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Op-Ed: Greed, taxation, and incompetence

On the same day Suncor announced they are cutting 1,000 jobs, it was revealed city council and the mayor will receive automatic pay raises, along with getting extra money to employ an additional staffer. That news comes with a simple conclusion; the people who created or inherited the city’s deficit without fixing a thing, have told voters they need to doll out more money they don’t have to pay the man.

Government does not make money, they steal it from hardworking citizens who earned every cent. The waitress and the forklift driver who have no idea what a savings account is, have an even bigger hand in their wallet, and their government has the gall to argue they deserve a raise.

Alberta has one of the highest rates of income equality in Canada. Those who move to the city for oil jobs that will soon decrease, are flanked by a high rate of homelessness and minimum wage earners who struggle to pay rent in a city with high rental costs. Those people who live off of nickels have been given even more reason to stress. Their local government have voted for increases in vital services and have raised taxes that will affect the day to day lives of the people who have trust in their representatives.

In January, the City increased transit fares 15 cents to $3.15, nearly double the rate in 2000 when adult fare cost $1.60. Transit riders consist of people who work downtown and don’t want to pay for parking, or middle class people who can’t afford a car. Now those very people who take public transit because they can’t afford any other transportation have to dig deeper into their wallets. Fare breaks are available for low income riders, but for everyone else, they are hit with an increase to ride crowded transit that often has terrible service.

The increases enacted by council do not end there. It will cost more for Calgarians to go to a community pool, and get their garbage and recycling removed from their houses. If you own a home in a new community with special features, your community fees add to the sting of your property tax increase.

Mismanagement of taxpayer dollars has led a greedy government to take more money from those who elected them; who must now sacrifice paying certain bills late, or lose time for family vacations.

The residential property tax increase as well as the transit fare increase will do nothing to curb income inequality. Naturally, landlords will increase rent to curb the cost of a property tax increase, and the housing problem in Calgary will get much worse.

Not only does City Council view their constituents as a bank, their inaction to fix the housing crisis has shown an incompetence so extreme, one has to wonder if council lacks the intelligence or the empathy to get citizens of the city into suitable homes.

Although Calgary’s vacancy rate is the lowest in the country, the average cost to rent a two bedroom home is more than $1,200, and unless you have a great job, finding an affordable home is difficult in the city. Since first taking office, Mayor Nenshi has promised to legalize more secondary suites, and has failed to deliver. Currently, secondary suites, like houses that rent a main floor and a basement are legal within certain communities. Councillors against secondary suites have argued legalizing more of those housing units will drop property values. That argument has been disputed by The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. who argued secondary suites boost property values.

Homeowners who want the extra income have been told not to do what they wish with their own property, and residents who depend on cheaper housing have been left in the cold. In a widely shared story, The Canadian Taxpayers Federation found 31 Calgarians living in subsidized housing who earn more than $100,000, with more than 3,000 families on the waiting list. That revelation shows a lack of accountability, and competence by City employees whose job it is to give the lower middle class homes.

Citizens who claw and fight to pay their rent or mortgage have now been asked how much they are willing to pay to park their vehicles in front of their own homes. The Calgary Parking Authority, who already charges the most for downtown parking than any city in Canada, published a survey last year asking Calgarians how much they were willing to pay for parking at their home. The civic government also debated billing residents for overflowed garbage bins, or charging for bigger bins. This idea is just another scheme to steal more money from Calgarians who will soon be punished by the City and the province for their failure to properly maintain a budget.

Although Premier Jim Prentice admitted the province is too dependent on oil, instead of simply cutting costs within the government, a provincial sales tax, and a progressive tax system have been debated.

The examples set forth by Nenshi, and Prentice is typical of government. Not only do they steal the fruits of our labor, they are always extending their hands to demand more of our hard earned money. While the prospects of job loses loom, politicians who enact the failed policies that bleed their citizens dry are driving fancy cars, living in nice homes and are taking home six figure salaries while the powerless are wondering how they can manage to keep their heads above the water.

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