Just another quick thought after this week’s deputations at the Budget Committee. My magnum opus on the subject is coming tomorrow. (That’s what you call a self-imposed deadline, folks. Fear of a ‘What is this shit again? You promised something weighty today’ response.)
At committee end yesterday, councillors split into their respective camps over the proposed 2013 budget, not coincidentally, the visiting ones largely on the ‘nay’ side while the mayor’s men, committee members, lining up in formation in the ‘yea’ aisle. To Take On More Debt Or Not To Take On More Debt. That was the question.
For a much more in-depth explanation of this budgetary divide, you need to read Matt Elliott’s analysis, Budget 101. But the gist of it is, some elected officials see debt as a useful tool in building and maintaining stuff a city needs like, say, basic infrastructure. Sewers, roads and sidewalks, transit. Others see debt and soil themselves.
Yeah. I think that about sums it up. Self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives want to run a government nothing like they would their households or businesses even while proclaiming that’s exactly what they’re trying to do. And they’re the ones who keep bringing that analogy up. Funny, that.
Never mind how Councillor Doug Ford used his three minutes to sum up the budget direction. Nonsense and hyperbole largely. Just a rehash of his greatest hits. Everything we’ve heard before, signifying nothing. (More Shakespearean allusions to give this thing some heft.)
Councillor Peter Milczyn piped in saying this budget and this administration he’s been an integral part of has done nothing more radical than reverse the Miller years’ habit of ‘spending money we didn’t have’, I believe is how he put it. Note to self: email email@example.com and ask how exactly he bought his house or car for that matter.
I know, I know.
I hate having to go to that well all the time but how else do you respond to such inane views of public sector financing? Seriously? I’m asking because I’ve tapped it dry and politicians like Councillor Milczyn never seem to tire of making such ridiculous claims.
Councillor John Parker took a more intriguing angle on the debt question. Citing the entirely self-imposed 15% debt level of the city’s property tax revenues, he suggested council shouldn’t aim for it simply because it was there. How’d he put it exactly? You don’t put canaries down a coal mine just to kill them. As if councillors want to mount that entirely artificial debt ceiling simply because it’s there and not because there’s pressing shit the city has to build and repair. But for the likes of Councillor Parker – a one-term member of the Mike Harris government, it should be noted regularly, a player on the team who kick-started us down this path of fiscal instability – debt ceilings, even ones as entirely manufactured as this one is, are there to be feared and trembled before, shied away from at all costs.
And make no mistake, there will be costs to such debt fear, there have been costs already (*A-hem, A-hem* TCHC repair backlog. The crumbling Gardiner. *A-hem, A-hem*). Those proclaiming that, at the end of the day, these are the times we live in, have played a major part in getting us here. In these times. At the end of the day. Catchphrases devoid of any real meaning, replacing real argument.
It seems perfectly acceptable and fiscally upright to defend our children and grandchildren from a future weighed down by financial debt. Yet somehow handing them the baton of decrepit infrastructure is hunky dory. Yes, kids. We could’ve helped you out, paid for some of this when interest rates were low and the costs less but instead, we saved ourselves a few bucks and left you to it. You’re welcome.
That’s what you call fiscal conservatism in these days we live in.
— matter-of-factly submitted by Cityslikr