It’s election season in northwestern Ontario!

Q104, KenoraOnline and DrydenNow asked each Council and Mayor candidate for their thoughts on a variety of issues in the community, and we’ll be running a series of articles with candidates’ responses.

Do you support a variable tax rate for rural residents, who say they are receiving lessened services compared to urban-area residents?

- Jack B. Harrison
“Since we have become one community, there are a lot of shared costs that both the urban and rural residents pay to maintain our quality of life for all.

However, there are some services, such as municipal sewer and water that can only be provided to the urban residents due to the cost of expansion and maintenance of the infrastructure.

I agree with the current Council in trying to make these costs ‘user-pay’ so that they are not reflected in the general tax bill everyone receives, rather than a ‘variable rate’. I support being transparent on the cost of these services so that everyone knows what they are paying for.”

- Shayne MacKinnon
“I believe that much of the disparity felt by rural residents is due to a lack of communication by the City.

We need to consistently illustrate to our rural residents that they are receiving virtually identical services to the rest of the City. And as importantly we need to ensure awareness of fees for services in the urban area like water, sewer, and garbage pick up.

Many tax inequities can be appealed to MPAC Municipal Property Assessment Corporation which set the amount for each property. Issues of road repair, lighting and other concerns must be represented in our budgeting in a fair manner for all of our residents.”

- Martin MacKinnon
“Yes, I support a variable tax rate. You choose where you live and extra costs sometimes come associated with that.”

- Ritch Noel
If you are referring to the residents in our outlying communities formerly known as Barclay and such, then I do agree they are receiving far lower services for the rates of tax they are presently paying.  A variable tax rate should be applied congruent with the level of services being provided.”

- Bill Latham
“A feasibility study needs to be done to determine which services the urban-area residents aren’t receiving.

Once a study is done and it's determined that there needs to be a variable tax rate made, if necessary and a tax increase is given to residents, if possible and needed to not increase taxes to the urban residents.”

- Catherine Kiewning
“For those who are unaware of what that means: ‘by considering a unique tax rate for each property class, council determines the appropriate share of taxes to be borne by each of the property classes (i.e., council decides not only the amount of tax to be raised in total but also the amounts that will be raised from each class of property)’.

I see this going one of two ways- yes, we could implement a variable tax rate for those rural citizens who aren't receiving the same quality of services, or we could just offer better services to those citizens.

Again, we need to apply for as many grants as possible and with the reserves we have built up by paying off our debt we can apply for more grants that require matching to apply for.”

- Bryan Tardiff
“I am a rural, city resident and often question why my taxes are so high in relation to what I receive for services. It is definitely something that needs to be addressed and rationalized.”

- Brad Pareis
“I don't believe a reduction in tax revenue would be conducive to improved quality of services for area residents. I do think that the level of services for rural residents could be improved so that they get the best value for their tax dollars.”

- David Burch (added afterwards)
I support a variable tax rate 100 per cent. It only makes sense that if you get fewer services you should pay less. But we all need to share the cost of the recreation centre and arena, the parks, and the docks. These are all things everyone enjoys even those a bit further out of town.

We will need to visit how we come up with a number to cover this as well as the main streets and sidewalks and traffic lights we all share. These are things that need to be considered and values given. It isn’t going to be a quick process to figure this system out and how to implement it without bankrupting the city.

That’s why boosting our economy and coming up with new streams of revenue for the city is so important. I think a %15 discount immediately is only fair. These community members have been paying too much for a while now so let’s do the right thing while we engage in the process."

Every candidate was asked for their responses to five questions related to issues in the community. As of the time of publishing, we did not receive responses from Michelle Price.

Advanced voting is underway in Kenora and voting begins in Dryden on October 14. The Municipal election will wrap up on October 24.