Recently, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong said that Toronto should think about selling off some of its assets to raise enough dough to weather the current economic hurricane. He figures there’s a cool $16 billion sitting around in stuff we, read: the people of Toronto, own.
Reminds me of that This Hour Has 22 Minutes sketch where Crazy Jim Flaherty is holding a firesale! Come to Crazy Jim’s Liquidation Warehouse and buy yourself some crown properties!
I’m willing to have someone give me an economics primer on this one, but why when property has dropped in value would you choose this time to sell it? I think we need to be cautious (and in many cases rule out) selling property owned by you and me at the best of times, but to look for a buyer when prices are in the basement so we can make a quick couple of bucks seems to be driven more by ideology than pragmatism.
I say ideology because those officials who express an unwavering faith in neo-liberalism are always looking for a way to let the private sector run government. By leasing or selling public goods, the government’s books look rosy but the rest of us typically have to pay higher prices for worse service. Don’t we have enough evidence today to show what happens when the private sector acts unfettered, especially when it comes to delivering those goods and services essential to our lives?
And what about the long term revenue the city would lose? Sure you may get $500 million today, but you no longer reap $40 million in annual revenue (I made those figures up to illustrate my point). Would you do this? Would you sell your house right now, take what you’re offered (which will most likely be below what you paid for it if you bought it last year) so you can pay off your line of credit?
Doesn’t make sense does it?