Sunday, November 4, 2012

Socialist Country of Calgary

Our government has no respect for us.  We are nothing but dollar signs in their eyes.  That’s obvious when they talk about taxes and what they spend taxes on.  Our representatives love to talk about respect for the taxpayer but in reality they’re only concerned with how much they can squeeze out of us.  I wish I felt our representatives respected or felt some regard toward us but lately I’ve only been hearing “higher taxes” and “more taxation power.”  It’s very disheartening.

Let's take the City of Calgary as an example. The city council loves to spend money but they don't like to ask Calgarians if we agree with their decisions on how the money is spent. Not only that, the council feels that since we elected them, we elected every single one of their ideas.  It has become fifteen people speak for one million on all topics all the time. Because of this, projects are being approved that the majority of Calgarians may not want.  We don't know, we haven't been asked - we’re being told.

In the last election, Naheed Nenshi was elected mayor and the Airport Tunnel was one of his promises.  Fine, but it wasn’t his only promise and a great deal of Calgarians did not vote for him.  Instead of taking this mega project to referendum, it was decided in council in an 8-7 vote.  Now, let me point out a discrepancy with the Airport Tunnel. When Dave Bronconnier was mayor of Calgary, the tunnel was going to cost at least half a billion dollars with roadway extensions and other stuff, and in his opinion would be prohibitive. He also called it a “nice to have.” Now Mayor Nenshi says it'll be no more than $295 million and it's a must.  Where did the $200 million go?

There's a problem with Mayor Nenshi's “no more than $295 million.” It's wrong. Once the interchanges, roadway extensions, insurance and other stuff are added in – $42 million + $3 million + ... carry the one, um... ya, double check... - $528 million, oh, the other $200 million.  Well, that looks an awful lot like half a billion dollars.  Why is half a billion dollars acceptable now?  I don’t understand.

The city has also decided on a new central public library. The cost for this project is $250 million and they don't even have a design yet. I beg your pardon? More spending on what, for when, and why? Why can't they look at renovating the current Central Library? What are they going to do with the current Central Library when the new one is built?  AND, I don't remember being asked. I've used the Central Library. I like it, the location rocks. So, city council is going to build this new shiny thing at the inconvenience of the people who use the current one (and who are paying for it.) Thanks, I appreciate it.

Then there are these four rec centres. I understand that new communities want or even need rec centres but what I don't want is for the city to go into debt to build anything. It's bad enough that money coming in from the province is spent for the next 6 years, but borrowing? Why is it we should have the ability to continue borrowing past a current council's term? I know the arguments for the rec centres, I know there aren't enough hockey rinks or soccer fields but I also know there aren't enough coaches.  They'll be great for a couple of years and then will we face millions of dollars spent on maintenance when small amounts should have been spent on preventative maintenance all along? But wait, this city council doesn't think that way. They want a big new shiny legacy, forget about actually keeping this city running. By the way, these rec centres come at a cost of $480 million.

Hey, why don’t we talk about Calgary Transit.  The West LRT, well, that was decided while I was living in BC so all I can say to that is *beeeeeeeep* but I can speak to public art. I have lived in Calgary most of my life, I just cheated on it for a short time. I'm sorry. Okay, first, I have an issue with the idea of public art. If an artist can't make it on their own, this in itself is a problem. I am a photographer so I can say that, actually, anyone with any business sense can say that.

Next, taxpayer paid for art... ARE YOU FREAKIN' KIDDING ME! There are better places for tax money to go. $8 million (looks like now capped at $3.5 million but still) could better be spent on road maintenance, police, firefighters, how about library renovations. There is a policy in this city that 1% of all capital projects must go towards public art. I'd be happier with zero. I've seen some very nice architecture, beautiful stuff that's art in and of itself. We don't need fish carvings on Glenmore Trail or anywhere else paid for by my money! I have art in my home, that I paid for or created myself.  I would never, ever expect government paid for art in my home so why would I expect government mandated art on anything else?

I also have to ask how Calgary Transit runs (itself straight into the ground.) If a private company ran the way Calgary Transit runs, it would be out of business. Calgary Transit needs to get its house in order. It bothers me that part of my property taxes goes towards Calgary Transit. We already have to pay fares to ride and for a while, to park. Now, simply to live in my house, I have to pay for Calgary Transit, that's wrong. Even with a portion of our property taxes going to Calgary Transit, they still say they have a $2 billion shortfall?  Guess what, they then have a spending problem, a budgeting problem or something. My husband is a professional accountant. If he were the financial controller for Calgary Transit, he'd never work again.  No one would trust him - but he’s a competent accountant, his companies run well because he’s private sector.  Oh, sorry, that was my out loud voice.

I’ve mentioned all of this outrageous misspending because Mayor Nenshi is demanding increased taxation powers within Calgary.  For the municipality he wants a “penny” tax, tax on fuel, vehicle registration tax, a breathing tax.  I really, desperately don’t want this.  What I want is actual, honest fiscal responsibility and I don’t see this in city hall whatsoever.  Mayor Nenshi at one time said on a radio show that Calgarians are not ATM’s, but he sure sees us as an infinite money supply.

I will never accept another tax as long as there is uncontrolled spending and spending on things I really don’t agree with, ESPECIALLY when these things were not voted on.  We no longer live in a democracy.  If we did, I would have had a choice, a voice, but I don’t.  The government dictates to me and on more than one occasion I feel that Mayor Nenshi has demanded I like it.  The last property increase was “just a few dollars a month” but that was MY few dollars and the next increase will be more of MY money walking out the door for what?  More art, and a tunnel to nowhere?

The last thing the City of Calgary needs is more power, more ways to take money from Calgarians.  First they need to learn real respect, actual fiscal responsibility and they need to involve us in the decision making.  The way they’re running now isn’t working, I don’t like it, and I’m not alone.  I’d rather hear about how city hall is lowering it’s spending, not shark fin soup bans, running golf courses or how cool it is to hang out with protesters.

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