Submission to 2021 Ontario Budget, Attention Stan Cho

Stan Cho
Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Finance
Frost Building North, 3rd Floor
95 Grosvenor Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1Z1

Dear Stan,

Thank you so much for inviting me to participate today in your virtual discussion in advance of the 2021 Ontario Budget.

This is our written submission to you in support of the request of The Ontario Historical Society (OHS) that your upcoming 2021 Budget includes the following: “That not-for-profit organizations incorporated through affiliation with The Ontario Historical Society under its Special Act, 1899, be exempt from property taxes on heritage buildings owned or leased, and that exemption remain as long as those members continue in legal Good Standing with The Ontario Historical Society.”

I have also attached the OHS submission to the former Minister of Finance dated February 6, 2020.

I would like to briefly share with you a summary of our discussion today:

  • Tax policy has not been updated to reflect a new reality—since the banking crisis in 2008, all governments and agencies and private institutions have been divesting themselves of Ontario’s priceless heritage assets. OHS has incorporated volunteer historical organizations to assume either ownership or lease of these heritage assets which have been downloaded onto the volunteer sector for the public benefit.
  • When a municipal government or church transfers ownership of a heritage building or museum to a not-for-profit incorporated by the OHS, the new volunteer historical organization must now pay property taxes on top of fundraising for insurance, educational outreach, capital and maintenance costs. For example, Madill Church Preservation Society (Norm Miller’s constituency), incorporated in 2017 to stop the demolition of the 1876 historic Madill Church. The society has since been informed that as the new owner it must now pay property taxes.
  • Numerous Mayors who understand community economic development and the tourist value of these historic sites have told the OHS that they have an off-the-record arrangement whereby the local volunteer historical society or museum pays the property taxes and is then rebated by the local Municipality at the end of the year. This ad hoc arrangement is not a long term solution, as it may end suddenly at the next municipal election. Some Mayors have told OHS not to make this arrangement public, and some have questioned whether it is even legal.
  • The Glengarry Fencibles Trust incorporated in 2010 (located in Jim McDonell’s constituency) and is currently undertaking a $200,000 (50/50 contribution with Parks Canada) restoration project on an 1808 historic building has been told that any improvements will be reflected in market value with an increased property tax assessment. However, this historic building is being restored for charitable purposes and public enjoyment, employing local trades, and it can only be sold to another charity. It is not part of the traditional private market.
  • This is a targeted recommendation and would not set a wide ranging precedent. It is strictly limited to historical organizations incorporated under the OHS Act, approved by the Legislative Assembly, 1899. No other not-for-profit organization in North America has this authority to incorporate other historical organizations. The OHS will monitor the tax exemption, ensuring that only historical organizations legally in Good Standing with the Society and which own or lease a heritage building are eligible each year.
  • This is a pre-pandemic issue that was precipitated by the 2008 economic crisis, which has now been severely exacerbated by the current pandemic as OHS incorporated societies must still pay all costs including property taxes, insurance, and ongoing capital restoration projects while unable to be open publicly for fundraising or other income-generating activities.
  • Property taxes adversely affects rural historical organizations in small communities like Haileybury, Hockley Valley, Huntsville, Manitouwadge, Latchford, Green Valley, Keene, and Deep River. (Please see below 8 supporting letters to OHS for this submission and OHS Affiliates List 2015-2021). Since the pandemic started in March 2020, OHS has worked to establish and incorporate new not-for profits in Middleport, Cornwall, Ancaster, and Mindemoya to stop the demolition of priceless heritage assets and assume ownership. There are similar pending urgent applications to incorporate in Lakefield and Colchester to stop imminent demolition of heritage capital assets.
  • This is a timely local and grassroots initiative, as Ontarians are discovering their history and heritage sites in unprecedented ways. Unlike many provinces, Ontario does not have a provincial museum. We have a different historical approach and tradition, which is why OHS was founded in 1888 and our Legislative Assembly in 1899 granted it unique legal authority. In my experience, OHS’s volunteer incorporated organizations, found in nearly every community across the province, really comprise Ontario’s history museum.
  • I know that both your caucus members and the opposition would look favourably on this initiative. The OHS outlined this recommendation at two Legislative Committees in 2020 and was very well received by all parties. I also believe that your colleagues Sylvia Jones, Jim McDonell, David Piccini, and Norm Miller—who have not-for profits with historic building incorporated by the OHS in their constituencies—would support this initiative.
  • Finally, I would like to add that in 2019 your Government exempted all Royal Canadian Legions from property taxes. We strongly believe that safeguarding Ontario’s history also deserves and now requires the same property tax exemption that would be strictly controlled and monitored by your provincial partner The Ontario Historical Society.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Yours sincerely

Rob Leverty
Executive Director
Ontario Historical Society

cc: Toby Barrett, MPP Haldimand Norfolk

Original Document with Attachments:

Submission to 2021 Ontario Budget, Attention Stan Cho (opens 13-page PDF)