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LETTER: Few buy into city’s costly reconciliation fund

While few residents have contributed to the city’s reconciliation contribution fund, that doesn’t reflect on the public support for reconciliation efforts.

In these troubled times, Victoria’s controversial fundraiser cost taxpayers about $10,000 to collect $36,153 from just 161 residents who made donations by July 4.

“This city council has a regular habit of operating outside its lane,” says Stan Bartlett, vice-chair of Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria.

“This controversial reconciliation fund is probably the only one in the country and it’s not surprising no other municipality has seen fit to replicate it.”

Residents were asked to consider making an additional, voluntary contribution equal to five or 10 per cent of their property taxes or an amount of their choosing to Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations. A donation can be made at any time during the year, but most residents would have sent it in prior to the deadline for 2022 property taxes on July 4.

There are about 32,800 property tax folios in the city. This is the number of tax notices sent out, not necessarily equal to the number of owners since some are owned by multiple people and others own multiple properties.

It cost almost $10,000 to produce an insert sent to taxpayers along with their tax notice. Other unspecified or quantified administrative costs to operate the reconciliation contribution fund were ‘nominal,’ according to the City of Victoria.

Earlier this year city council approved a controversial $200,000 reconciliation grant to Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations.

Meanwhile, Saanich plans to consult First Nations after the fall election before establishing any public reconciliation fund. Metchosin is consulting with Sc’ianew First Nation over a suggested reconciliation fund.

But doesn’t using municipal taxes and labour to operate a fundraiser for another self-governing nation seem an unjustifiable or illegal role for a municipal government? Doesn’t it put them in direct competition to the dozens of other local charities? Doesn’t the federal government plan to spend $27.5 billion on Indigenous peoples in this fiscal year? Doesn’t everyone have the option of donating to an Indigenous Peoples charity that will issue a federal tax receipt?

Taxpayers have a whole bunch of questions.

Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria