It has been more than a quarter of a century since the federal government enacted the Goods and Services Tax (GST) to replace the Manufacturer’s Sales Tax (MST).
The government calculated that the GST rate should be set at nine per cent to replace the revenue generated by the MST.
To secure the necessary political support to bring about the new tax policy the government agreed to introduce the GST at seven per cent.
In 2006 the federal government reduced the GST to six per cent, and in 2008 to five per cent. Cutting taxes was politically popular – “saving taxpayers’ money”.
As a consequence of these successive tax reductions the nation now faces deficits and serious financial shortfalls that plague a wide range of infrastructure assets and services (e.g. health care).
What have we, individually, gained from these successive tax cuts? What tax cut trophies adorn our homes today?
The provincial government was guided by the same tax cut budget ideology. Over a decade ago the legislature enacted a law enabling it to tear up a contract with its teachers.
It was a Pollyanna promise: better education for less money. By a 7-2 vote the Supreme Court has now ruled that a legislature cannot use its powers to negate a legal contract.
The quality of education for an entire generation, from kindergarten to high school, was affected by crowded classrooms and limited teaching resources.
We have young adults in our midst today whose development potential is marred for life by the fact that educational resources to which they were entitled under the constitution were denied to them.
These are the people who paid for the tax cuts given to my generation. They will continue to pay for it for the rest of their lives.
After decades of myopic budget policies pursued by senior governments it was refreshing to learn that our city council will be raising property taxes.
Council’s decision to increase taxes rather than to squeeze services and postpone infrastructure upgrading projects is a mature and responsible budget decision.
It is reassuring for the community, or it should be, to have a municipal council that takes its responsibilities seriously.
Cracks in pavement allow water to penetrate the road base.
Infiltrating water weakens the base which leads to potholes and the eventual breakup of the surface.
The cost of sealing cracks as they occur is far less than the future cost of having to restore the base before repaving the road.
The philosophy is simple: maintain, learn, inspect, learn, repair, learn, upgrade, learn, renew, learn and start all over again.
The municipality’s infrastructure is vast: from sewage treatment to fire hydrants, from sidewalks to swimming pool and much, much more. These assets belong to us, the citizens who live in this community.
Council’s responsibility is to ensure that, by the end of its term, the value, the quality and the serviceability of our community’s infrastructure is equal to, and preferably improved upon from what it was when council was sworn in.
The life of municipal assets is measured in decades. The impact of council decisions on community assets and services is felt over generations.
It is not easy to judge the performance of a council elected to a four year term when the consequences of its decisions extend far beyond that council’s term.
Holding the line on taxes is easy; all you have to do is ignore reality and let the next council to deal with consequences.
I am a pensioner on a fixed income. As my property taxes go up, I have to adjust my spending habits.
Safeguarding the value of my municipal infrastructure and protecting the quality of community services is a priority, not a luxury.
It will cost me a few lattes, but that is the least I can do. I owe that much to the next generation.
Andre Carrel is a retired public sector administrator living in Terrace, B.C.