I would like to comment on the recent decision on a referendum for a tax increase of 0.5% to fund TransLink. This decision, in my opinion, if passed will potentially devastate retail merchants in Aldergrove.
Our local gas merchants are faced with reduced profit margin because they have to compete with retailers outside of the GVRD (literally three blocks east). People will generally drive a few minutes east to save money; they will also drive south for the same purpose and while there, they will shop for other things that could and should be purchased right here in Aldergrove. This is true for all border towns.
We also have to compete against the High Street Mall. Adding tax to the merchants of Aldergrove will make this even more difficult.
One might say that it is “only 0.5%”, but any savings to shoppers is paramount. People get an idea in their heads, and this is exemplified by the media. Any perception, real or not, big or small, will be seen as huge by the consumer.
After many hours of research by myself, I have ascertained that at least $15,000,000 is spent cross border shopping in each year in the Aldergrove area alone. This will only increase with a tax hike.
For merchants in Vancouver, North Van, West Van, New West and most communities north of the Fraser River, and relatively west of the GVRD border will likely not have a negative impact on retail sales, but for us border towns, it will have serious consequence.
With lower retail sales for our merchants, community support will be reduced and this will in turn hurt all residents of our town. Companies like mine will have a reduced ability to support youth sports and donations to groups like Aldergrove Festival Days and Aldergrove Business Association.
It will also impact the gas tax in that even loyal Aldergrove citizens will become less loyal if they can save even more money than now to leave our community. The gas tax revenue will erode even more.
Honestly, either of the alternatives would be better for our town, but there is another solution and I have suggested it before: Why not create a graduated tax. Residents who live between the border and the river, pay at one rate (as it is now or lower), and north of the river, higher. This could also be applied to the existing gas tax. Border towns would have a reduced tax so that shoppers will stay in our country. Tax revenue would go up because south consumers would be more likely to stay home. Towns that are located further from the US border who have less issue with cross border shopping will not be negatively affected.
There won’t be much for tax dollars coming out of Aldergrove if it becomes a ghost town.
Bruce Heslop, Diamond Bar Equipment, Aldergrove