Fiscal management vs public disgrace

By Pat Watson Wednesday April 02 2014 in Opinion
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Isn’t it ironic that the message that so many in this city have been clamoring for in terms of lowering the cost to run the city comes in the uncouth personality of someone who shamelessly flouts conventions? The ascension of the Rob ford factor lies mainly in the former Etobicoke councillor’s timing of his first run at the post of mayor, following a period where Conservatives fixated on the previous left-leaning administration as overspending.


Fiscal conservatives have hammered away at the ‘low tax, no tax’ mantra for so very long that it is now embedded in the public psyche and one of the loudest and most persistent proponents in this city is ford. Yet, in a city of many competing interests, it would take some doing to satisfy the civic concerns of every single interest group.


Despite increases in user fees under his watch, for example, Ford says he will carry on the fight to save taxpayers’ money and see that it is not wasted. It is a welcome message for many who feel that tax revenue is not being used in their interest, especially as the anger over the provincial Liberals’ management of gas plant cancellations carry a billion-dollar figure.


So there is enough to complain about regarding the way our hard-earned tax dollars have been wasted and continue to be wasted. We can make fun of ford’s shortcomings all we want, but his miserly ways mean something to many who are squeezed for funds.


Municipal revenue for Toronto comes in large part through property taxes, something like 40 per cent. That directly affects you, Mr. and Ms. Property Owner and Mr. and Ms. Renter. It matters not that compared to property taxes across the Greater Toronto Area, Toronto’s is lower than Oakville, Oshawa or Mississauga, for example.


The next largest revenue contributor is the province at about 25 per cent of total revenue. And then there are those user fees, which, again, have gone up under Ford’s watch. Of all revenue sources, the federal government returns the least amount – less than five per cent – to the city, a sore point for those who understand how much of our taxes go to the feds.


If one important thing has arisen from the Ford factor, it is that more of us are engaged in paying attention to municipal taxes and how it is being used. It is now common knowledge that most of the city budget goes to the Toronto Police Service, followed by public transit service. Items like the libraries and children’s services are much further down on the spending list.


So, the problem for many now is who is carrying the message. Ford makes money management his mantra, but a great number would rather see that banner carried by someone else. That is, someone more acceptable to the mainstream, someone who matches the middle-class sensibilities that Toronto imagines itself projecting.


The reason is obvious, because aside from the money issue, and it is a big one, Toronto’s pride is hurt by guilt-by-association with Ford’s shameless behaviour.


Most people in this city want to see our municipal budget well managed, but they would like that to happen without having a mayor who is a joke to the rest of the world. Toronto has always craved attention on the world stage, but this was not what most of us had in mind.

A note in the signs of success…


The quantity of studies on the conditions that contribute to academic failure and school drop-out among Black students could fill a library. That also goes for studies on how to counter this dilemma. The information on academic failure is extensive and thorough. Time then to begin to give the spotlight to the population of Black students who achieve academic success. To benefit those who are struggling or dropping out of our school systems, it would be critical to understand what makes for success among those who have achieved it, then transfer that formula into school curricula and social supports to assist those who fall behind. Now that we have studied the why and how of failure, it would be well to understand the why and how of success.

Pat Watson is the author of the e-book In Through A Coloured Lens. Twitter@patprose. 

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