The 2006 Campaign Contribution - Rebate Program cost us the city taxpayers, hundreds of thousands of dollars. We all pay for the Mayors and Councillors campaigns (those who signed up for rebate program to finance their campaign), whether we like it or not.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

I believe that property taxes in Ottawa are currently at the highest level, which can be accepted by Ottawa residents. For us, property owners, who pay hundreds of dollars a month in property taxes, increasing tax or utility payments would decrease our standard of life. Of course, we all understand that in paying property taxes we support areas such as: health, education, transportation, safety, and city modernization.
Who wants to reduce the number of firefighters, paramedics, or police officers on our city’s streets? Who wants to close Community Health Centers, schools, or bus routes?
The current Ottawa’s revenue should be enough to run the city at a high quality level that we have become accustomed to. Unfortunately, today we experience financial problems, because the money we are paying every year in different ways to the city is not used the best way. Moreover, to have more educational and health institutions, increase safety, keep streets clean, and pay for our street and sidewalk snow removal, our city needs extra money. In this case city management has forgot that there are other methods to create income, without increasing taxes or the cost of utilities. Our quality of life goes down if living costs go up, exactly as a balance scale. Ottawa is ranked as a 90th among 144 cities worldwide in terms of living costs, and we should keep it that way.

Here is one example why our living costs in Ottawa have been increased.
Some Mayor and Councillor candidates in the coming 2006 municipal election have registered for the Campaign Contribution - Rebate Program. Election campaigns, for these runners, will be mostly paid by us, the city taxpayers.
The Candidate Campaign Contribution - Rebate Program is not an income tax rebate, as some people think, it is cash paid from our city budget. For instance, it will be $112.50 in taxpayers' money returned to each individual who contributed $150 to campaigns for mayor’s seat or council positions. In this case the city has to pay from our taxes 75% of the money individual donated. This rebate politicians have invented for their own purposes with out asking taxpayers. Going back to the cash-rebate example, that means, if only one of the candidates receives a $100 000 donation from thousand his/her supporters, we, as a taxpayers have to pay to his/her donors around $75 000 in cash from our city funds. In 2003 election $938,990.72 were contributed and at this moment, for 2006 election we have almost 50 candidates eligible for this contribution rebate program. How much will this program cost our city? When should we expect the next utilities and tax rate increase to adjust these losses?
We should ask these questions to these candidates who have already signed for this shameful contribution rebate program, where funds could go to a candidate that we do not want to support.
During the last election campaign, this contribution rebate program paid rebates to about 1,660 individuals supporting one mayoralty candidate. What the percentage is it of our city population? Do these donors really represent the majority and do we have to pay them back? If donors want contribute and support some individuals, they should pay from their own pocket, not our pocket.
I say, that this cash-rebate is a waste of taxpayers' money and is not a fair deal for Ottawa taxpayers, nor an honest way to convince individuals for their donation. Candidates should not have the unmitigated gall to request a free ride on the backs of the taxpayer. At this time of tightening our belts, with taxes and utilities going up, should we be giving away hundreds of thousand of dollars to support election campaigns, including those that will never succeed? It is ridiculous.
I, as a candidate for mayor’s seat, did not and will not sign up for this embarrassing Contribution Rebate Program. Not one of the Ottawa taxpayers will pay a “cent” for my campaign without his/her knowledge and will.

An analysis of the 2003 municipal election in Ottawa shows that nearly $1 million was raised and spent in the 2003 municipal elections in Ottawa*** and spending money is a winning strategy. The chart below makes obvious that the money was the only a factor to win a 2003 municipal election, but this election will be different!

Ottawa Mayor 2003 Campaign Expenses
Bob CHIARELLI $224,533.70
Terry KILREA $ 35,834.00

Another controversy related to the election contribution, can be the fact that some Electors being at the same time city employees accept money (contribution) from developers, creating the conflict of interest. It is ethically and morally wrong for the municipal employees to take campaign contributions from developers. It can lead someone to the incorrect conclusion and answer to the question “why we are building an LRT in an empty field?”

Ottawa 2003 Election
Total Contributions, 100%, $938,990.72
Individuals & Corporations donated more than $100, 69.6%, $654,223.05

Almost 70% of total contribution was made by these, who contributed more than $100. It shows that a small group of people contributing a lot of money manipulate our votes.

Another example of wasting taxpayers’ money can be a fact, that by average we spend few hundreds million every year, for city roads and parking. Most government projects, usually overrun by a minimum of 50 per cent. We can reduce these expenses at least 30% by having better management, making right decisions at the outset, and dealing with the right contractors.

Talking about a suggested tax system based on income (another income tax) rather than property, I would say NO. It is vulnerable system, easy to abuse. Most of the people live in properties they can afford to live in. The present tax method, which is dependent of the style of life each of us can afford, is fair enough.

To make our city nicer and improve quality of life, we can convince properties owners to invest in their properties. I would propose for example property tax reduction by 50% (or offer rebate) for a specific year, for only one address/owner, if the property owner will spend in that particular calendar year, for visible upgrades and renovations, more than $10,000, but not less than 5% of the property’s value. This proposal has advantages such as: a nicer city image, more work for contractors, and more sales for hardware stores selling materials. At the same time the quality of life will be improved, more sales and labour taxes will be collected. Finally, in the long term, the city will not loose financially, because house modernizations are subject to property re-assessment, which will usually increase properties value. Who will pay more taxes in this case? Only these people who can afford it. I also suggest to moderate our system of property assessment.
We have more homeless people and more crime, because of the fact that our standard of life is going down. Some parents are too busy trying to pay their bills and have not enough time to spend with their children to teach them the right things. Many people already cannot afford high taxes, and we have to think about it before we spend tax money on such silly things as cash rebates for political campaigns. As a homeowner in Ottawa, I think that my taxes are high enough and my municipal utilities are already expensive. I want neither of them to increase. I also do not want to reduce health or educational funds, neither welfare cuts nor transportation shrinkage. Property tax should not be the deciding factor preventing the opening of new businesses or cultural attractions in our city.
To raise the funds needed to keep our city operating, beyond the traditional sources of revenue (property taxes and user fees), I would suggest few other possibilities. The City should be run more as a business; that means it should invest, generate profit, and use this profit for the city’s necessities. Why not recommend more city owned properties to lease the rights to name buildings or places, exactly as was done with the Corel Centre, presently Scotiabank Place.
Gas taxes and development tax should go to schools, roads and city improvement. To solve nation’s capital city transportation problem, I suggest to ask Federal and Provincial governments for more grants, offer special privileges (like subway stations naming) to private investors, consider BOOT (Build, Operate, Own, and Transfer) as a solution, or create an Ottawa Transportation Corporation and go public with its shares. There are many other solutions to fund and satisfy our transportation requirements, but increasing property taxes. After all, whether the funds are labelled federal, provincial or municipal, they all come from the same taxpayer’s pocket.

In conclusion, I would say that Ottawa has a huge human and technology potential, a lot of money to operate, and with a good leadership we should not have to pay more taxes for our property, nor utilities.