“There is only one taxpayer” is an oft quoted phrase, most often cited by both large and small-c conservatives, this is most definitely true—but not all tax collectors are created equal. That is why The Expositor greeted the recent provincial announcement that the costs of several important public services are being downloaded onto municipal taxpayers.
The downloading announcement was made during the recent Association of Municipalities of Ontario annual gathering in Ottawa. Ontario Premier Doug Ford spoke to the AMO delegates about “getting out of your way” and “partnering” with municipalities to “find efficiencies.” It was quite evident that few in the room at AMO realized what the premier was actually saying to them—that discovery was left for later on the evening news. We will leave our opinion on that tactic aside.
The reality of taxation is that municipalities have the least clout when it comes to being able to gather revenue from their communities, particularly those small rural communities to be found on Manitoulin, Northern Ontario and across the rest of the province. Federal and provincial coffers may be stretched in these days where it is all the rage to race to the bottom of corporate and wealth taxes—but they have nothing on the drum tight budgets facing most rural communities.
Federal and provincial politicians hasten to make political hay out of returning funds to small communities for local infrastructure projects, but the truth of the matter is—it is our money that these political actors are doling out in the first place.
There is no question that small rural municipalities are run on a tight rein, much to the chagrin of those who called for amalgamations in hopes of discovering savings through “efficiencies.” When the fiction came to face fact, those dreamed of efficiencies turned to ash and rural taxpayers in outlying communities roped into larger urban areas soon discovered their tax bills skyrocketing (see the former Region of Sudbury).
Both the federal and provincial governments have tax bases and opportunities far in excess of those available to a rural community. The rural municipality really only has one accessible source—property taxes.
So when Premier Doug Ford announced that municipalities would be partnering with him to find efficiencies, what a check of the political dictionary would actually reveal is that he is taking it off his beleaguered books and placing squarely on the tax bill of local taxpayers. This is smoke and mirrors of the most heinous type and a true travesty coming from someone who champions the cause of the little guy and someone who purports to wear the mantle of a conservative. There are none tinier of means than the pensioner trying to get by in a small, rural and Northern community.
Premier Ford and his colleagues at Queen’s Park would do well to rethink their strategy of foisting a greater share of health and social service costs onto those least able to afford to pay for them. Buck up and do your job instead of throwing the responsibility onto the lower tier governments and, by extension, the struggling property owners of rural and Northern communities.