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HomeNewsCOVID-19 is taking a financial toll on City of Quesnel

COVID-19 is taking a financial toll on City of Quesnel

Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson, also the Chair of Council’s Finance Committee, says some of the lost revenue is from social distancing and social isolation…

“So when the province makes transit free or the casino is closed down, we’ve got reduced traffic at the airport, there is just a number of areas there that is a direct loss of revenue to the city. And we’re not sure if the province is going to make us whole. So over the time period that we’re offering free transit, will they cut us a cheque for our normal revenue from there, and the same on the casino, at the end of the year will they just give us what the regular casino contribution would be to our finances.”

Simpson says they’ve also had to close amenities and have lost revenue coming from events that were to take place in the community…

“All of our rec centre facilities are closed and while the staff are laid off, we still have all of the fixed costs with that and we don’t have that revenue flow into the community, and that’s a decision that we have made. And the loss in the community for events that we’ve had to cancel. We were going to host Minerals North, we had the Coy Cup, we had a number of tournaments coming up, so there is definitely a direct loss just on the straight non taxation revenue side of things.”

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Despite all of that, Simpson says they are moving ahead with the budget as is, at least for now…

“That is just the easiest way to meet the government’s legislated timelines. While the community charter says we’re an autonomous level of government, in a lot of respects we’re not, because a lot of our operating procedures are being dictated to us by the province. We don’t have the ability, like the Federal and Provincial Governments do, to flex when and if we collect taxes, or whether or not we assign penalties for late filings, we don’t have the flexibility to just go and borrow money with deficit financing, and we’ve had a dialogue with the province around that.”

Simpson says they would need a ministerial order to allow them to do something like defer taxes.

He says there are still a lot of unanswered questions when it comes to what type of help they can get from the province and Ottawa, but he says they have some time as they don’t start collecting taxes until July 1st, and he says they can always make amendments to their tax bylaw.

Simpson says the northern Mayors have also reminded the province that this area has now been hit with socio-economic disruption four years in a row…

“You know the 2017 fires, the 2018 fires and then 2019 with the mill closures and the job losses, we’re now in year four. And that needs to be taken into consideration in our area for the kinds of support programs that we need. The Premier articulated, I think quite well and I think the other Mayors did too, that he understands that there is a different circumstance for us, and that they need to build that into whatever support programs that they’re going to build for us.”

Simpson says they now have some work to do in being very strategic in where they ask for help.

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