EDITORIAL: City loses on Nav Canada adjustment

The assessed value of Penticton’s tower dropped from $270,000 to $20 in the stroke of a pen.

No one wants to pay anymore taxes than they have do. It seems Nav Canada is operating under the same principle.

Around the end of February, Nav Canada managed to argue successfully that the tower properties at four airports under their control should not be assessed a market value, Penticton being one of them.  As a result, the assessed value of Penticton’s tower dropped from $270,000 to $20 in the stroke of a pen.

Not that Nav Canada or the B.C. Assessor bothered to notify the city about the assessment change. That only came after Penticton CFO Doug Leahy received a call from North Saanich, where they stand to lose about $72,000 a year due to the reassessment. Leahy expects Penticton’s loss — should the assessment change hold — to come in at about $2,000.

But the amount of the tax revenue loss is not the point. Nav Canada argued that since they are a not for profit corporation, and were given the airport lands only to use for an airport, the market value of the lands was essentially nil. Now, Nav Canada is a special kind of company — rather than being a  Crown corporation, they are actually a private corporation responsible for handling air traffic control. And to be sure, they are not for profit, that is part of their charter.

What that all adds up to, however, is the federal government downloading the cost of services to communities, but doing it arm’s length. The basic fallacy of the argument is that the land could not be used for any other purpose. Is this the fault of Penticton? No. A federal directive, part of Nav Canada’s agreement is the reason.

If Penticton airport lands weren’t being used for that purpose, they would still likely be generating tax dollars for the city, or more likely, the Penticton Indian Band, which holds title to the land. Legal finessing aside, and whether the money comes from the federal government or Nav Canada, property tax should be paid on all the airport property, just like any other business.