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Opinion

Travelling is becoming too expensive. Is it time to make Red Deer a Staycation destination?

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  • The majority of Canadians polled stated they would not be going anywhere this summer. Largely due to costs. So STAYCATIONS are the new norm.
    If the majority of residents in Central Alberta will be travelling less in the future then would it not make sense to create a Staycation destination in Red Deer.
    Sylvan Lake has capitalized on their lake for years, and will likely gain more tourism capital as Central Alberta residents travel away less and seek staycation alternatives.
    A large number of cities like Lethbridge have invested in man-made lakes to attract tourism capital. Lethbridge created Henderson Lake Park out of a man-made slough, and enjoy incredible growth, being one of the fastest growing communities in Canada.
    Henderson Lake Park is one of Lethbridge’s premier parks featuring a 24 hectare man made lake, mature trees and groves, gardens, picnic shelters, playgrounds and over 7 km of trails.
    The Park is home to numerous annual community celebrations including Canada Day Festivities, the Lethbridge Rotary Dragon Boat Festival and many community runs and walks. Whether you’re a family with small children, an exercise or sports enthusiast, a non-motorized boating enthusiast, a fisherman, a horticulturists, or someone simply looking to get out for a walk this park is definitely for you.
    The lake is perfect for kayaks, canoes and paddle boats alike and provides easy access to the water via the boat launch and dock. The dock is often used by fishermen looking to catch Pike, Perch or Whitefish (provincial fishing regulations apply).
    Interested in how we keep the water clean at Henderson Lake.
    For the nature, exercise, and history enthusiasts there is a 2.5 km trail around the lake and another 4.3 km trail around the perimeter of the park providing ample opportunity for one to stretch their legs, check out all of the local wildlife, or view the commemorative and historical markers and displays located throughout the park. There is also plenty of open space in the park which is often used for ultimate frisbee. There are also great little areas for you to put down a blanket and enjoy a good book, have a picnic or simply relax and watch the world as it goes by.
    For families with children Henderson Lake Park has three playgrounds: one located on the north side of the Park just off Parkside Drive, one at the end of the park, and the third located behind the Henderson Lake Pool. The playgrounds feature climbing apparatus, slides and swings. The playground on the north side of the park near the dock is completely accessible. After the kids are done playing families can enjoy a picnic at one of the many picnic tables located throughout the park, or for something more formal one can book a covered picnic shelter.
    Henderson Park is also home to the Demonstration and Rose Gardens. The Rose Garden is located in the northwest corner of the park and commemorates 9/11. The Demonstration Gardens are located east of the Tennis Courts and celebrates the contributions of Communities in Bloom to the Community.
    Henderson Park is surrounded by a multitude of facilities like the SLP Skate Park, Henderson Horseshoe Pits, the Henderson Lake Golf Course, the Henderson Outdoor Pool, Spitz Stadium, Henderson Park Ice Centre, Henderson Tennis Courts and Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden.
    Henderson Park has something to offer absolutely everyone and there isn’t a day where you won’t see families, exercise enthusiasts, seniors, people out exercising their dogs, fishermen, boaters, golfers, and just about everyone else under the sun out enjoying this wonderful park. From the photographic opportunities to the areas for quiet solitude and reflection to the exuberant playgrounds, to the trail system that is linked to the rest of the south side, this park is sure to meet everyone’s needs.
    Lethbridge has a history of investing in facilities to encourage growth, education and tourism. They turned a man made slough into Henderson Lake Park and has never looked back.
    Red Deer has a greater opportunity in having a real natural lake, Hazlett Lake. Will Red Deer build a park? NO, they will likely plan on houses, and apartment buildings that may never get built, unless we go into a boom portion of the boom-bust cycle. This is the simplistic, easiest and safest plan with a low return on investment. It ignores the high-profile location and possibilities of the lake, but it has less risk. A wall will be built to hide the lake from Hwy 2.
    Remember, Hazlett Lake is a natural lake that covers a surface area of 0.45 km2 (0.17 mi2), has an average depth of 3 meters (10 feet). Hazlett Lake has a total shore line of 4 kilometers (2 miles). It is 108.8 acres in size. Located in the north-west sector of Red Deer.
    With Staycations in mind, looking at Lethbridge’s successful Henderson Lake, and keeping in mind that Red Deer will be looking at building a multi-use aquatic centre in the near future, why not build at Hazlett Lake. Throw in a beach, camping, fishing, boating, diving, picnicking, playgrounds and you could have a staycation paradise.
    All in our own backyard. If you agree then let the city know.


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    Opinion

    3 wards for the city based on federal and provincial governance models.

