|ROBERT KIRWAN - WARD 5
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The time has come
for City Council to get control of municipal tax increases. And
this is not going to be easy with the kind of infrastructure
deficit we are facing in the next few years. We need to put more
money into our roads, our recreational facilities and our
water systems. We have been putting off these expenses for so
many years that it is starting to catch up with us.
We will have to find the money from someplace.
But if we continue to go to the ratepayers for the money, we are
going to drive away some of the people who are living here now,
and we are going to discourage new people from moving into the
This is going to be one of the most challenging things we have
to do on City Council and I realize that it is going to take
some very creative thinking and will result in many tough
choices in the coming years.
We will first have to make sure
that the money we are currently spending is being used wisely
and efficiently. That will likely begin with a full examination
of all government departments to determine if there are possibly
some areas we can streamline or reconfigure. While doing that we
may be able to eliminate some bureaucratic levels that are no
We may also have to cut back on any luxuries
that we were hoping to begin for the next four years in order to
focus all of our expenditures on bringing up our infrastructure
to standard or maintaining our current level of operations.
I know that we are not alone in this respect. Most
municipalities in the province are struggling with the same
dilemnna so perhaps more lobbying at Queen's Park will also be
on the table. We will continue, as we have done for decades, to
lobby Queen's Park for a larger share of the resource tax
revenue, but we cannot rely on this as a source of funding any
time soon. It would be irresponsible to hold this hope out to
residents as a way of gaining votes to get elected.
It also doesn't make a lot of sense to expect to be bailed out
by the private sector. The private companies are not going to be
interested in money-losing ventures where all of the profits are
going to the city. They are seeking a return on their investment
and they do their homework. So to think that all we need to do
is call out to the private sector and say "partnership" is not
definitely attractive and might solve some of our problems, but
it is not easy getting private investments without guaranteeing
a healthy return on investment. For example, if an investor does
not think he can make a profit from getting into a public
private arena and convention centre deal with the City, it isn't
going to happen. And when you get into a PPP situation, you must
make a profit from the operation, which when it comes to
government services is not always a popular approach. So you
cannot simply say that the solution is in the establishment of
more public-private partnerships.
Whatever we do, we really must make every possible
effort to avoid any further tax increases, and that includes
user fees and water rates. It means that we must streamline our
operations and find better ways of spending the money we now
BORROW NOW FOR THE FUTURE -
NOTHING WRONG WITH A MORTGAGE
One of the options that is available to our city is to borrow
the money to do what is needed to be done to improve our
infrastructure right away and get this done once and for all.
There are a couple of candiates who feel the same way and I am
convinced that it is the right thing to do.
There is no point in simply putting a bandaid on the problem
every year with a small amount of money. If we used the money
that we are spending on our infrastructure now to pay down
principal and interest on a large loan or municipal bond, we
could generate the full amount of money needed to fix our
infrastructure. That would allow us to be much more attractive
to new businesses and new residents. As it stands now we are
doing things in piece-meal fashion and no matter what we do, we
still have major infrastructure deficits and we seem to be
losing ground. That is preventing us from moving forward with
economic development and growth in so many areas.
So during the next term on Council, I will be suggesting that
instead of a pay-as-you-go policy, we do what every home owners
does - take out a mortgage so that we can enjoy living and
growing in our city now rather than building it up piece by
piece when we have the money. We will never build our future
that way. And I disagree with the people who say we are
mortgaging our future away and leaving our children with the
responsibility for paying for that mortgage. If we thought that
way, most of our children would be living in tents while their
parents were saving enough money to buy lumber to build a house.
We need a strong community for our children and if it means we
need to take out a mortgage to build that community, then let's
do it rather than hoping for a miracle.
CITY COUNCIL BEING PRESENTED WITH THREE YEAR PROJECTIONS CALLING
FOR 4.9% TAX HIKE IN 2015 FOR REPORT TO COUNCIL
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