by Jim Bertram
As the Premier of Ontario prepares to download services once again from the province to the local property tax payer, we are asked by Mr. Ford to do our part in order to whittle away at the provincial debt. You know, that unimaginable mass of debt built up largely by the previous provincial government. Right. That debt. And no, it wasn’t amassed by municipalities. No. Incorrect. It was built up by the brilliant politicos at the provincial level of government. All on their own.
Even with past downloading of mandates onto municipalities by Conservative and Liberal politicians, the province has still managed to accumulate a debt which takes 12 billion dollars a year just to service (debt interest payments). That must be a record. In fact, Ontario is the most heavily per capita indebted sub-national jurisdiction in North America. Those who think that’s not a problem need to really become aware of the consequences of such debt.
At the same time, it is grotesquely unfair to take the fruit of past provincial incompetence and visit the results of such political and fiscal ineptitude on the shoulders of municipal taxpayers. The province has many, many fiscal levers at its command, as I explained in previous articles. Yet municipalities only have a very limited source of revenue. You, dear reader, if you own property, are IT. Along with local business.
So – let’s take a look. Big downloads coming from the province, now and in the future. Increases in property appraisals by MPAC in a hot real estate market coming soon. Climbing municipal tax rates plus steeply rising MPAC rates. Are you feeling disturbed yet? Well, you probably should!
What can we do? As I have said before, and as you surely must know, there is no perfect government. But government improves a whole lot when citizens express their opinions and shine light in dark corners. Tell your local government to get active with pertinent commentary on the subject of fiscal downloading. Tell the Mayor to take your concerns, expressed in e-mails, to County meetings, where she is a County Council member. Ask Council members to express themselves publicly on this. They really don’t have to wait to take their “turn”. Make sure our MPP gets an earful. Watch Council meetings. Ask about the current state of downloads in your municipality and keep on asking. Be creative. Act in your own interest.
Or not. It really is up to you. As I have said elsewhere, daily democracy requires daily citizen engagement. Get going. Don’t wait for your municipal tax bill to skyrocket before you react. Now’s the time to stand up on this issue. Do your part by telling your provincial and local governments that you will NOT stand for local taxpayers being crushed to make the province look good at election time in three years. The Premier might not have meant it this way, but I suggest we all do our part! Loudly. Now.