OTTAWA, Ont. – For a mere $9.62 per month, Ottawa residents can maintain and enhance essential city public services, according to a progressive budget analysis produced by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 503.
“Why are we punishing ourselves to maintain a misguided tax freeze?” asked David Macdonald, an Ottawa-based economist and author of Leave the Cuts Behind: A Review of the 2007 City of Ottawa’s Draft Budget. “There’s no reason for a tax freeze and no reason to cut services. Budgets have already been cut to the bone, so pushing through a tax freeze would only endanger front-line services and programs.”
“Virtually no other major Canadian city has pushed through a tax freeze since 2001,” Macdonald said. “We need to cut old ideas, not public services.”
The 2007 budget is projected to have a shortfall of around $74 million if city officials refuse to grow the budget to match a growing city. To cover $13 million of this, the city is proposing what they call “gapping”, not filling job vacancies. This would amount to roughly 54,000 lost person-days of service to the community in 2007.
“Don’t be fooled,” Macdonald said. “Gapping will weaken the provision of city services and programs, resulting in poorer service and longer waits across all departments.”
“Right now, gapping appears to be targeted at fire departments, programs like homes for the aged and by-law services,” Macdonald said. “Buses may not be repaired as quickly and the city’s fleet of vehicles may not be there when needed. Clearly gapping is not the solution.”
Macdonald’s analysis shows that we can stop all service cuts and even enhance services and programs – as well as avoid “gapping” – for a small tax increase of about $9.62 per month per average Ottawa household. This is an increase of just 2.4 per cent above the rate of inflation, not out of line with other Ontario (or Canadian) municipalities.
Macdonald said the “no tax increase” position forces bad news on Ottawa citizens. He noted that in 2005 emergency call volume increased 3.3 per cent but no new paramedics were added to meet that demand. And Ottawa is growing every year, but municipal funding for community agencies has been frozen again for 2007.
“We have options,” Macdonald said. “We need to tell our councillors that we don’t want more cuts in our neighbourhood services. What Ottawa needs to cut is old ideas. Let’s implement new ideas and maintain essential services for strong and healthy communities.”
The report is available online at www.cupe503.com
For further information, please contact: David Macdonald, Economist, 613-725-7606 (cell); David Robbins, CUPE Communications, 613-878-1431 (cell)