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Maxed Out: Creative tax advice for Whistler’s municipal hall

'When the only tool you own is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.'
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Yeah... we're gonna have to tax that.

When the only tool you own is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. That’s a famous saying. If it wasn’t Mark Twain or Oscar Wilde who said it, it’s probably a Chinese proverb. Every famous saying seems to have come from one of those and I wouldn’t be surprised to discover the former two “borrowed” from the Chinese. That’s because the Chinese have been around for so long and lived outside of the glare of Western eyes for so many centuries that no one is really sure—not even themselves—what exactly they really deserve credit for. Personally, I draw the line at pizza and spaghetti, but I’ll gladly give them the nod for fireworks and, of course, moo shu pork.

I believe a hammer was the first tool I ever got my hands on. It took a few days for my parents to realize what a horrible mistake they’d made leaving it lying around but by the time they took it away, I can personally attest to the fact everything in the house looked like a nail to me.

Then there was my pliers period, when everything, especially my sister’s fingers, looked like something to be plied.

Eventually, though, I came to appreciate the subtle beauty of tools in their myriad forms and functions. That was some time after my father forbade me to ever touch a tool again... which was right after I’d taken the lawnmower’s engine apart and wondered why there were so many pieces left after I’d put it back together.

So while part of me still likes to think there’s no such thing as a problem too big—just a hammer too small—I am a True Believer in having the right tool for the job. 

Over the years I’ve collected lots of tools. Some perform multiple tasks. Vise-grips, for example, will handily round off any nut they’re torqued down on. They’ll also extract, okay, crush, a perfectly good tooth if a drunk accidentally and mistakenly locks them onto one, the one he thinks is aching, and squeezes until he passes out, which is just one of the interesting experiences I had working the graveyard shift at a gas station on Route 66.

Other tools are highly specialized. I have a socket about the size of my fist that only fits the nut holding an air-cooled Volkswagen’s fan onto its shaft. It cost as much as hiring a mechanic and has been used fewer than half a dozen times. If you’d like to buy it, email me.

This is a roundabout way of saying I know something about tools. I’m still not very good at using them, but I know something about them. Which is why I feel qualified to advise the Muni on tools it may want to consider tucking into its financial toolbox. Right now the Muni’s financial tool box only has a couple of tools: property tax—the hammer of municipal financing—the very restrictive Resort Municipality Initiative funds; the marginally less restrictive hotel tax; parking and the tickets that go along with it; and various fees collected.

One might think property taxes would be more than sufficient, particularly when one considers all those condos that look like hotels, the ones that aren’t occupied all that frequently, are actually owned by people who still wonder why they pay commercial tax rates. Ditto all the mammoth homes owned by the rich and fatuous who still need GPS to remember how to get to Whistler.

But somehow all that tax revenue is never enough. So why not get creative with our tax regulations? I’d like to suggest the following ideas to prime the pump of Creative Taxation.

Ski Tote Tax: There should be an immediate tax on anyone who doesn’t know how to carry their skis properly. You know the ones; they look like they’re carrying two bags of groceries about to break through and spill all over the place. Those people are not only dangerous, they look really dorky and degrade what’s supposed to be a hoity-toity ski resort. A variation would also tax people who carry their partner’s and older children’s skis. If you’re big enough to ride ‘em, you’re big enough to carry ‘em.

Extreme Tax: Whether it’s skis, bikes, tools or alcohol, nothing’s sadder than watching someone in way over their head. Max’s Law postulates one should always avoid using equipment that far outstrips one’s ability. I postulated this law around the same time Bill Lamond loaned me some race skis that nearly killed me. So anyone caught using equipment they have woefully insufficient skill to use gets pulled over, taxed and marched to the nearest rental centre for something else. For good measure, if they’re repeat offenders, we’ll confiscate their equipment and sell it to someone who can actually use it the way it was meant to be used.

Accessory Dog Tax: Small dogs shouldn’t visit Whistler. Especially if they fit in purses or need to be carried in a Snugli. It’s one thing for those few deviant locals who inexplicably own small dogs to not get with the program, but tourists should just leave small dogs at home or kennel them. They only cause trouble and their yipping and yapping just aggravates big dogs and most people. Tax ‘em and tax ‘em hard.

Après Avoidance Tax: This is pretty self-explanatory. Don’t even think of coming down off the mountain without stopping in to one of our many high-quality saloons to rehydrate. It’s unhealthy both for you, the bar owners and the boys and girls who slave over draft beer spigots everywhere. How could you be so thoughtless? Tax ‘em and make ‘em buy a round for any indigent writers trying to hustle free drinks.

Walk of Fame: This isn’t a tax per se. Well, maybe a tax on the vain. At last count there were 1,376,031 separate interlocking bricks currently in use in Whistler Village. Taking a cue from other localities, we should be happy to carve names of people, pets and businesses on them for a reasonable fee. This has the added advantage of being voluntary, though I’m sure we could strongarm people if not enough sign up for the honour.

Okay, that’s five while still wasting the first two-thirds of this column on piffle. Your turn; I’m sure you have some good ideas. And the Letters section of the paper has been a bit thin lately.