The FNTC undertook a video project profiling First Nations to celebrate their successes in using property taxation to build their economies and generate revenues. The intent was to revisit the past 25 years of First Nation property taxation in Canada and allow First Nations themselves to share how property taxation has impacted their community and what it means to them.
Background on community property taxation.
Whitecap Dakota First Nation it located approximately 20 minutes south of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. We’ve implemented a real property tax regime in 2004 under section 83 of the Indian Act. The reason for that was we had to ensure that we’re collecting real property taxes to hold services for the casino. We built the $66 million casino; we currently didn’t have the infrastructure or means to build a casino of that size so we had to come up with some ways to start recouping those infrastructure dollars, and that was one of our main streams right there, was the real property tax law.
Why did your First Nation get involved in collecting property tax?
In 2011 was when we looked into the FMA, we thought it’d be a better regime to fall under in regards to taxation. I think it would be more flexible for Whitecap to work with FNTC, the First Nation Tax Commission, to ensure that our laws are being abided by and our annual laws are being set accordingly. So in 2011 we signed onto the FMA, the First Nation’s Management Act, and in 2012 we began taxing under the FMA. And we currently are building, or progressing into 10 million dollar infrastructure development expansion for our business park. We have a 40 acre business park we’re moving forward with.
What does property tax mean to you?
Real property tax is providing local services to the taxpayers: to the commercial tax payers, to the residential tax payers. And it’s also community building, right? So everyone’s on side. Whitecap doesn’t see taxation as a bad thing, we see it as sharing, right? So we’re all sharing with one another to build a vibrant community for Whitecap and it’s members and it’s taxpayers.
How has property tax supported economic development in your community?
In order for us to continue economic development, we’re going to have to offset the cost of infrastructure. So creating those real property tax laws, and creating that development levies law is going to bring us up to lot ready infrastructure lots, right? So we can start having these on the market, ready for leasing and more investors, business corporations are going to be more viable to looking into purchasing land in Whitecap because they’re all lot ready, right? And we’re putting these real property tax dollars back into the ground, these development levies cost charges back into the ground. So that’s how we see it feasible for Whitecap. And it’s a means of building our economic development in Whitecap.