Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Passing the Blame and Missing the Point

London's ballooning budget hike has quadrupled to 7.8 per cent because the province continues to download new costs onto cities, Tom Gosnell told Ontario's standing finance committee yesterday. Gosnell, the city's deputy mayor, told the panel of MPPs their penchant for adding services to the municipal tax base is crushing cities and enraging property taxpayers.

The committee is travelling to seven Ontario centres to hear from taxpayers before the provincial budget is drafted.

Since 2002, the City of London has been forced to take on $13 million in costs for services passed on by the Ontario government, Gosnell said.

"If we didn't have this type of downloading, we'd be coming in at a one- or two-per-cent budget (hike)," Gosnell said following his presentation.

"It's creating a tremendous burden on our taxpayers.

"Ultimately it's going to destroy the financial sustainability of the City of London."

Gosnell cited the ongoing day-care debacle -- in which the province won't hand over $1.4 million in federal funding unless the city adds $450,000 -- and the 50/50 ambulance funding formula, which he says is now 60 per cent covered by city hall, as examples of the stress placed on city councillors at budget time.
Never mind that capital budget Mr. Gosnell - blame it on downloading in hopes of redirecting some of the justifiable taxpayer wrath toward the provincial government and away from London City Council's profligate spending habits. Pass the blame is the name of the game when it comes to politics. I guess you conveniently forget how much money municipalities actually receive from the province?
London West MPP Chris Bentley, the Liberal labour minister, watched Gosnell's 10-minute presentation and while he's sympathetic to the city's complaint, he said taxpayers are paying for these services, either to the city or province.

"Talking about the moving around of (services) is a useful conversation but it really doesn't point out that there is only one taxpayer," Bentley said.

"That means there's only one pocket who can pay for the services.
For once, I almost agree with Bentley, keeping in mind he is one of the players. The money for services ultimately comes from the same pocket: taypayers. At the same time, let us not forget that this is done without our consent and as usual, it is taken for granted that the government should have the sole monopoly on these services in the first place.
Chatham-Kent MPP Pat Hoy, who chairs this standing committee on finance and economic affairs, pointed to the gas-tax sharing as an example of the Liberals' efforts to help cities.

Although he wouldn't say whether Finance Minister Greg Sorbara will act on any of the recommendations his travelling panel will offer, Hoy called it an "important" exercise.

"We take (this) job very seriously," he said. "We understand the financial constraints they're under and hopefully we can . . . alleviate the problems that cities have."

No other municipal government has focused its discussion on taxes as Gosnell did, Hoy noted.
More useless public meetings and expensive committees - I do hope the committee members are enjoying their free meal ticket. I bet they dine and are accomodated in style as they travel around the province. Interesting that London is the only municipal government that is so shamelessly blaming the province in an attempt to hide their incompetence and inability to successfully manage the city. Perhaps other city leaders will take up the cause in hopes of similiarily deceiving the people. I am sure other Londoners will join me in thanking you for your noble stance in favour of taxpayers -thanks for looking out for yourself Gosnell.