The City of Cold Lake has reached agreements with the federal government that will allow the city to continue operating the Cold Lake Golf and Winter Club on CFB Cold Lake.

On March 9, city council unanimously passed a motion to enter into several five-year agreements with the federal government to continue operating the golf course, curling rink, and pro shop. 

The agreements also allow either party to exit the agreement “within a reasonable time frame.”

The city is in a prolonged dispute with the federal government over Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT), an amount paid to municipalities instead of property tax. 

Prior to 2012, the amount was calculated by a mutually agreed-upon assessor. In that year, the federal government appointed its own assessor, who reported much lower values for federal property within Cold Lake boundaries.

Several municipalities, including Cold Lake, are taking the federal government to court over the matter.

In 2019, the federal government advised the city that it would not pay any PILT at all on the land occupied by the Golf and Winter Club, even though it is federal property. In March 2020, the city advised the base that it would terminate its agreement to run the facilities if a solution could not be found.

The city and the base reached an agreement to allow the curling club to operate for the 2020-2021 season, but curling was shut down by Covid-19 restrictions. 

The city says the Government of Canada has an outstanding municipal tax bill of approximately $13.1 million, plus $13.4 million in penalties, totalling approximately $26.5 million owing to the city.

Cold Lake mayor Craig Copeland says the city’s dispute is not with CFB Cold Lake (4 Wing).

“The PILT issue is complicated and is in litigation, but it’s important to realize that the issue is between the City of Cold Lake and the Government of Canada,” Copeland said. “It was only due to our exceptional relationship with 4 Wing leadership that we were able to arrive at the agreements we did.”

He said the Golf and Winter Club adds to the overall quality of life in Cold Lake for military personnel as well as civilian residents.

“We’re really happy to keep it part of the total recreation that the city offers,” Copeland said. “You know, it comes close to breaking even. It’s probably about 80 per cent or so funded by revenue, which is great. For a net deficit for the taxpayer, it’s pretty minor compared to some of the other recreational facilities we operate.”

He said the golf course on the base complements the other courses in the region to give local players a lot of choice and to help attract visitors.

“It’s a gem, and it’s all part of this economic driver to bring people to Cold Lake to come golfing and to recreate,” he said. “It all fits in the package.”

Now that the City of Cold Lake has an agreement in place to operate the Golf and Winter Club, the annual Swing ‘n’ Sweep golf tournament and bonspiel should be in a position to return this September – pandemic protocols permitting. FILE PHOTOS BY JEFF GAYE