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Business owners team up to sue city on Montreal's South Shore over parking lot tax

The regulation requires owners of industrial lots pay $1 per square metre of asphalt, and commercial building owners pay $1.75. (CBC - image credit)
The regulation requires owners of industrial lots pay $1 per square metre of asphalt, and commercial building owners pay $1.75. (CBC - image credit)

Amanpreet Atwal says municipal taxes for his family's trucking company have doubled this year. That's an increase of roughly $20,000.

"There doesn't seem to be a justifiable reason for it," said Atwal, who handles sales and operations at GS Liner Transport in Boucherville, Que.

It's one of more than a dozen businesses taking Boucherville to court with hopes of overturning its new asphalt tax.

The tax means industrial lot owners pay $1 per square metre of asphalt, and commercial building owners pay $1.75.

Boucherville, a city on Montreal's South Shore, has vast residential areas and plenty of shopping, with big-name hardware stores and businesses like Ikea with massive parking lots.

Then there's a large industrial park in the eastern portion of the city — a park packed with giant warehouses and factories. The municipal income generated from the industrial sector has long ensured lower property taxes in a city that has a notable ice arena complex and a large aquatics centre.

Atwal questions the big tax increase when his company isn't benefiting from municipal services. Boucherville officials, on the other hand, say they want to use the tax revenue to create green space.

The affected businesses say the tax is unfair and abusive as there is also a separate bylaw requiring they have a certain number of parking spots.

Boucherville is not the first city to impose a tax like this. Montreal imposes a parking lot tax, for example.

Amanpreet Atwal says municipal taxes for his family’s trucking company, GS Liner Transport in Boucherville, Que., have doubled.
Amanpreet Atwal says municipal taxes for his family’s trucking company, GS Liner Transport in Boucherville, Que., have doubled.

Amanpreet Atwal says municipal taxes for his family’s trucking company, GS Liner Transport in Boucherville, Que., have doubled. (Rowan Kennedy/CBC)

According to Montreal's website, a parking lot tax is charged for parking spaces for non-residential buildings. In some areas of downtown, a tax is charged for indoor and outdoor parking. In other areas, a parking lot tax is only charged on outdoor parking lots larger than 10,000 square metres.

One environmental group says this case could set a legal precedent.

"I think it's only fair that big, artificial areas like parking and truck manoeuvre areas pay more," said Blaise Rémillard, with the Conseil régional de l'environnement de Montréal.

Boucherville officials declined to comment as the matter is before the courts. But a spokesperson did say it's asked Quebec's union of municipalities for support.

A spokesperson for the Union des municipalités du Québec (UMQ) said Quebec municipalities play a crucial role in the fight against — and adaptation to — climate change.

"They also hold eco-fiscal powers as tools to encourage sustainable practices and positively influence the behaviour of local actors, whether at the level of businesses or citizens," said Léa Carrière in a statement.

"Boucherville, like other municipalities, must be able to regulate without legal risks associated with such climate actions."