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Penhold discusses going tax free for TV show

Penhold is one of a final few Canadian cities that may soon be put under the microscope for a social experiment courtesy of reality television.

The tentatively titled Axe the Tax asks residents of a town to live without the services provided by what they pay in taxes. They would instead be given the money they would have been taxed and would then have to spend it on what they need.

“In it’s most simple form it is, what would you have if you had no more taxes,” said Nicole Lawson, Force Four entertainment director of development.

“What would it look like if you didn’t have taxes and you had to provide for yourself.”

When participants needed to use a municipal service, such as a road or sewer, they would be penalized from the money they have, in lieu of paying taxes.

Lawson and two of her colleagues were in Penhold at the regional multiplex yesterday discussing the potential reality TV show with residents.

Penhold Mayor Dennis Cooper was positive about the show’s message of showing people exactly how their municipal tax dollars are spent.

“If we work towards improving and getting people to understand where the tax dollars all goes,” said Cooper. “Everything from conserving water to well if you drive on the roads you pay a penalty. You forget the roads and the streets are all things the town supplies.”

Penhold is one of a handful of municipalities being considered for the show, Lacombe is another.

“We’re looking forward to it, we’re open,” said Cooper.

What Cooper sees as a potential message from the show being that by getting involved people can improve their community.

“There will always be the single issues where people don’t like this or that, but if there is an issue, we can all bond together and work for a common goal,” said Cooper.

Though the scope of the project is still in progress, Lawson said it will depend on what they can work out. Producers said it could be one street, one neighbourhood or may even be the whole town.

“We never know what the outcome is,” said Lawson. “What the hopeful outcome is, in these kind of socially transformative documentary series is something is learned, something is gained and people have a bigger perspective of how their town is run and how their money is spent.”

Lawson said they will have to decide where they will shoot a short five minute demo in the next few weeks, which would then be shot early in the New Year. At the earliest the producers said they hope to be shooting the series, wherever it ends up taking place, in the summer. Producers anticipate the series will take three to eight weeks to shoot. They also said it will be on a major Canadian network, but could not specify which one.

Any money leftover at the end of the social experiment/reality television show is turned over to those involved who can spend it as they chose.

“I think it’s maybe one of those things that on the onset doesn’t sound exciting, but it affect us all,” said Lawson. “We all talk about it, we all complain about it. It affects every part of our life.”

Though Lawson would not name the other municipalities being considered, she did say they are in B.C., Alberta and Ontario.

Community members should show their support for the idea by joining a Facebook page the company has created, called the Penhold Project, or by calling or emailing the company.

The producers will be in Lacombe at the Memorial Centre’s County Room tonight at 7 p.m.



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