The bombshell that came from the province in the restructuring legislation has left many Ottawa activists fuming. In a recent series of postings on the Virtual Community Association discussion group on the National Capital FreeNet, several of them sounded off.
For instance, frequent contributor David Gladstone wrote: “I guess we're all still in a state-of-shock at Queen's Park's version of One-City: pooled assets and tax revenue but separate debts, 4 out of 20 Councillors representing the Townships, trusteeship starting on January 1st, decisions on provision of services in English and French to be deferred until after budgets and staffing are decided by the Transition Board, etc. Question: Why is there is so little concern out there in the streets with this massive attack on local democracy, except for bilingual services?”
To this, Erwin Dreessen replied, “Maybe because only 30% of the people of Ontario bother to vote in municipal elections. Maybe because most of the people correctly see that the power lies elsewhere -- in an activist provincial government, politically. Maybe because it is difficult to believe that the elimination of so many tinpot-politicians' jobs would not be accompanied by god knows what irresponsible behaviour.”
Full marks to David on the insanity of the division of spoils and burdens. I'm told that the legislation is permissive, both in allowing differential tax rates (nothing new there; easy to handle administratively) and in defining assets. So there's still a chance that they'll get it right and let amalgamation mean amalgamation...with certain exceptions, perhaps. What if each former municipality's taxpayers' collective be responsible for any debt outstanding on their former city hall, and continue to own the asset? That would take down the red flag about Ottawa's City Hall (letting this burden fall on the citizens who voted the Jim Durrells in, with gusto) and could give rise to some interesting entrepreneurship for use of the spaces.
If you are not familiar with what is making these people see red, just wait about a year when the amalgamated city's property tax bills arrive. Despite all the promising of overall savings from one-city amalgamation, a big increase is in store for (the current) Ottawa ratepayers. The existing debts belonging to the city are to be allocated to its taxpayers, but all the assets (including the ones responsible for some of the debt, like the City Hall) and the tax revenues (commercial and government grants-in-lieu) will go to the amalgamated city. Result: higher tax rates to cover the debts, while other areas benefit from lower rates.
If you don't like the situation, perhaps a call to the local provincial representatives would be in order.