thinking that the way to fix city finances is by raising taxes on parrots and plumbers is stupid at best.

This new tax plan comes hot on the heels of a 10.7 per cent property tax hike that was approved by city council for 2023. That tax hike means that an average home-owner is on the hook for an extra $326 in property taxes this year, while businesses will be hit with an extra $549.

report by city bureaucrats calls for nine per cent property tax hikes every year from now until 2028. Taxing the land where you build homes and the contractors who build them, will make homes across the city more expensive.

Both reports, the one including the parrot tax and the one calling for nine per cent property tax hikes, were approved by council before the mayor’s budget task force  presented a single opportunity for savings.

It’s not that Vancouver has a revenue problem. City council and their legions of bureaucrats have a serious spending problem.

Mayor Ken Sim’s promise that “large tax increases could not become the norm” has him looking like Pinocchio with a nose five times its usual size.

Spending by the city has ballooned in the past several years. In the last year alone, city spending has increased by an eye-popping 13 per cent, from $1.75 billion in 2022 to $1.97 billion in 2023. Inflation was sitting at four per cent over the same period, so that’s not to blame for the massive increase in city spending.

For taxpayers who are struggling to afford food, or a roof over their head, that kind of massive spending is unsustainable.

So where should the city start making cuts? They could start with the exorbitant, six-figure salaries and constant raises for senior bureaucrats. Last year, 16 bureaucrats at city hall made over $200,000. They could also start by taking another look at the FIFA 2026 World Cup, where taxpayers are going to be on the hook for about half-a-million dollars per minute of playtime. Or they could find somewhere local to dispose of the city’s trash instead of having the metro region spend $150 million to ship it to the U.S. and deep into the interior.  

Sim and his ABC council need to start cutting spending, not looking for more ways to squeeze every last dime out of struggling Vancouverites.   

Carson Binda is the British Columbia director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation