At least 20 farmers, accompanied by local and regional representatives from the UPA, attended the regular municipal council meeting on Monday evening in Saint-Anicet.
On the table was the adoption of the proposed property tax rate. When the budget was presented in December, Mayor Alain Castagner suggested the council could adopt differentiated tax rates, such as 0.31 per $100 valuation for agricultural land and 0.46 per $100 for residential and commercial land.
However, on February 1, everything changed.
“Why not use a differentiated tax rate?” asked Ms. Céline Raby, the Vice-President of the regional UPA, who noted that eight municipalities in the Haut-Saint-Laurent, including Ormstown, had already adopted differentiated tax rates, as are authorized by the Quebec government.
Toussaint Mainville, a farmer, stated publicly that with the new assessment in Saint-Anicet, the value of his farmland had literally doubled. “Agricultural land that was worth $700,000 in 2014 is now worth $1,400,000,” he said. “This is a larger tax burden for farmers who must qualify for grants from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food with the same needs. The problem is that production is not keeping up with the frenetic pace of land assessment.”
“Agricultural land is what allows us to earn our living,” reminded Josiane Carrière, a local representative with the UPA. “Why are you taxing our livelihood? Why don’t you consider the economic contribution, jobs and local investment that agriculture brings to Saint-Anicet?”
The mayor countered that a rate of 0.42 per $100 valuation that was applicable to all land owners was fair. “I realized that if we did it any other way, it was residential owners who would lose while the MAPAQ would win. Part of the agricultural sector receives a reimbursement for municipal taxes. In Saint-Anicet, 75% of the total amount of tax paid is by landowners along the waterfront, 19% is by farmers, and the remainder is paid by owners living in the village.”
A vote to adopt a tax rate of 0.42 per $100 valuation was then held. Councillors Marius Trépanier and Jean Roblain voted against the regulation, while Mayor Castagner and councillors André Picard, Heather L’Heureux and Johanne Leduc voted in its favour. Councillor Alain Fournier was absent.
“What a way to manage the municipality,” concluded councillor Marius Trépanier. “Being divisive when collaboration is already difficult.”
Denise St-Germain, Volunteer correspondent for the Haut-Saint-Laurent
Lise Guinard, photographer