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  • An interesting proposal has been suggested for our municipal governance that is modeled after the provincial and federal electoral system.
    Federally we have Members of Parliament (MPs) and one of them is also the Prime Minister. Provincially we have Members of the Legislature (MLAs) and one of them is also the Premier.
    Federally our fine city is divided into 2 electoral districts or ridings both federally and provincially, so we have 2 MLAs and 2 MPs, and anyone could also be our Premier or Prime Minister, or Speaker, Cabinet Member, or Opposition Leader.
    Back to our city’s governance, we elect 9 people currently, 8 councillors and 1 mayor for 1 electoral district. The idea being suggested is 3 wards, 3 councillors each with 1 also being the mayor.
    Population wise and geographically 3 wards would be fairly easy. Using the last municipal census. Approximately 1/3 the population lives east of 30th Avenue so that would make an easy boundary and approximately 1/3 live north of the river, another easy boundary. The other 1/3 would be south of the river and west of 30th Avenue. Easy and already done.
    Now, why would we consider 3 wards over governance of a single entity?
    Look at thhe history of the wards, the services offered, crime rates, return on investments and you can see the reason.
    The east of 30th Avenue ward has, 3 high schools with plans for 2 more, has the Collicutt centre with a recommended site for the next multi-use aquatic centre, 2 emergency services location, and a pickle ball court centre.
    The north of the river ward has no high schools with no plans for any, the Dawe recreation centre, YMCA, and 1 emergency services centre.
    The other ward has 1 high school, 1 college, downtown recreation centre, museum, tennis courts, Michener pool, Westerner, Kinex arenas, curling rinks, a proposed cultural centre, hospital, multiple emergency services to name but a few.
    So it is easy to see the rationale behind and the appeal for a ward system as our city grows in a manner favourable to some and not to others. 3 wards with 3 councillors each and 1 of the 9 would also act as mayor. It works provincially and federally and it would make councillors responsible and accountable for any continued disparities, right?
    It is an option. Just saying.


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    Opinion

    Taxpayers DO have the right to remain silent

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  • A taxpayer-friendly unanimous Federal Court of Appeal ruling came out this week in MNR v Cameco [2019 FCA 67]. At issue was whether or not the Minister (through the CRA) has the authority to compel oral answers to oral questions from taxpayers or their employees.

    In his ruling, Justice of Appeal Rennie stated “…the Minister does not have the power to compel a taxpayer to answer questions at the audit stage…”, however, it may be in the best interest of the taxpayer to provide reasonable answers to reasonable questions in order to expedite the process. The full entire ruling can be found and read here

    This ruling simply re-confirms, that even in an audit, you (and your staff) have the right to remain silent, and that the Minister’s powers are limited to physical evidence.

    An exception to this is you are required to provide assistance in locating and providing that physical evidence, which may need to be orally.

    Personally, when dealing with a very large number of taxpayers on our own office, we want to be certain that the file that the CRA is talking about is the same file in front of us. As such, we are a firm believer in the Canadian Home Builders’ Association motto that is ironically supported by the Government of Canada: “Get it in Writing.”

    I am not advocating answering no questions, as the Minister (CRA) still has the ability to issue reassessments, thereby shifting burden of proof to the taxpayer further to disprove the reassessment.

    I am, however, advocating at a minimum to get those questions detailed, and in writing. This will help to provide clarity and allow for proper thought in your answers as opposed to stating something with unintended consequences.

    Here is a little example of what happens when you don’t get it in writing: in my dark-side days as a field auditor with the (then called) CCRA, we used to ask prying questions that the taxpayer had no idea they were answering.

    For example, in one particular circumstance I was reviewing a file where it was suggested that the taxpayer was doing under-the-table cash jobs. This meant I would have to be creative in figuring out the taxpayer’s cost of living, and ruling out other sources of income.

    Meeting in a quiet restaurant in a small Saskatchewan town, I was eventually able to have the taxpayer relaxed enough to think that we were having a normal conversation. Just a couple of ‘Riders fans that aren’t a fan of Ottawa, but hey, I have a job to do. When the taxpayer started complaining about the government, I joined in:

    “Hey, I hear you. I’m not some suit from Ottawa. I’m from Regina. I mean both the feds and the province already get enough out of me from tax on my smokes.”

    I don’t smoke.

    The taxpayer didn’t know that, but the anger was timely because the province had just raised up the cigarette tax the previous year so packs were well over $6 a pack.

    “Yeah I know”, the taxpayer said, “I smoke a pack a day”.

    Music to my ears as a tax auditor, the taxpayer just told me that they need ($6 x 365) = $2,190 of after-tax income just to feed their cigarette habit.

    I continued, “That’s terrible! Between getting our money on that, and getting it at the casino, it’s just crazy how much they make it hard to enjoy our weekends.”

    “Yeah, I don’t win nuthin’ at the casino either,” the taxpayer stated.

    To me I heard ‘I didn’t have any non-taxable casino winnings. In fact, the taxpayer likely had lost money in the year. This means the taxpayer needed to have more disposable income to gamble.’

    The conversation continued for a good 30 minutes. Once I was armed with more knowledge of the taxpayer’s lifestyle and spending habits, I went to work. Bank statements, receipts, mileage information, fuel costs, type of vehicle, etc.

    We would use information tools not only from Statistics Canada for price of fuel in different regions, we would also use websites like www.fueleconomy.gov that provide different estimated fuel consumption based on type of use and mileage going back to cars from the 1980s. Then we work backwards to see if the numbers made sense with respect to the taxpayer’s vehicle and costs.

    When it was all said and done, I used the results of our conversation against the taxpayer. When I was finished, I found over $30,000 in an income variance between the taxpayer’s living costs and change in net worth compared to what was reported. Not only that, but the taxpayer had already backed themselves into a corner because of the questions that were answered which I had documented.

    My guess is that in conclusion, the taxpayer thought they should have got the questions in writing instead of meeting me at a restaurant.


    Cory G. Litzenberger, CPA, CMA, CFP, C.Mgr is the President & Founder of CGL Strategic Business & Tax Advisors; you can find out more about Cory’s biography at http://www.CGLtax.ca/Litzenberger-Cory.html


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