Letter to the editor – municipal funding

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Dear Editor,

Harmen Boersma’s letter of last week was nothing less than a miracle of inventiveness. It makes a broad -ranging sweep of commentary on the content of two preceding articles which appeared in the Times.

Upon reading his letter, I must say I recognised nothing of what I had included in, or intended by, my own article. My article argued for two things. Period. These were:

  1. That the provincial government distribute available municipal funding equitably among all municipalities in Ontario with recognition of the particular needs of each.
  2. That the provincial government agree to, eventually, adopt a program to upload provincial fiscal responsibilities previously downloaded onto municipalities and, thereby, the shoulders of local property tax payers and businesses. Twenty-seven per cent of your local municipal tax bill originally belonged to the provincial government before being downloaded!

That is all. My attempt has been, in the article Mr. Boersma refers to and some preceding articles, to provide information to residents and, perhaps, raise consciousness around these financial matters at the local level. It is my assumption that, in a democracy, all citizens do have the right to know. And discuss. And lobby their governments when, where and if necessary. Does Mr. Boersma not agree with this?

Mr. Boersma manages to spin my expressed concerns into a “socialist way of organising society.” He assumes that an argument for the equitable or fair (this does NOT mean equal, Mr. Boersma) distribution of funds in the provincial budget, funds already earmarked for the funding of municipalities, is in some way a socialist idea. While I am sure that many well-meaning friends of mine with socialist sympathies might well favour equity and fairness in the distribution of government grants, I assure Mr. Boersma that that sentiment is not unique to those of legitimate socialist leanings. Just a note: I am not one of them.

Not limiting himself to qualifying me and Mr. Hammond as socialist acolytes, Mr. Boersma contends we are causing the potential for a rise in that dreaded and oft-referred to horror: Populism. Amazing. To intimate that the passing of information to intelligent readers in a newspaper and arguing for an even-handed distribution of already budgeted funds is tantamount to setting “the people” against the “elites” (populism) is an exercise of imagination which might kindly be qualified as outlandish. Other terms come to mind.

To conclude: In the space of a few weeks I have been referred to as an apparent “right-winger” – and not in the hockey context – as well as a socialist. Furthermore, I am apparently also a populist agitator. Goodness gracious. My goal is to stimulate curiosity and discussion in areas of financial and fiscal interest to taxpayers who pay rich tribute to governments. My hope is to provoke investigation and, for my own part, to discover elements of the matters discussed, with which I was heretofore unfamiliar, through reasoned and precise discussions with interested interlocutors. That’s all folks. No dreams of a socialist empire based on the actions of teeming hordes of “populists”. As well, I prefer to deal with discrete and well-defined ideas, as opposed to imagining non-existent content in what I read and casting epithets in the direction of the authors of those readings. I encourage my friend, Mr. Boersma, to have another go at what I wrote. If it is intolerably opaque and indecipherable to the point of being incomprehensible , please don’t fictionalize my writing. Ask me about it. I’d be pleased to discuss it.

Jim Bertram

1 COMMENT

  1. Well said Mr Bertram. Who is this Mr Boersma? A non-social activist, a political activist? My experience with activists is that they tend to transmit only, no reception and not apt to ask questions.

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