Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Nonsense NOW

On a stage in which the spectacles and sentiments get all the press reviews, politicians have been quick to discover the rewards of baiting each other across jurisdictions. The spotlight, according to all the scripts, is trained not only to illuminate the hero but to dissolve all blemishes of appraisal and accomplishment.

London's "One Cent NOW" campaign to persuade the national government to contribute one cent of every GST nickel to cities writes a noble script for municipal politicians as the victims of "outdated" funding arrangements with other levels of government… "[n]otwithstanding the valuable contributions of their current municipal programming, such as the Gas Tax Funds, the Building Canada Fund, the GST rebate, the Public Transit Fund, and the Canada-Ontario Infrastructure Program." Surely there is an etcetera missing here. London, even more than most cities, is already extraordinarily dependent on spending by other levels of government considering alone the prominence of post-secondary education and health care institutions in the city's economy, and the local administration is surely ignoring other extra-governmental financing of which the recent $30 million in commitments to London's Diamond D-JET Corporation can only be one example. When the Frontier Centre's 2007 Local Government Performance Index reports that London's reliance on grants from other governments is 121 per cent above the average for Canadian municipalities, it's difficult to imagine that the City can suck any more out of other Canadians' taxes.

The City's claim that "property taxes and user fees … are not responsive to growth and do not provide sufficient revenue" is not only unsubstantiable, it doesn't even make sense when property tax revenue increases with assessment growth, when the City is at liberty to set both property tax rates and user fees, and when the City does not say what "sufficient revenue" means. Sufficient for what? Perhaps it is not the City than cannot afford to rely on property taxes, but property taxes that cannot afford to rely on what the City considers sufficient spending.

Whether voters are attending the City's script or not, the lines are falling on the deaf ears of the national government, and look to continue to do so. If the City considers a strategy of cooperation between different levels of government to be essential to maintaining its spending growth, it might drop the theatrical demands and get serious instead. In the words of Toronto Councillor Karen Stintz, speaking of her own city's "One Cent NOW" campaign:

The city's current strategy has focused on what the federal government is not giving the corporation of the city of Toronto instead of highlighting the federal government's contribution to business and to residents that live, work, play and visit in the Greater Toronto Area.

3 comments:

mariposa said...

I just heard on Rogers news that London wants to impose a 3% (city) tax on hotel room fees, and in the future, on restaurants as well. Only Van Meerburgen opposed it - everybody else supports this.

This tax would go to Tourism London to - get this - promote tourism to London. (This caused me to laugh so hard I dropped what I was carrying - luckily it wasn't breakable.)

Actually, I believe they're trying to lobby the province to make it a provincial-wide tax, but if that's not possible, they want the option of imposing a city tax.

I guess I'm missing something...I don't get how forcing outsiders to pay more money to visit here will help boost tourism.

bonnie abzug said...

"The City's claim that "property taxes and user fees … are not responsive to growth and do not provide sufficient revenue" is not only unsubstantiable, it doesn't even make sense when property tax revenue increases with assessment growth, when the City is at liberty to set both property tax rates and user fees, and when the City does not say what "sufficient revenue" means."

Mapmaster, we don't always agree on matters at hand but I've always thought that you were reliable in terms of staying on your message. As peculiar as this may seem coming from me, let me remind you of something you have apparently forgotten in your haste to make your point.

There is only one taxpayer.

MapMaster said...

God forbid the day when I make as little sense as a City Hall press release, but won't you allow me discretion over the use of a right-wing rhetorical device?

There is only one taxpayer … in discussions of transfers of tax distribution or tax levying powers, or of the impacts of taxation. But certainly property taxes do respond to assessment growth, just not as fast as the City would like them to.