The other day, I recorded a video stating my position on taxes. In it, I indicated that the question: “Will you lower my taxes?” cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Here’s why:
First and foremost, as a regional councillor, I don’t get to do anything by myself. Everything is done in cooperation with at least a majority (in some cases a 2/3 majority) of the rest of council. So, saying, “yes, I will lower your taxes” is disingenuous at best and deceitful at worst.
Second, should taxes be lowered? When the region, in whole or in part, is responsible for the following:
As well as:
- public health
- social assistance
- waste management (organic, recycling, and garbage collection)
- seniors’ services (primarily long-term care homes)
- children’s services (childcare centres and childcare subsidies)
- Provincial Offences Courts Administration
- Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority
There are also a number of shared responsibilities between your regional government and your municipal government (and how they are shared may vary depending upon your municipality):
- road maintenance and construction, including snow removal
- transit (coordination between services that are currently independently operated either by the region or by one of the municipalities)
- land use planning and development
…can we afford to lower taxes?
Are we currently spending the tax dollars we collect in a responsible, efficient, effective way? (Presently, the answer to this, at least in part, is “no,” as evidenced by things like the Burgoyne Bridge project and councillors not only not keeping reasonable records of their expenses, but charging us for lobster lunches, trips to Toronto, thousands of dollars in data charges, etc.) And when we know that the answer is “no,” what can we do to fix these things?
Are there things in which we need to invest to provide citizens of Niagara with a better quality of life? When we look at things like the state of our current waste management contract, the state of transit throughout Niagara, or the lack of affordable housing – just as a few examples – the answer to this is “yes,” so then we must look at the best ways in which to make those investments without watching taxes skyrocket.
In addition to ensuring we are spending tax dollars responsibly, effectively, and efficiently, we need also to look at ways in which we can increase the tax base.
When we have more units from which to collect property taxes, it more evenly disperses where those taxes are coming from and, ultimately, results in individual property owners paying less than they would have to otherwise.
In a city that’s landlocked, with very few hectares of developable land left, we need to intensify and diversify development whilst protecting agricultural and other lands that are environmentally sensitive.
My commitment to you is to fight to keep taxes as low as possible while still providing important and necessary services at appropriate levels.