Monday, July 23, 2007

Choices

We have come to a fork in the road, where one of two chapters in the city will be written. To the left, we find a city which is more expensive to live in, but where we have excellent municipal services provided for us. To the right, we have a city which is more affordable, but where we have to provide ourselves with the services that we used to receive.

The issue of the budget crisis and its effect on the TTC has spawned unprecedented discussion on websites like BlogTO, Torontoist and Steve Munro's Website. Perhaps it is political grandstanding, and using a doomsday scenario to move civic leaders to action, but perhaps, this is the situation we face. We've known for years that the cost of providing city services we use was out-pacing revenue - and that eliminating free coffee at council meetings wasn't going to be enough to solve the crisis.

Truly, we have three clear options, because we cannot gamble on the province offering handouts. The cost of losing that bet is too great. The premier is on record saying that he will not offer any more financial support to Toronto - and although a provincial election looms, this is the devil we know.

That leaves us at service cuts, tax increases or a mixture of both.

It won't surprise you to know that I do not support any cuts to the TTC in particular, and hope that cuts to other city services can be avoided at all costs. We were just starting to build momentum in rebuilding the system, and the proposed action will bring us back to the Harris days. I don't buy the argument that raising taxes will cause a mass exodus into the suburbs. Money isn't the only reason people do what they do, and its not the only reason they live in the city of Toronto.

There is a movement at city hall to reopen the debate about the new taxes. If council is recalled, I hope that the elected officials ignore partisan lines, political gains and personal vendetta, and look deeply within themselves to answer to question: "What kind of city do you want to live in?"

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5 Comments:

At 7/26/2007 5:46 PM , Blogger Adeel Ahmad said...

Property taxes in Toronto are lower than they are in most other municipalities. If a marginal tax increase in absolute terms is enough to drive Torontonians out of the city, then so are drastic reductions to services.

I can't believe councillors oppose the tax increase and come up with high-profile but largely meaningless reductions in spending (see Ford, Rob).

 
At 7/26/2007 8:32 PM , Blogger Andrae Griffith said...

By Ford's arguments, we should eliminate the mayor and city council. Salaries and expense account savings would be around $10 million (based on $200,000 per person). That will do wonders to solve the budget shortfall of $500 million...

 
At 7/26/2007 8:34 PM , Blogger Andrae Griffith said...

I must also applaud the library board, who has cut $1.2 million from their budget, without any deferrals or conditions.

 
At 7/27/2007 11:28 PM , Blogger VillageMayor said...

The problem with tax increases is that there are a lot of low income families in the city. A 1% increase is very significant for many. Hence, taxing the wealthy who want to move into the city through land transfer taxes.

 
At 7/28/2007 12:37 AM , Blogger Andrae Griffith said...

Personally, I prefer income taxes to property taxes. It ensures that those who cannot afford to pay taxes can still afford to live in the city where services are more easily accessible (reducing the need for fixed income families to own a car). However, it has to be applied across the province. I don't believe in the mass exodus theory proposed by many of the right-wing members of council, but switching to an income tax scheme only within Toronto might make that a reality.

 

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