Province not ready to tackle unincorporated communities
The provincial government says it's not ready to deal with the thorny issue of unincorporated communities.
A CBC investigation found that more than 50,000 people don't have to pay property tax.
In a statement to CBC, the Department of Municipal Affairs said it's aware that there are issues in communities where there are no councils and no property tax base — it lists a lack of local leadership, no planning or controls on development, as well as minimal capacity to deal with water and waste standards.
The department said people living in unincorporated areas may pay neighbouring towns for garbage collection and other services.
While the department said the subject will be further examined as part of a provincial-municipal fiscal framework review, there are no immediate plans for change.
For those who don't have to pay taxes, the provincial government forks out millions of dollars to look after their roads.
Port de Grave is one of 300 unincorporated communities in the province. It has less than 10 kilometres of road, but it costs the provincial government $60,000 a year to maintain.
"The days of living in the wilderness are over, and if we continue to encourage people to move to places where they are not paying taxes, the rest of us who pay taxes are just going to end up paying more on their behalf, and it's not fair, it shouldn't be allowed to exist," said Craig Pollett, the CEO of Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador.
Every road that runs through a town without a council costs the provincial government $7,500 per kilometre — a total of $80-million a year for local roads and provincial highways.
Pollett said that number would be much lower if everyone paid property tax.
"It's a big political issue. There's a lot of these local service districts and unincorporated areas that are in districts that are represented by MHAs who have a stake in how people feel about how the area is being run," he said.