Chamber license meeting set for Sept. 25
The Town of St. Paul is looking to ensure that an agreement can be reached on a proposal from the St. Paul and District Chamber of Commerce to include a mandatory chamber membership fee in the cost of a town business license.
Council has arranged for a public hearing this month, so that feedback can be gathered from the local business owners.
So far, some of the strongest resistance to the proposal has come from local business owner John Quadros, owner of Health Mart 2000 Ltd. He has already spoken of his disapproval of the inclusion of a chamber membership fee at a prior meeting.
Quadros spoke with the Journal on his opposition to the introduction of the new fee. Having first consulted with the MLA, he was directed to Municipal Affairs. After asking them for advice on the legality of the matter, Quadros received a letter from Doug Griffiths, Minister of Municipal Affairs.
Griffiths’ response said that the section of the Municipal Government Act (MGA) pertaining to how town councils regulate, prohibit and set fees can be interpreted in different ways. Griffiths also said that there was nothing in legislation that would allow a municipality to impose a fee on behalf of another organization.
Griffiths continued in the letter, explaining that a municipality, according to the MGA, “could certainly agree to receive and process receipts on behalf of another organization as a service or convenience to the community where the charge or fee is based on an agreement of that organization with its own members. On this basis, the municipality would not have the authority to enforce collection or collect from persons or businesses that are not members of the other organization.”
Quadros believes that on the above terms, since he is not a member of the chamber, he should have no legal obligation to have to pay for membership of the chamber with his business license.
“I believe it’s a moral and ethical violation that the chamber thinks it can force our hand to become members,” says Quadros. “In fact, if moral and ethical values are not on the table anymore, and the chamber doesn’t see how wrong it is to force us to join, we have to explore the legality of the matter instead.”
He continues, saying, “The minister has given what he has to say on the matter, and I think that makes it pretty clear what is legal, and what isn’t.”
Quadros plans on forwarding the letter to the mayor and town councilors, with an attached letter of his own, further explaining his stance.
“What we need in council is leadership, and we need people with moral and ethical values to understand that this is against the law, and freedoms of business owners.”
Chamber President Alice Herperger wants as many business owners as possible to attend the upcoming public meeting on Sept. 25, so that everyone is informed as to what the chamber wants to do. The meeting will take place at the multi-purpose room at the Rec. Centre at 7 p.m.
“We’ve been asked to do surveys, and the last time we met with the town council, a public forum was suggested. We’re prepared to talk to anyone who wants any information what we’re doing and why,” says Herperger.
She explains that she spoke to Ken Foley, Head of the Alberta Chamber of Commerce, and says, “It is a strictly municipal matter. (The membership fee attached to business license) has to do with the passing of a bylaw, and as far as we can see, has nothing to do with any other law or any other level of government.”
Herperger says she hopes as many businesses attend the meeting as possible “and that council has a decision made on the matter before the election on October 21.”
Mayor Glenn Andersen believes the input of local business owners is vital in coming to an agreement and decision on the matter.
“We had chamber come and propose the idea of a membership fee included in the business license to council. The idea is to have a public meeting, and the idea of a meeting is giving business people a chance to voice their opinion.”
Andersen explains that it is difficult to force someone to pay for something. He wants the chamber to propose their idea to the business community, so that they can all make a more informed decision on the matter.
“We didn't feel like there was enough communication, and believe that input from businesses who are impacted by the initiative is vital to the discussion. We heard from one individual, and he had some valid points.”
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