George Robinson, Vancouver Island Pioneer

THE RELUCTANT TAXPAYER

The boundaries had been set when the City of Victoria was incorporated 2nd August, 1862, so that when George Robinson built his house in Victoria West, across the harbour from the city centre and from all but a few of its population, he must have known that he would be paying urban property taxes while reaping few urban benefits. There seems to have been a movement in 1865 to get the boundary changed so that the trans-harbour area would become part of Esquimalt. Indeed, many of the residents of Victoria West today, if given the opportunity, would gladly vote for the same change. George Robinson, in writing an open letter to the Editor of the Colonist, which published it in the issue dated April 1st, 1865, was thus firing one of the earlier shots in a battle which has been waged off-and-on for more than a century. Said his letter:

"THE CITY BOUNDARY

"TO THE EDITOR OF THE BRITISH COLONIST. - Sir - In reading in today's COLONIST the proceedings of the House of Assembly yesterday upon that portion of the city Incorporation Act which fixes the boundary of the city, I could not but feel that some of the hon. members of the House have not given that attention to the subject which they ought to have done, inasmuch as they appear to have entertained the idea that they will be doing right - consequently acting justly - in allowing the city boundary to remain as heretofore. I however have no hesitation in saying that such is not the case, that its remaining so will be a positive and direct act of injustice to the whole of the landowners and taxpayers of Victoria West, in particular; and I wish to ask where our legislators can discover the slightest semblance of justice, consistency, or common sense in including Victoria West within the city limits and thereby making me liable to pay city taxes, whilst property through which I have to pass from my residence to town and some of which is not really more than one-fourth of the distance from Victoria is not included within the city limits. I again ask them to show that they are doing justice to me in acting so partially. If they can do so, I will feel more content and more pleasure in paying the city taxes than I have hitherto done; not that I wish to be understood as complaining so much of my being called upon to pay the city taxes as I do of the fact that those parties who derive three or four times the benefits of the Incorporation Act as I do, go scot free. My benefits in fact are nil, unless you say that to be allowed to pay taxes is a benefit.

"I am, Sir, respectfully yours,

GEORGE ROBINSON,

Woodbine Cottage,
Victoria West, March 28."

Fortunately, the City of Victoria archives still have the Real Estate Assessment Roll for the period 1st July 1864 to 30th June 1865. This shows George Robinson as owning three lots, Numbers 13, 14 and 15, fronting on Frederick Street. Each lot measured 66' x 127' and each was assessed at $150, with total improvements assessed at $400. Taxes were one percent of assessed value of land plus improvements, thus George's taxes for the year were $8.50. How times have changed!

It would be interesting to compare these long-ago figures with those of the present day for the same land, but such a comparison is not possible. Frederick Street was changed many years ago to Dundas Street; Bay Street was extended at an angle across part of the property and more recent development put most of the land east of Bay Street under a large apartment building. The site of Woodbine Cottage would be somewhere in this building's parking lot.

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