Mike Bradshaw April 2014

Mike Bradshaw, the director of the NWT Chamber of Commerce, says property tax in Yellowknife is out of control. He says it's adding to the cost of living, driving people away from the city. (CBC)

The City of Yellowknife is coming under fire for contributing to the high cost of living in the city.

The NWT Chamber of Commerce has released an analysis of city revenues and spending over nine years.

It shows the city collected 54 per cent more tax revenue in 2012 than it did in 2004.

"We've got to do something about the cost of operations and the cost of living here," says the chamber's executive director, Mike Bradshaw. "The economy, literally, is on the verge of a death spiral."

'The economy, literally, is on the verge of a death spiral' - Mike Bradshaw, executive director, NWT Chamber of Commerce

Mark Heyck, mayor of Yellowknife, says the main reason tax revenue is up is because there are more homeowners and businesses paying taxes.


Mark Heyck, mayor of Yellowknife, says the property tax has gone up 2 per cent each year for more than a decade. He says that's in line with other jurisdictions across the country.

New areas are being developed, which means more tax revenue for the city, but Heyck says it also means increased costs pressures from the city to provide services to those areas.

"The cost of living is a big issue," Heyck says. "It's near the top of the list for a lot of residents. I think it's a bit misleading to point at the city or the public sector and say this is your problem. We all need to address it and that includes the private sector as well."

He says between 1999 and 2013 the increase to property tax went up by 29 per cent, rising about two per cent each year.

According to the 2014 Ipsos Reid Citizens Survey, 42 per cent of respondents blame their worsening quality of life on the high cost of living. That's down two per cent from a survey four years ago. 

In that same study, 78 per cent of respondents say they're getting good value for the taxes they pay to the city, with additional services and facilities.

But the NWT Chamber of Commerce is concerned even with an expansion of services and new developments coming on stream, the population growth flatlining. 

"That's a function of fewer people being employed here and fewer people residing here," Mike Bradshaw says.

"We've heard from many members who are considering going elsewhere, moving their organizations to lower cost jurisdictions."

Bradshaw says business property taxes have increased more than 88 per cent over a nine year period in the city. 

The chamber presented the information to the city's management steering committee on Monday. Bradshaw says he's thankful the city is willing to listen.

"I don't think many of the people on council, especially the new ones were aware of the cumulative impacts of decisions over that nine or 10 year period," Bradshaw says.  "Now that it's on the table we can continue the dialogue and decide what the next steps are."