A Toonie For Your Troubles

December 7, 2011

All levels of government have been nickel and diming taxpayers.

— Rob Ford, 2010

$2 proposed fee for a dip in the city’s outdoor swimming pools.

$2 proposed fee for renting a Hollywood type movie from the city’s libraries.

$2 proposed fee for a visit to the city owned Riverdale farm.

Chalk it up to inflation, I guess. Now that he’s mayor, Rob Ford has upped the ante, finding a certain comfort zone toonie-ing Toronto taxpayers to death. Remember back during the salad days of 2010 when we didn’t have a revenue problem?

Never mind the boldfaced about-face on this issue. Never mind the blatant hypocrisy in filling that supposed non-existent revenue gap made gappier with last year’s repeal of the Vehicle Registration Tax and a below inflationary property tax hike with the combined 2011 and 2012 budgets. Never mind that none of these proposed user fees need to be introduced, none of the proposed service cuts need to enacted if Team Ford actually took an even-handed approach to the budget. If the whole process wasn’t gamed from the very beginning, this so-called crisis real instead of manufactured.

I hesitate to call it all-out class warfare, citing the move away from collecting money for city services from those owning homes and cars to those who are less likely to. Sure, lots of people struggling to make ends meet in the city drive cars (many have to, given the sorry state on TTC service in the areas they live). And I am aware renters ultimately pay more when their landlords’ property taxes are increased.

But the items up for consideration to be dinged both with proposed user fees and cuts in service tend to be those that benefit Mayor Ford’s vaunted ‘little guy’. Libraries. City run pools and programs. Public transit. I am open to being corrected on this but it looks an awful lot like a transfer of wealth upward and offloading of responsibility downward. The true face of trickle down economics.

If you’re uncomfortable with that angle, how about this one? The proposed 2012 budget is another step toward a commodification of the public sphere, a penalization of community engagement. Money flows from the public coffers to subsidize private spaces. Cars. Homes. Taxes as a form of payment toward the common good held in check and replaced by user fees which are doled out only for a specific purpose. You don’t use it. You don’t pay for it.

We’re being rewarded for retreating away from each other, back into our little cubby holes of selfishness. Hey. You want to get from point A to point B? Drive your car. Want to read a book? Buy it at Amazon. Watch a movie? Download it. Sweltering hot on a summer day? Head up to your cottage.

Public spaces cost too much to maintain except, of course, when it comes to roads and they’re really just extensions of my home to work personal corridor. Public spaces are ‘nice to haves’, a little too European for our tastes and look what’s going on there right now. Do you want to be another Greece? You want ‘nice to haves’, you pay for them. $ 2 a pop.

Under Mayor Ford, we may not be nickel and diming taxpayers to death in Toronto but we’re sure intent on sticking it to the city’s citizens.

highway robberly submitted by Cityslikr