OTTAWA, Ont. – The City of Ottawa is in danger of becoming a “does not” municipality that does not adequately fund its community programs while lagging behind the rest of the province, according to a report released today by CUPE 503, the city’s municipal workers.
“Ottawa is lagging behind Ontario’s other major urban centres when it comes to funding levels for essential city services,” said David Macdonald, an independent economist who works with Ottawa unions and community groups.
Where Ottawa Stands: A comparison of municipal spending levels across Ontario takes a broad view of the 2007 city budget by looking at how Ottawa compares to other municipalities in Ontario. It looks at spending levels in administration, public health, ambulance services, employment and financial assistance, assistance to aged people, parks & recreation, child care, social housing, libraries and transit.
The results for Ottawa are worrying. Ottawa has already driven down administrative costs per capita, but in six of the other nine areas, it falls into the low or mid range of spending levels. Ottawa is doing quite well in transit but is doing particularly poorly in public health and assistance for aged people.
Macdonald noted that a tax freeze would just make things worse.
“Mayor Larry O’Brien’s tax freeze is out of step with the other large urban Ontario municipalities,” he said. “Ottawa is also the only municipality considering no property tax increase of the cities surveyed. Even if it adopted an inflationary increase of 1.7 per cent, it would still be in last place and significantly behind Ontario’s other big urban centres.”
Without additional revenue to support a growing city and new ideas, Ottawa is in danger of falling further behind Toronto and the big GTA municipalities, Macdonald noted.
“We labour under the illusion that we are spending too much, but this is misplaced,” Macdonald said. “We have a revenue problem, not a spending problem, so we need to enhance funding for municipal services and programs, not cut and “gap” our way to the bottom.”
Macdonald issued a dire warning for councillors and residents alike.
“Ottawa’s rank across a range of programs shows that it has precious little room before it falls into the bottom quarter of social spending, if it’s not there already,” Macdonald said. “This brings us perilously close to a “does not” municipality that does not take care of its citizens, its infrastructure and its public services.”
For further information, please contact:
David Macdonald, Economist, 613-725-7606 (cell); David Robbins, CUPE Communications, 613-878-1431 (cell)