Friday, July 20, 2007

the city is going down the drain

I grew up in Toronto, a great city for those who like big cities. This week there was a vote on two new taxes: a land transfer tax and a vehicle registration tax. The land transfer tax would be levied on individuals buying a home and new home owners would be exempt (I though it was on individuals selling a home, but someone suggested it was the other way around this week). Thus, it would be levied when people had money in their pocket so they could afford it, being different from raising property taxes which would affect everyone whether they had money or not - people who in the past moved into homes that they could afford might find themselves not being able to afford them with property tax hikes, this would especially affect the elderly who are on fixed pension incomes and have maintained their own homes as an asset. The vehicle registration tax would be on all vehicles registered to the city of Toronto. It would only be 60 dollars to register your car, not very much if you can afford a tank of gas these days (I'd say the average fill-up is between 40 and 60 dollars). Since we're trying to encourage people to take transit, by taking this tax and improving the transit system our environment can only win. I think it would be better if this payment was scaled to the size of your vehicle, i.e. SUVs pay more than compact cars, but it's a good start to getting people to maybe take their cars less, improve transit in the city, and pay for much needed road repairs. I supported these new taxes.

These taxes did not pass at city council. Instead, the vote was deferred until after hte provincial election. Some councillors have the pipe dream that the province will offer the city the balance for the $500 million dollar deficit. After the vote, each of the candidates for premier said that they had no plans to offer this kind of cash to the city - ooops! So, this week it has been announced that one whole subway line is going to be closed and 40 bus routes cancelled, 100 new buses are going to be mothballed and property taxes might go up as much as 18%. People are crying that they didn't know what the consequences of the vote were going to be, but I remember the mayor going on the radio and saying that if we didn't levy the taxes, services would be cut and Torontonians would feel it. So far, these cuts have only contributed a small amout to fixing the city's budget shortfall, and we will only see more painful cuts happen in the future.

Brace yourself Toronto, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Toronto is going to slip backwards in terms of climate change action and environmental conservation, the transit system is going to fall apart, and the new sewer system that is needed to prevent the dumping of raw sewage into lake Ontario will not become a reality. You're, literally, going to be up shit creek without a paddle. One city councillor has sugested that a way to cut spending is to force city employees to take unpaid days off, much like the Rae days of the 90s. Why would we put the burden of our city's debt on the backs of city workers alone, that's unequitable. Many city workers already make meagre wages, especially those who work for outdoor seasonal services and parks and recreation. They are going to be hit hard if their salaries are cut through unpaid days. Maybe city councillors should give back their 9% pay raise from last year and maybe they should give up their golf passes and take unpaid leaves. Heck, maybe they should just become volunteers! Or, maybe people should wake up and start paying for their city.


Amy said...

Vancouvers outside workers are threatening job action if they don't get what they want... which includes a raise greater than the 16% raise already offered. So messy parks, no outdoor pools, fewer lifeguards (they are deemed essential at the beaches) no garbage pick up etc. They (the union) claims that the city won't bargain because of the daily savings if the union strikes (more than a million a day). I feel bad for the outdoor pool workers as they are mostly uni students on part time who won't see any of the benefits of the strike. So while you in TO stew in a crap filled puddle (aka Lake Ontario) we will plug our noses to the smell of roting garbage (oh why do I live by a sushi place!!!) and suffer along with.

Amy said...

oop my bad... it's only 9.25% raise that's been offered. they want 16. And now the inside workers have issued their 72 hour notice. In the middle of summer... no libraries, no public child care, no city run kids programs. Oh crappity crap crap!