There is a petition circulating right now called Back2Basics. It seeks to cut back on the services provided by the City of Vancouver with the express aim of relieving home owners of any additional burdens placed on property tax.
It seeks to use the covid-19 crisis as the cover for what is, in reality, a major Tory-like austerity rollback. And we all know from bitter experience gained across so many jurisdictions, that the only people who suffer during such an austerity squeeze are the poorest and most vulnerable. Their services are the first to be cut in austerity and — should the crisis ever be declared over — their services are always the last to be restored.
We should not be cutting services during a major crisis. In fact, progressive economists will say that now is the time we should be spending more. Governments need to step in when needs are greatest, and step back when good times are here.
The promoters of the petition will not remind you that Vancouver already pays the lowest property tax in North America based on tax per $1,000 value. Their petition does nothing but attempt to guarantee that unsustainable position into the future.
The petition says: “The city must stop pushing their out of control spending onto tax payers.” We do have out of control spending but it is not because we are spending too much, but rather that we are spending so unwisely.
The failure of the Stewart administration in this crisis has been a failure to prioritize spending where it can do most good. Steered by City staff inherited from the woe-begotten Vision Vancouver years of build for greed and headlines not for genuine need, Vancouver city’s budget is top-heavy on administration and “world class” projects, and sorely lacking in a vision for the most needy half of the population. And any advantage extra staff may have provided is completely lost in the ridiculous byzantine world of delays in development approvals for local projects.
The best thing John Horgan in Victoria could do for the City right now is to free them up to move parts of the huge and unwieldy capital budgets into operations. Put those capital projects on hold for the time being, and plough money into services on the ground where they are most needed. Keeping transit free beyond the virus crisis would be helpful, too: if we can afford Site C, we can afford free transit!