Halifax DND employees prepare to engage in parking wars
Last week, a notice was issued stating that 11,000 DND employees in Halifax will park in the 7,500 available spaces on a first-come, first-served basis. (CTV Atlantic)
Come Saturday, civilian and military Department of Defence employees will be engaged in a parking war of sorts in the Halifax Regional Municipality.
Last week, a notice was issued stating the 11,000 employees will be able to park in the 7,500 available spaces on a first-come, first-served basis. Most of the workers, and half of the spaces, are at the Halifax Dockyard.
“I think it’s going to be a mess,” says Craig Smith, president of the Nova Scotia National Defence Employees Union.
“I think we are going to see 1,000 new cars come into the peninsula of Halifax every day for work.”
In the past, civilian and military employees with 15 years’ experience could get a priority parking place.
Now, all employees, regardless of years of service, rank, or classification, will have equal access to parking spots, with the exception of a few exemptions for those with disabilities or those who already have paid reserved parking.
“You would think in 2014, DND would be able to organize proper parking facilities for people who serve their country,” says Nova Scotia MP Peter Stoffer.
“We’re getting 1.5 and 2 per cent raises and then they are taking $65 or $100 a month away for parking, let alone increases in UI and other benefits that we are having to pay increased values for, I think it is just bad timing, it is a bad idea,” says Smith.
The directive to create new parking regulations on military bases came from the Department of Defence in Ottawa in March, 2009. However, the order actually came out of the Treasury Board, headed by Tony Clement.
Stoffer believes the government is only now getting around to imposing the rule as a deficit reduction measure.
“I suspect the admiral’s hands are tied on this one; this is a decision made by Tony Clement,” says Stoffer.
“Basically, Tony Clement and the Treasury Board is running all the departments, to be honest with you. They are basically calling the shots and telling the department heads and they are telling their people in the departments, ‘here’s what you have to do,’ in terms of the deficit reduction plan.”
Stoffer says the new rules for employees on urban DND bases are being driven in part by Revenue Canada, which says employees must pay for parking or be taxed.
“Why is there all of a sudden a problem with this?” asks Stoffer. “I think that some of it relates to the Canada Revenue Agency, which now indicates that if you are parking at a DND facility, that is now considered a benefit and you have to claim that as part of your income tax.”
According to the National Defence website, “non-compliance with this DAOD may have consequences for both the DND and the CF as institutions, as well as for DND employees and CF members as individuals. Suspected non-compliance will be investigated.”
There is also a threat in the DND notice that states failure to comply could result in a review of past tax returns.
“How desperate have we become, to take men and women who serve our country on a regular basis, and charge them for the privilege of going to work?” asks Stoffer.
The rates for parking on DND bases could be based on competitive rates in the area. The Dockyard is near downtown Halifax, where parking rates are at a premium.
“CFB Halifax and Dockyard in particular, is an industrial area. I know for industrial parks, there are exemptions under Canada Revenue Agency,” says Smith.
Smith believes employees at Shearwater or Greenwood may not have to pay at all, because there is no competitive public parking nearby.
Rear-Admiral John Newton will announce which of four possible plans he will choose to adopt for the parking policy on Tuesday.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Rick Grant