Eric Mang asks if 20 bucks saved by the garbage strike is really worth handing back
I like paying taxes because I like a society that strives for greater egalitarianism through the redistribution of wealth.
I realize that taxes, being our money, carry the expectation of being used wisely. But here's the subjective part. Unless tax revenue is being blatantly wasted, how tax dollars are spent is matter of values and preferences. For example, I don't want my taxes to be propping up the war in Afghanistan but I have no problem paying for someone's abortion. Whereas, I know there are many who would vehemently disagree with me.
Neither of us, however, gets to check off boxes on our tax forms like we're directing donations to charities. "I'll designate 30% of my taxes to health care, 15% to the arts and the rest as needed". Rather, we vote for governments that declare how they plan on spending our money.
Following the civic strike in Toronto, it seems that, as a result of suspended services, a modest "savings" has been identified. The "savings" amounts to $33 million.
Toronto residents and businesses are expected to see that money, not in the form of cash, but in a $20 reduction in property taxes.
I'm sure the details have yet to be worked out, but this seems an asinine proposal.
First, many Torontonians do not own property. How will they receive a rebate? Lower-income earners are more likely to be renters than property owners. Would they get anything? Would landlords pass along a $20 savings to tenants? Unlikely. But it's lower-income earners and the poor who need that $20 more than anyone else.
Second, will people who have million dollar properties receive the same rebate as those with homes assessed at $250,000? How would this be fair? Shouldn't a rebate be based on a sliding scale? The more your house is worth, the smaller your rebate gets (the assumption being that you need it less).
Third, the underlying principle of the rebate seems to be the supposed inconvenience caused by the absence of garbage collection during the strike. But the strike affected more than waste pickup. What about those families who couldn't get their kids into city-run daycare or community programs? Again, these families are more likely (but not always) to be lower income. Shouldn't any savings found in the strike be passed on to them rather than some Rosedale matron irked that her garbage piled up for 39 days?
If anyone should benefit from tax relief, it should be those who earn low-incomes. Further, it might make more sense to give these citizens a cheque rather than a subsidy. They can decide how to spend the money and get the most utility from each buck they are given.
When a report is out today asserting that Toronto is "seriously unaffordable"; when that report finds that a family of four on social assistance "would need to spend 33% of its income on food and 72% on rent – that’s more than they have and doesn’t include other basic needs. More than 30% of children five and under are in families that are below the Low Income Cut-off and the median employment income for families in 2006 was 20% below the provincial median"; when access to affordable housing is increasingly out of reach; and when "recent immigrants are three times more likely to have lost jobs due to the economic downturn than their Canadian-born colleagues" shouldn't the city be focusing on halting and working to close the growing gap between rich and poor and not exacerbating it?
Shouldn't the $33 million saved from the strike go toward the most needy rather than relatively affluent property owners?
This is about being fair.