Canada Supreme Court completes closing arguments for Catalyst Paper's high tax case against North Cowichan, British Columbia; parties wait for final decision

Kendall Sinclair

Kendall Sinclair

Oct 19, 2011 – News Leader Pictorial

COWICHAN, British Columbia , October 19, 2011 () – It certainly wasn’t a typical morning for Tom Walker.

At work by 6 a.m. Tuesday, North Cowichan’s mayor settled in front of a television — with a beverage and a muffin — and watched a live broadcast of Supreme Court of Canada​ proceedings.

The purpose, of course, was to witness yesterday’s closing arguments for Catalyst’s tax revolt against the municipality.

“I expect it will probably be a month,” Walker said of when to expect a decision from the seven Supreme Court justices.

“I felt very good about it. I thought our lawyers presented themselves well and were well informed, and I just have a good feeling — but you never know until the decision is rendered.”

Catalyst has been battling against what it calls unfairly high taxation from North Cowichan since 2009.

It first pled its case to B.C. Supreme Court, which ruled in North Cowichan’s favour.

The Crofton mill owners’ appealed the decision at the B.C. Court of Appeal, which again ruled in favour of North Cowichan — prompting Catalyst to take the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Yesterday’s closing arguments lasted a couple of hours.

Catalyst staff chose not to comment on Tuesday’s Supreme Court of Canada hearing, but Walker said he wishes the matter had been settled out of court.

“I think when you go to court, it’s a bit of crap shoot, and that’s why my door is always open. I like to talk through things, and I never feel comfortable, no matter what the issue is, when we’ve ended up in court. That’s not my preference.”

Still, Walker hopes that once Canada’s top court renders its decisions, the municipality and its largest employer can move beyond the legal dispute.

“I think our council has a pretty good grasp on the taxation issue, because we try to accommodate our largest employer, try to accommodate the businesses in the valley, and we listen to all of the concerns.”

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