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Zero tax plan won’t work: Carroll

In Barrie
Oct 21st, 2010

By AILEEN CARROLL MPP Barrie Examiner October 21 2010
Barrie’s future growth and prosperity will be very much impacted by the decisions voters will make in the upcoming Oct. 25 municipal election especially by their choice for mayor.
While the mayor is just one vote at council, that candidate’s political philosophy and vision for this city will influence his goals and leadership style.
While it would be inappropriate to endorse one candidate over another, I am free to comment on some of the proposed policies and the absence of others. In my view, a platform promoting a zero tax increase is a recipe for disaster in this fair city.
Barrie is just now recovering from the damage caused by the wrong-headedness of a zero tax increase policy in the ’90s. The contention that property taxes can be frozen while growth and corresponding demand for services increase, is poor economics and will hugely handicap the city’s role and future potential as the major urban growth centre in the Simcoe County area.
No mayor can single handedly implement a policy of zero tax increase or any other policy as he represents merely one vote on council.
Nevertheless, Barrie citizens should look hard at the ramifications of zero tax and not be tempted to go down that road.
I am disappointed that this mayoralty campaign has included few proposals and little discussion of the role of local government vis-à- vis the most vulnerable in our community — the homeless, the lack of resources for agencies attempting to assist the most marginalized and what a new mayor would do to make this city more responsive to the needs of the poor and working poor.
I have heard no proposals for more affordable housing, nor seen it listed as a mayoralty priority. As MPP, I saw little evidence that an increase in affordable housing units was anywhere near the top of the current council’s priority list. What will a new mayor and council do differently?
Finally, there have been discussions in the media surrounding party politics at the municipal level which have centred largely on the Toronto mayoralty race. But I think it’s time to have the conversation as to the relative merits of openly introducing party politics in Barrie. As in Vancouver, the parties need not mirror the ones at the provincial or federal levels of government, but an open coalescing of a mayoralty candidate with some candidates for council would be transparent to the electorate and allow such a successful mayor to work with a team of councillors to move good policies and planning forward.
The ward system seems archaic and inherently contains more incentives to protect home turfs than to engage in the risk-taking required to develop the public policy needed for the city as a whole. Candidates would run city-wide and electors would choose their top 10.
As with any change, the way forward is through conversation and consultation among the citizens of Barrie.
Aileen Carroll is Barrie’s MPP

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