I like to pose this question to the many brilliant people I encounter on a daily basis in person or read online and hear their response. My experience has been that irrespective of one’s lot in life, be it rich, poor or middleclass, the response I get is usually the same.
Question: On what do you want your tax dollars spent?
Granted most people I know would admit – especially if they own or rent a home in a city like Toronto – that our taxes are too high and a reduction would help make ends meet, but take a few minutes and think about it.
You are a home owner in Toronto. You are paying the highest property taxes in Canada, a smidgen under 8% (as per a 2008 study ranking Toronto’s rates as the Canada’s highest), as well as numerous other taxes and user fees. Taxes to register your car, taxes to buy a plastic bag, taxes disguised as fees to take programs, go to the hospital, and the list goes on. Simply, Toronto is one of the most expensive cities to live in in the world.
So as a homeowner with a car and kids – kids I pay double for schooling, I might add (once for the private school they attend and once again for the public school they do not attend) – and who like many work very hard to earn enough to pay my taxes and still have some left over with which to support my family, I am perplexed whenever I hear people complain about Mayor Rob Ford’s efforts to introduce some fiscal responsibility. I can’t help but wonder what these people do for a living that provides them with so much extra cash that they can afford to watch it flushed down the drain by an irresponsible municipal government, as we have seen throughout the last seven years under Mayor Miller’s regime.
Recently a story broke on Facebook of all places stemming from some fringe news publications that Rob Ford voted against HIV grants and that makes him a homophobe. After a quick Google search, I located the originating article on a gay and lesbian magazine and of course, the way it was written, it makes Mayor Ford look like he is senile. Anyone reading this article would have to wonder why the Mayor is being so cruel. If the author’s intent was to pose Ford as hating the gay and lesbian community in Toronto, then it was a huge success. If, on the other hand, the author thought she was producing a piece of credible and responsible journalism, then she failed miserably.
Since the article was clearly slanted, I sought out another source… a less biased source. Unfortunately I was unable to find one. I did find an article in the Toronto Star, but their coverage was also far from unbiased. The Star piece did give me an idea what the problem was.
You see, my friends who love bashing Rob Ford for being overweight (which is discrimination, I might say) and who clearly love paying taxes, there are two sides to every story and the truth lies somewhere in between. It seems Mayor Ford was not specifically voting against providing grant money to HIV programs – six of them – as this article would have you believe, but rather he was debating the “grants programs,” which gives taxpayer money (that would be your money and mine) to a broad variety of community organizations. Yes, some of these organizations work to prevent violence while others focus on improving the lives of seniors, immigrants, the disabled and the poor, but some of these programs also provide recreation services the city doesn’t.
At issue here was that this committee had recommended that the city give 259 groups a total of $7.2 million of your tax money. Before this large sum of money was going to be shipped out to these groups, Ford wanted council to vote on it so he could be seen to be voting against them. This would show the taxpayers of Toronto that he respects the money we earn and the taxes we pay.
I’m sorry if you think it is wrong of me to not want to support these groups, or any of the 252 groups this City gives my tax dollars to. I don’t know them. It’s not personal and I surely don’t have anything against them or the people who use these programs, but as a member of working / owning Toronto, I don’t want my tax money going there when the roads are a mess, the parks falling apart and there being not enough money to get some transit in the city and set up proper bike lanes where cyclists can ride them – far away from cars. I would like to know where these dollars are going, specifically, like on a menu, or at the very least, I would like to know that City Council knows what these organizations do and be able to provide me some confidence that it’s not just money being thrown away.
Organizations that get City funding should be held to a higher standard. Audits, safeguards, the whole 9-yards. I want these organizations to know that the funding that comes from the “City” is actually your hard earned dollars and my hard earned dollars and they should not be fooling around with our cash.
To me this is a no-brainer. I know others will read this and send me comments calling me a defender of the right (thank you!) or a friend of Rob Ford, but I did vote for Ford. I voted for Rob Ford because it was getting expensive to live in Toronto with my three kids, and own a house here and drive to work because my job is outside the city and there are no reasonable transit options for me. I don’t hate downtown Toronto… I just want the residents who cry that it was the “905″ that voted in Rob Ford, that really if you take a step back, it’s the homeowners, the families, the middle and upper-middle class in Toronto who have businesses that employ you or your relatives and it’s this “class” that works hard to have disposable income so we can go out for dinner and stimulate the economy. Pretty sure I’m still onboard here from my economics classes in University… Someone has to spend money back into the economy so that money can keep the city moving, keep people employed and provide money to organizations, like these 252 who received grants. On the other hand, someone has to be watching out to make sure there is money left over at the end of the day to keep in the local economy to keep Toronto working. Ford is doing that. Miller did not.
Rob Ford as Mayor doesn’t mean the rich get a free ride. How is that possible in this city? Cyclists didn’t have to pay the $60.00 a year “fee” to register their cars that David Miller put in. How about punishing those who buy a home in Toronto by increasing property taxes every time there is a shortfall. G-d forbid we look at waste and cut back when we have this whole population who we can tax.
I find it’s the same group of people over and over again who complain about Conservatives and their policies… All conservatives do is tax the middle class and give tax breaks to the poor. Uh huh. I’ve heard that a thousand times from everywhere. Well, I’d like to know what tax breaks the rich have in Toronto, because if you mean a $50,000 property tax bill, then let them have the breaks. Oh, I know. It’s those damn corporations that the Conservatives love to support. The corporations that provide jobs for you and me and the corporations owned by shareholders – also you and me – who invest hoping to get a decent rate of return. It’s these damn corporations that socialists detest so much… Once they finish working there.
Maybe one day when the socialists rule again and taxes start popping up, Corporations pack up and move outside Toronto, then and only then will it be clearer that having someone out spending money stimulates the economy, it keeps businesses open, and people employed. People spending money keeps Toronto prosperous and keeps the money in Toronto where it can be spent again and again. It this continued attack on the “rich” whom I am assuming is people who have gone to school (University at a minimum), own a home, a car or two, have a decent job (or two) and still find time to go out for dinner, maybe send their kids to private school and who work hard to give to their families – then these people are not going to want to stay in Toronto. Then what? A welfare state. Is that better? Everyone should be equal, no matter how much someone tries to better themselves compared to someone who has decided to do nothing with their lives. There must be a reason for that person who is not working, or wants to live in the street. It’s not their fault, it’s society’s fault and we should all contribute to help them get on their feet and bring down that stupid, eager rich person or that damn corporation with all their money. How dare they amass such wealth while there are poor… And the beat goes on.
But I guess no matter how well I can articulate my point, or how you like to look at the job Mayor Ford is doing for Toronto, all I can say is this: If he continues to look at every expenditure the city makes and continues to find fat and trim it, he is a shoo-in to get re-elected next election. I feel better knowing that the taxes the city taxes from me – which I could be spending on my family – are being spend in a fiscally responsible manner to make this city a better place for all citizens and not the same Robin Hood policies (tax the rich and give to the poor) that we had for seven years under Mayor Miller.
Let me decided where I want my taxes to go, or if you cannot, at least don’t spend more than you have and then raise my taxes to cover it.
And yes, Rob Ford is fat. So am I. What does that have to do with allocation of fiscal resources?
I’m starting to understand that when you are in a poker game and you have only one card – even if it is only a 2 of diamonds – you have to play it. Even if after all the bluffing you still lose.
Special thanks to Toronto’s own Lazy Photographer Dave for his contributions and fabulous edit job.
You can see his work by clicking on his URL through my blogroll on the right.