Our mayor wants taxing powers. And our political masters in Edmonton seem to be moving to agreement.
I know that this is a good idea on a policy level. It would allow a more rational and flexible taxing regime to finance our municipal activities. It might even allow a greater ‘user pay’ tone to our taxation collection systems. But this intellectual knowledge is defeated by my heart.
I don’t trust our mayor. And I don’t think that I am alone.
First, I need to stop in my discussion to make our way clear. This is a pejoratively loaded phrase, one that should be used with caution, and when used I should take that time to elaborate so as to avoid any confusion. So let me be clear, I mean ‘trust’ in the sense of “I can’t predict that his behavior will remain within the bounds of fiscal propriety”; and not generally, but specifically with respect to his spending habits. In other respects, I trust and have confidence in His Worship (and in the context of Mayor Nenshi that moniker is worthy of a separate discussion)
And, of course, it is not just him, but the Council he works with and the administration that advises them. But he is a useful symbol, and the chief spokesman on this issue. So Mayor Nenshi is a useful proxy for the movement to have more and different municipal taxing authorities.
So, back to the main thread of the discussion: Mayor Nenshi, like so many other mayors in Alberta and across the country, wants additional taxing abilities and authorities. This would support their spending habits.
In public discourse, we have embedded the linkage between spending and taxing. This is one of the many contributions of taxpayer.com under the leadership of Troy Lanigan and Mike Binnion. So our discomfort with taxing is a derivative or second order effect. We are really worried about the spending, which necessarily leads to taxing, as night follows day.
So, my unease with giving additional taxing powers, intellectually satisfying and appealing as that may be, is tempered, and then defeated with the unease that I feel as I watch municipal spending habits.
In Calgary, our Council regularly claims success in keeping spending increases to only small multiples of inflation and population growth. This is not success, this is fiscal wealth confiscation.
And this general comment is supported by more granular examples of systemic problems. For example, City Hall seems held to ransom by police and fire forces, incapable of mustering the discipline to bring these two unionized rent seekers to heel. Declining crime rates are matched, lock step, with increasing police budgets; and the romance (young boys aspiring to be heroes) and allure (modern fundraising calendars) of fire fighters knows no boundaries, which leads to the universal escalation of pay and benefits for this special class of worker. And my favourite granular example is the airport tunnel, hundreds of millions of dollars. One councillor supporting the idea was challenged with the idea of making the tunnel a “toll tunnel”. His startling and ironic reply on the media was “even if we charged a $2.00 toll, that would discourage users, and they would drive around the tunnel, it would never be economic.”
Images: Flickr CC
401(K) 2012 Taxes
Gordon McDowell Ric McIver, Jon Lord, Naheed Nenshi…
Andrew Currie Canadian money, eh?