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Critics dump on Halifax's 'ditch tax' in aftermath of flash flooding

“This is the centre line of my culvert, and as you can see, it's collapsing,” explains homeowner Robert Leblanc, pointing to the culvert at the end of his driveway.

LeBlanc says he and his family don't dare drive over it, for fear of losing a vehicle.

This particular damage followed a recent deluge.

“It was of such a magnitude, that it flooded out this culvert, that culvert, and the next one,” he says.

But he had been complaining about the failing culvert for years and has filed an appeal of Halifax Water’s storm water charges against his property.

To say the municipality’s storm water system has been put to the test this summer may be the understatement of the year.

Halifax Water is responsible for it, but the utility says it's got a lot to do right now after several record-breaking rainstorms.

“We want customers to know that we are working quickly and safely to repair the damage," writes utility spokesperson Jeff Myrick in an email to CTV.

“We know people are frustrated, but we respectfully ask for patience. The severity of this damage will take time to repair."

As for the tax, Myrick writes, “If the ditch or culvert no longer allows water to flow, Halifax Water will repair or replace it at no additional cost to the property owner. This is part of the service they pay for through their stormwater bill. This involves Halifax Water dispatching crews, trucks, and excavators to complete the work.”

Halifax MLA Brendan Maguire knows the tax is a municipal matter, but feels it’s just not working.

“Are getting value for it?” Maguire asks, “I would argue it's one of the worst values we have as taxpayers."

He says the tax collected for the specific purpose of maintaining and fixing ditches is proving to be a failure.

“All you have to do is drive around in your communities, look at the ditches, if you have a ditch, and see the state of it, they're either overgrown and the water is actually coming out of the ditch, or the culverts are actually collapsed or full,” he explains.

“”I'm hearing a lot of the same things,” says Halifax Councillor Becky Kent.

Kent sits on the Halifax Water Board of Commissioners and admits there's been confusion about jurisdiction between the utility and the municipality on the matter.

She says, if anything, the extreme rainfall received this season is testament to how important the infrastructure is.

“The rural areas in particular, they struggle with, 'what's the benefit to them?' Well, we're starting to see the importance of those ditches now,” she says.

Back in Lake Echo, Robert LeBlanc says he has no intention of paying the tax.

“This is essentially a cash cow,” he says, “I still haven't paid it." 

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