York Region Taxpayers Oppose Regressive Bill

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In early-2016, a delegation from the York Taxpayers Coalition traveled to Queen’s Park to speak to M.P.s from all parties in support of a democratically elected Chair of York Region Council.

Among the reasons why our organization supported this election was the insurmountable public debt accumulated by the York Regional government over the years through the system of the unaccountable Chair appointed by the Mayors and Regional Council members after a municipal election.

We noted that Regional government issues are rarely, if ever, debated during a lower tier municipal election. The 2018 election was going to be the first time in fifty years that York Region voters would get an opportunity to directly weigh in on issues that involved the level of government that impacts the lives and standard of living of approximately 1.3 million people.

In the run up to the June 8, 2018 provincial election, the Ontario PC Party, led by now premier Doug Ford, was silent on any disagreement with direct elections of the York Region Chair. In the new government’s Throne Speech of just two weeks ago, there was no mention of any impending changes.

Yet suddenly, just three months prior to the municipal election and without any prior consultation of York Region residents, Doug Ford has decided to deny York Region voters of their democratic rights.

York Region’s highest profile M.P.P.’s, Health Minister Christine Elliott and Attorney General Caroline Mulroney, are not York Region residents. They both reside in downtown Toronto, which is a fact that clearly clouds their judgment. They simply don’t understand the issues involving the record high debt load that impacts the lives and well being of residents to keep up with property tax increases.  If they did, they would afford the same scrutiny they do on provincial debt: in this year’s budget alone, the York Region Government is spending $5.2 billion while having amassed a debt of over $3.7 billion – the highest per capita debt load in the GTA. Toronto doesn’t have a second tier municipal government after all, so how could they understand the tax pressures we face here?

Taking voting rights from York Region residents won’t solve our public debt issues. We need direct democracy to fix the morass we find ourselves in.

Doug Ford’s rash actions on this regard calls into question his judgment over what’s best for the ratepayers of York Region.

Where is the accountability at York Region Government?

spadina

 

When Toronto Mayor John Tory heard the news that the TTC spending on the new Spadina to Vaughan subway line was out of control, his response was unequivocal.

“We have lurched from one fiasco to another costing taxpayers … tens of millions of dollars,” Mayor Tory told the Toronto Star back in March.

“Accountability, includes people losing their jobs, it includes people being recognized in a positive way who bring projects in on time and budget, and I just don’t think there’s been a lot of attention paid to that over time.”

Meanwhile, back at York Region Council, there was no anger from any member. In fact the entire Council seemed rather nonplussed about York taxpayers being forced to hand over an extra $92 million (estimate) to complete the line.

Rather than talk of firing under achieving staff, Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti went out of his way to praise the way York Region had managed this process. In Mayor Scarpitti’s view, the cost over runs were entirely the fault of the TTC.

After a short discussion, York Council voted unanimously to approve the additional spending based on very few answers on what the new money would pay for and even fewer answers about where the Region, (with a public debt approaching $2.7 Billion already) would get this money. Some members of council weren’t even aware our taxes were bailing out Toronto mismanagement.

In 2006, planners estimated it would cost $1.5 Billion to build the 8 km extension from Downsview Station to Vaughan Metropolitan Centre. The extension was supposed to be complete in time for the Pan Am Games. We now have new estimates of $2.9 billion, and the line is delayed until 2017.

Add this project to the long list of billion dollar scandals that have plagued Ontario over the past decade. While Mayor John Tory seemed to understand taxpayers can no longer afford to foot the bill for government ineptitude, It was unfortunate that York Region Council hasn’t received the same message.

Back in March, members of the York Region Taxpayers Coalition spoke to York Council advocating for the establishment of an Auditor General to report on matters such as this one. We believe that the spending at York Region has been out of control as public debt has now outpaced reserves at the Region.

Without any oversight from an Auditor General, the public has been left in the dark about the money issues that this important level of government is facing. We need to maintain our roads, our policing, our safe water, and other import ant services. But unless a new attitude of accountability is adopted by Chair Wayne Emerson and the rest of Council, we’ll be seeing our region buckle under the immense weight of waste and debt.