The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is incredibly taxing

This is a bit late in coming, but Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers Foundation wrote a rebuttal to a post by former Vancouver City Councillor and now SFU professor Gordon Price on the role of government and the “collective good”. Bateman characterizes Price’s piece as “bizarre” and “inaccurate”. Readers are invited to read Professor Price for themselves and judge whether it’s “bizarre”. But as for inaccurate…

Price says: “The CTF position: municipal budgets should not go up beyond the rate of inflation. Which means, essentially, no increase in the provision of ‘public goods’ – those services and structures which we fund collectively – and over time, a diminishment in the role and presence of government in our lives, accompanied by the assumption that the private sector can do it better.”

The truth: I have never said that it’s inflation or bust. But I do strongly believe that any increase or project that carries the tax burden above the rate of inflation should be subject to a public referendum or significant consultation process to ensure the taxpayers are on board.

The truthier truth: “The CTF’s Taxpayer Protection Bylaw caps property tax increases at the rate of inflation, unless explicit permission is sought from the public through a referendum.”

Hmmm…what do you say? Price characterizes the CTF’s position as “should not”, not “must not”. So, sorry Jordan…

Price: 1 / Bateman: 0

The even more incredible truthier truth: Then there’s“…unless explicit permission is sought from the public through a referendum.”

Every facility mentioned by Gordon Price was voted on by referendum. Vancouver voters approve the 3 year Capital Plans in every election and new facilities are part of those questions. Example from the 2005 election:

This question seeks authority to borrow funds to be used in providing the City share of funding for community legacy projects to be funded and developed jointly with senior governments prior to 2010. These legacies include the replacement of ice rinks at Killarney and Trout Lake and construction of a new Percy Norman Aquatic Centre as part of the new Hillcrest Centre. Following 2010, the new aquatic centre will form part of a complex being constructed by the Olympic Organizing Committee to include a replacement for the Riley Park community centre and ice rink, the Vancouver Curling Club and the Riley Park branch library.

ARE YOU IN FAVOUR OF COUNCIL HAVING THE AUTHORITY, WITHOUT FURTHER APPROVAL OF THE ELECTORS, TO PASS BYLAWS BETWEEN JANUARY 1, 2006 AND DECEMBER 31, 2008 TO BORROW UP TO AN AGGREGATE THIRTY FIVE MILLION DOLLARS ($35,000,000) TO FUND THE CITY SHARE OF COMMUNITY LEGACY PROJECTS THAT RECEIVE FUNDING FROM AND/OR ARE DEVELOPED WITH SENIOR GOVERNMENTS AND OTHER AGENCIES.

Price: 1 / Bateman: -1

Bateman, who was a Councillor in Langley, should know this. Or perhaps he does and is hoping you don’t.

An unpleasant truth for the CTF: Government budgets aren’t just a matter of “spending”. There’s also “revenue”. When revenues go down for reasons beyond a community’s control – oh, say a natural disaster or a global recession – then a governments budget might go into the red even though it’s spending the same (and sometimes less) than it did in the previous budget. The CTF’s solution for such real-world facts is to slash the budget and dock the politicians 15% pay (that’s how you attract good people into government!)

Bonus Bateman:

The truth: And Europe is chock full of countries that have gone the other way, expecting government to provide absolutely everything for them—and there are massive debts, riots, incredible distress and quite possible complete collapse.

I could spend time going through the list of European countries, citing which ones were running deficits prior to the crisis, which ones were running surpluses, which one have strong social safety nets, and which ones didn’t and how it didn’t really seem to matter, but the illogic of his position can be summed up thusly: To avoid the riots of Europe over the slashing of social spending et al, we must slash social spending here.

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