Taxation Shouldn’t Be A Dirty Word

November 25, 2013

In the lead up to today’s kick off of Budget 2014, here’s the headline to a Toronto Star article: Toronto budget committee braces for tax-hike debate.texaschainsawmassacre

So in many ways, despite being turfed from most of his mayoral responsibilities last week, Rob Ford has established the terms by which we’re going to go about discussing the city’s budget priorities.

It’s all about the taxes, folks.

Which shouldn’t be all that surprising or abnormal. Taxation is how we pay for the kind of city we want to live in. But it’s the de-contextualization that’s disconcerting. As if it’s only about how much we the taxpayers are handing over and nothing about what we’re getting in return.

We all know that .5% of any property tax increase we see for next year is going toward the building of the Scarborough subway extension of the Bloor-Danforth line. taxesThat’s tangible even if disagreeable to many of us. It’s a direct cause and effect.

After that, it’s all presented as just some random number, picked out of thin air. The mayor wants nothing more than an additional 1.25% for no other apparent reason than to go into next year’s municipal election campaign claiming this year’s increase was less than 2% total, lower than any other city in the known universe, he’ll likely claim, as if a place’s worth can only be measured by how small a tax bill its residents receive. Others, including the budget chief, think staff will be asking for a 2.5% tax increase in total, a reasonable number by any other measure aside from the Fordian scale of All Taxes Are Bad (But Some Are Worse Than Others).

In reality taxes aren’t just money we hand over and receive nothing in return. accoutantThey serve as a marker for the transaction made between residents and the city for services that are provided to them. This time around, let’s talk about those first, shall we, the services we receive. The things we think are important to making Toronto somewhere people want to live rather than a place we wind up in and reluctantly are a part of.

What is it we’re willing to pay for rather than how much we’re willing to pay should be the starting point for any budget conversation. (Yes, yes. As hard as it is to believe that point has to made, it’s proof of the degree to which tax haters have infected our civic discourse). Today’s as good a day as any to begin having that conversation.

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr