Straight Talk
IAN ROBINSON - Opposing new taxes is not a 'fringe' activity

Old City Hall is reflected in the modern municipal building in Calgary, Alberta on Tuesday January 21, 2014.

Credits: Lyle Aspinall/Calgary Sun/QMI Agency

IAN ROBINSON | QMI AGENCY

Apparently I'm not a real person, with real opinions.

And if you agree with me about a little thing like taxation, neither are you.

At least not according to our mayor.

I'm a "fringe element."

In December, Mayor Naheed Nenshi was talking about the lack of tax reform.

NOTE TO READERS: When a politician talks about "tax reform", that politician does not mean that you are going to get a tax break. It does not mean that you will pay less. It means you will be reaching more deeply into your pocket than before and the SOBs who took your money expect you to be grateful for the privilege.

If you think you pay too much, if you oppose the dreams of municipal politicians to enjoy greater powers of taxation over you ... then our mayor says: "As politicians, we have to ignore those fringe elements and focus on what's right for the community."

Let's get this straight: If city councillors want to spend money on a bike-share program that's gone bankrupt to the tune of many millions in other jurisdictions ... that's mainstream?

If they want to set up woonerfs ... that's mainstream?

If they know what a woonerf is ... that's mainstream?

If they build in a 1% inflation rate into every major construction project in the name of public art - with one councillor mulling a minstrel strolling around a sewage plant - that's mainstream?

Now the mayor is hardly alone in this fight and he is hardly its originator.

It is taking place on both sides of the Atlantic - the mayor of London wants more tax power to build infrastructure.

The City of Calgary already gets a bunch of money for infrastructure from the provincial government.

Premier Alison Redford suggests that money disappears if the city gets more tax powers because, as she puts it, she's mindful that there is only one taxpayer.

But as the rapacious tax gluttons at the city have proven - Hi there, Councillor Keating! Hope you enjoy you 52 million pieces of silver! - even when we get a break from the province, they'll ensure they get their grimy paws on it somehow.

But we have to wonder how firm the premier's statement is, given that the new Minister of Municipal Affairs is Ken Hughes.

He is a lot of things but he is no Doug Griffiths, who he replaced in the portfolio.

Griffiths was tough-minded and not in any mood to take crap from our mayor and was firm in his assertion that new tax powers for Alberta cities were off the table.

What Hughes says on the issue is the verbal equivalent of political pablum - it's bland and inoffensive and leaves us yearning for a good, old-fashioned, red-meat politico like Griffiths, where you knew exactly where he stood.

It's not as though Calgarians enjoy low taxes.

When you roll in the monthly hit from the utility pirates, we pay about $178 a year less than Toronto.

Between 2000 and 2011, the city grew in population by 27%.

The city's operating budget grew 79%.

That's out of control. And it's immoral because it takes money from families working on the productive side of the economy and sucks it into the black hole of the city.

It's no secret that the more government takes, the bigger the hit the economy takes.

Here's the hit from the City of Calgary alone.

After inflation (the real inflation rate, not the Pretend Inflation Rate used by the city) and population growth, between 2000 and 2011 - if you're in a family of four, you're $21,000 poorer because of city spending above and beyond both inflation and population growth.

This isn't money that went to shiny infrastructure projects.

It's money that just went into that big blue box and never came out again.

The numbers show this is a city with contempt for taxpayers.

The last thing we need is to give them greater power to pillage our wallets.

Speaking as a "fringe element."

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