Sunday, January 14, 2007

Quick links

Boarding control

It seems that Controller Gina Barber is settling comfortably at least into the eponymous aspect of her new position, as we earlier predicted would happen. Spending a few hours at Cherryhill Mall on Thursday for the second and more spontaneously proletarian-friendly part of the public input process into the city's 2007 draft budget, Barber recoiled at one ratepayer's admonition to the city that it spend more money on fixing roads and less on special interest groups.

"Putting money towards roads instead of, say public transit, will mean a greater dependence on automobiles and parking garages, which is bad for the environment," she said.

"We want a city that's livable."
It is true that a majority of Barber's fellow politicians and colleagues in local political activism share a sympathy with her ambition to shepherd citizens into pre-meditated exclusionary "livable" zones of conduct at their own expense, but it must be said that no one of them display quite her heroic commitment to being defender of the commissariat.

Paris isn't burning, just the obstacles to its utopia

If Londoners show just a little recalcitrance toward efforts at their re-engineering, Barber must at least take some comfort in the success of surrogate methods used to great avail by her French counterparts. Figures provided by the French Ministry of the Interior reporting 396 automobiles brûlées — burnt — on New Year's Eve have been revised after investigation by Europe 1 radio to have been 683 instead. French policy offers a limitless potential to advance the ecotopia of a voiture-less society, especially for someone like Barber who eschews the niceties of jurisdictional limitations. There's probably no need to tell her that, though… as an avowed proponent of segregated social housing banlieus, unionization, nationalization (municipalization?) of private industry, and other fripperies of the fraternité, Barber would, it seems, already have a copy of Mitterand's textbook.

Function is wasted on dysfunction

Paul McKeever of the Freedom Party of Ontario forwards in an email a link to a new lobby group in Ontario, the Coalition After Property Tax Reform (CAPTR), that is pressing for a legislated five per cent cap on annual increases in MPAC assessments to "reduce volatility in property taxes." Confronted with the evidence that the property tax system is inherently "unstable, arbitrary and downright broken," CAPTR has apparently decided to direct its efforts exclusively on the lowest-effort, least-reward instability end of the problem, without bothering much about the arbitrariness or brokenness. In McKeever's words:
In PRACTICE a 5% cap on assessments is not about HOW MUCH TAX is collected… it is about WHO will pay it and WHEN. In the short run, a cap on assessments of the value of homes means that cities will tax lower-value homes more than they would have had their not been a cap on assessments.
In other words, CAPTR's efforts are directed only towards redistributing the burdens of taxation in the short-term, a politically plausible but fruitless endeavour. As long as municipalities continue to increase their spending, the revenue to fund that spending will be found by increasing property tax rates. Artificially capping assessment increases in the short term will only result in larger short-term property tax rate increases. Either way, tax revenues climb.

CAPTR's efforts dispel none of the problems of either reckless municipal spending or the injustices of the property tax system. The spending is strictly a parochial political problem, of course, that cannot be addressed on a province-wide basis… except to induce legislatively a competition for more mobile consumer capital instead of for entitlements from relatively captive property. Abolishing property tax in favour of a municipal sales tax would serve to encourage this effect as well as to finally rid us of the various miscalculations and improprieties of property tax itself. If you're inclined to do anything more than complain about your property taxes, check out the Freedom Party of Ontario's platform — including specific proposals to eliminate property taxes:
  1. scrap Ontario’s taxation of property;
  2. convert Ontario’s PST into a broader-based value-added tax, and lower the PST rate as necessary to make the conversion revenue-neutral;
  3. give to each and every Ontario municipality the discretion to add a municipal premium to the PST within its respective geographic borders. The province will collect each municipality’s premium through already-existing provincial collection systems, and remit the revenues to the municipalities in which they were paid. To discourage abuse and ensure accountability, municipal and regional governments will be denied the power to undermine tax-rate competition between municipalities via legislative, contractual, or other methods.

1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

The property tax system is probably one of the most accountable taxes going - just look at the tizzy citizens get into when it's raised.

The entire problem though with the current property tax system is that it favours single-family development (notice how multi-res usually pays at least double the mill rate); encourages outward expansion (it's based mainly on the size of the building, as opposed to the size of the parcel); and, it encourages horrible design (note that more ornate buildings are charged more than their cinder block strip mall neighbours).

A nice way to reform the property tax isn't to faulter to the single-family homeowner lobby (as has been done again and again and thus created this mess), but move to a flat tax based on square footage of the land and truly based on current market value.