Group of feedlot operators suing Lethbridge County over animal tax

Rick Paskal and Cor Van Raay have been operating cattle businesses in the County of Lethbridge for 80 years, combined.

They are among a group of southern Alberta feedlot operators fed up with the county’s proposed animal tax.

READ MORE: Lethbridge County considers agriculture tax for infrastructure funds 

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    Lethbridge County considers agriculture tax for infrastructure funds

    “Collectively, in the County of Lethbridge, there is 500,000 head of cattle on feed here, so the implications of this tax are far reaching,” said Rick Paskal of Van raay Paskal farms.

    “We all understand that we have a responsibility to pay tax – we are not saying we don’t want to pay tax – what our issue is, as we examine the operations of the county, we felt that there is no reason why the county should charge more tax,” he added. “It’s just indicative of the way the county manages its affairs.”

    Paskal took Global News to a gravel road in the county. He feels the road is a perfect example of the county not spending money in the right places. The road was redone seven years ago and Paskal thought it was in great condition, but the county is currently redoing it again.

    “Why would you spend this money needlessly?”

    He also said the group is worried narrower roads and wide farm equipment could be a deadly combination, making safety a major concern within the county.

    County Reeve Lorne Hickey said upgrading roads like this one to a “Haul Road Status” is what the county was told residents wanted during round table discussions held over the last several months, making it easier for producers to get their cattle to market.

    “It’s not necessarily putting a tax on them to do that, but the roads that we have are in poor conditions at times and they need to be upgraded so that they can be used at different times of the year,” Hickey said.

    He added the tax is needed to cover a $250-million infrastructure deficit.

    The group of business owners feels the tax could eventually force business right out of the area.

    “It won’t happen overnight, but eventually. Over a couple of years, it will totally drive our industry away,” Van Raay said.

    Paskal said the group has now taken its concerns to court.

    “We initiated that lawsuit, not because of the tax  – if we have to pay tax, we will pay the tax – but to make the county responsible for their spending.”

    Hickey says the county consulted with its legal team before bringing the tax forward, and is confident it will stand up in court.

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