COLD LAKE - The City of Cold Lake may have won the battle, but they have yet to win the war.
The Federal Court decided in the local municipality's favour in their fight against Her Majesty the Queen as represented by the Minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada and the Department of Public Services and Procurement Canada relating to Payment in Leu of Taxes (PILT) for the Cold Lake Golf and Winter Club.
"This was a tremendous success for the City of Cold Lake," expressed CAO Kevin Nagoya. "It does speak to some of the challenges that the city does have. I know there's a lot of public interest in regards to the PILT dispute decision."
This conclusion is only part of the overall legal battle the city is in regarding PILT.
What is PILT
According to General Manager of Corporate Services for the city, Kristy Isert, PILT is a system that has been created to "compensate taxing authorities, like the City of Cold Lake for example, in an equivalent manner as a value of what would otherwise be paid in taxes," on a property that doesn't pay municipal taxes because it belongs to the federal government.
This includes the Cold Lake Golf and Winter Club.
"The purpose of that legislation is to recognize that federal government properties still utilize services that are provided by the taxing authority," Isert explained.
Mayor Craig Copeland said, "The PILT Act is intended for federal agents to be good residents of municipalities and to pay their fair share of property tax. Unfortunately, the federal government wanted to look at the golf course lands and not necessarily feel like they owe property tax on that. We won our argument that that's not right."
In December 2012, the city entered an agreement with 4 Wing Cold Lake for the municipality to operate the golf course.
"One clause of that agreement did state that the wing commander would continue to make all PILTs. Between 2012 and 2019, the city did apply for PILT for the 4 Wing Cold Lake property, which included the Cold Lake Golf and Winter Club," outlined Isert. "The city did receive PILT in relation to that property between 2012 and 2019."
In 2019, the city was notified Public Services and Procurement Canada had determined the golf course no longer qualified for PILT.
"The City of Cold Lake applied for judicial review of the federal government's decision to deny the eligibility to deny the Cold Lake Golf and Winter Club for the PILT," stated Isert.
The Federal Court agreed with the city, and is requiring the Government of Canada to pay.
The PILT payments for the golf club alone are approximately $300,000 annually.
"Of course, that is pending the value of the disputed assessment for ongoing litigation that is yet to be heard... We do anticipate that federal hearing will be scheduled late this year or early 2022," Isert said.
During their meeting on Tuesday, May 11, council stressed how this is just the beginning, as they have a larger hill to climb in relation to the overall PILT, not just the golf course.
“It’s good news. I think for the benefit of all, we’re talking about the PILT assessment on the golf course only, not the greater, bigger picture, or the real battle,” exclaimed Coun. Bob Buckle.
When it comes to the "big picture," Copeland said the municipality is owed roughly $1.2 million every year through the PILT. The city is currently in a legal dispute with the federal government in relation to these dollars, in addition to their latest success.