Citizens for a Livable Cranbrook Society provides grassroots leadership and an inclusive process, with a voice for all community members, to ensure that our community grows and develops in a way that incorporates an environmental ethic, offers a range of housing and transportation choices, encourages a vibrant and cultural life and supports sustainable, meaningful employment and business opportunities.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Tax/spend , Myths and Facts

November 12, 2014

Letter to editor:

During Cranbrook’s municipal electoral campaign period, much has been said about the need for more spending on infrastructure,  particularly roads.  The most critical of the challengers for office have also been critical of city tax rates.  Apparently some folks can hold two contradictory ideas simultaneously. 

Let’s look at the funding and spending facts. Limited taxation power combines with off-loading from other governments to put more demands on fewer municipal dollars.  In January 2013 the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) published a report showing that the federal government has off-loaded responsibilities to the provinces, which in turn off-loaded responsibility for infrastructure and for program delivery to municipalities – without providing the necessary funds. 

Off-loading (or devolution) is a real problem for municipalities and First Nation communities.In BC, the Columbia Institute found that “83.6 per cent of the locally elected leaders surveyed ... said federal and provincial downloading of costs onto local governments is a major problem for their community”. 

In the 1990s the federal government cut billions of dollars in transfer payments to provinces, which passed the problems on to municipalities with  devastating effect. On December 27 2013, Calgary’s mayor Naheed Nenshi summed it up thus:   “Legally, and constitutionally, cities have no framework. … Right now, the legislation that governs the city of Calgary — which is larger than five provinces — is exactly the same as the legislation that governs a summer town of 100 people”. 

Despite the inter provincial differences, municipalities across the country find themselves in the same leaky boat as Calgary.  Nenshi called for an honest discussion about taxes.  “Politicians need to stop being scared of that [tax] conversation and really open it up to people saying: ‘The services you need cost’  ... we have to be realistic.”It looks like some Cranbrook mayoral and council candidates and citizens need to get realistic too.

Joyce Green

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