Monday, November 14, 2005

From where I sit, Alberta has never looked so good

Bob at Let It Bleed has suggested that conservatives need to take a closer walk with municipal politics and points to a pay hike by Toronto Councillors, but if you needed another compelling reason, the Toronto Star gives one up:
New taxes on tobacco, bar drinks — even tickets to entertainment events — will be available to Toronto councillors trying to balance future city budgets, the Toronto Star has learned. The new taxing powers would be part of a new City of Toronto Act being hammered out by Queen's Park and the city. If approved, the transfer of powers would give Toronto the ability to raise millions in new revenue annually, and provide council with much greater powers to regulate development. It would also give councillors a much stronger hand in deter- mining the look and feel of the city.

The changes are proposed in a confidential report — Building a 21st Century City, written by top staff at Queen's Park and City Hall — that will be released this week. "We are recommending a dramatic departure from the status quo," the report says. "We are recommending ground-breaking change." The new powers will benefit both levels of government and the people they serve, it adds.

Empowering its capital city will ... position Ontario to successfully compete in a globalized economy and provide a quality of life for its residents that is second to none," the report promises. The report, which goes much further than just new taxing powers, calls for fundamental change in the way municipal government has functioned in Canada since 1867. For the first time, Toronto would not be just a child of the provincial government, bound by restrictive legislation, but free to make its own decisions on most issues within its boundaries.

The scope of the powers proposed to be granted to city hall are not only vast but wide ranging:
• Passing bylaws on just about anything that lets the city run better. Right now, if the city isn't specifically given the power to do something by the province, it can't.

• Regulation of store hours. The city could, for example, decide to let stores stay open on statutory holidays, like Christmas.

• The power to promote development in underused areas by forgiving property taxes or other city fees.

• The ability to hold developers to architectural and urban design standards to improve the look and feel of the city.

• Preventing conversion of rental housing to condominiums to protect affordable housing and set minimum densities for new buildings to encourage intensification.

• Establishing a business owned by the city to meet a defined goal. The city could, for example, start a business to provide cheap Internet access to poor neighbourhoods to improve life there but couldn't open a factory to make designer clothes.

• Powers to implement taxes and fees, which could include taxes on parking, sidewalk snow plowing, additional car registration fees and road tolls.

These are incredibly intrusive powers for a municipal government to weld and are ripe for abuse. In light of the recent municipal scandals it should make your blood run cold while giving any business new reasons to leave Toronto. Not only is Alberta looking better than ever – so is the Western Separatism movement. The question becomes how long will I suffer before I pull up stakes and be Alberta bound myself?


The Brigadier, Red Ensign Brigade said...

Although I find it scary to think of Toronto council with these powers ready to hand, I was surprised that they don't already have a few of them in their arsenal of municipal pettifoggery.

DirtCrashr said...

All of that is frightening design standards to improve the look and feel of the city. Aaak, design-by-committee standards will make any city LOOK monstrous and frightening, and rules to protect affordable housing and set minimum densities will insure that it becomes that way as well.

Canadi-anna said...

This is going to send a chill through the city -- for a few minutes. Then people will get on their cell phones and drive without looking, as they head to mall to buy their 300th pair of shoes and a Christmas present for the cat.
I want to go to, but you know what? Poor people can't just up and leave. We're stuck. Could you really afford to go? And the ages of your kids -- how would it affect them?
I ask because sometimes I really mean it when I say I want to go -- but then I think about the cost and the kids and the adjustments they would have to make . . . it's just not in the cards (unless of course I win the lottery -- but then, I'd have to play to win -- so that's probably not in the cards either.)
Yes, give us more 'affordable housing' in a city where we can no longer afford to live.
Okay. I'm done.

Kateland, aka TZH said...

Could I afford to go today? No, but it I finally make up my mind, then no power in the verse can stop me.

All I need to do is make a plan and work towards it. As for the children, the LA has been seriously looking at the university in Calgary. As long as my oldest son has a gym to box at, and the youngest has the rest of us, nothing else matters. I have no family here to tie me to Ontario. I ended up in Toronto by default. This was where my beloved grandparents were. They are dead now so there is no one to tie us here. Make no mistake, if Alberta does separate, I will hitchhike or walk if I have to, but I will not be left behind. If nothing else I owe it to my children.

Ed said...

It should be pretty easy for your son to find a gym to box at in Calgary: Mike Miles (world champion kickboxer) is based out of Calgary and has a gym there, and due to the influence of the Hart family there are a lot of wrestlers who train in Calgary at various gyms (particularly BJs) as well. Plus there are lots and lots
of regular gyms, rock-climbing places, martial arts clubs, you name it. There are also plenty of options available if he's just into straight boxing.