East York Mirror
So here we are with another city budget completed and again we are facing yet another property tax increase.
What is even more telling is that this comes after Mayor Rob Ford has done nothing to build the city, but has put all his efforts into dismantling it as much as possible.
This development has to be contrasted with the situation back in 1997, before our forced amalgamation, when Borough of East York residents were about to see property taxes decrease due to the fact that we were about to make the final payment on the East York Civic Centre.
Let's consider again that not only did we have the lowest taxes in all of Metro Toronto, we also had our own dedicated civil service, a fleet of brand new garbage trucks, our own municipal vehicles, eight part-time councillors and our own mayor. On top of all that we had strong reserves of funds in the bank, along with the highest rate of satisfaction with the delivery of municipal services in all of Metro Toronto.
So again, what benefits have we really gained through this forced amalgamation, and indeed what have all the other former metro municipalities gained as well?
It certainly hasn't been any real decreases in operation costs, for as we know, there are now more civil servants working for the city than before amalgamation.
I do not think that any greater efficiency has been achieved, just look at the tug of war that we've had with the rest of the city for access to funds and services, with amalgamation
Despite this we still have Mayor Ford promoting the "promise" of amalgamation, though his method is by way of cuts to staff and services, plus more use of privatization.
The truth is that everything had been cut to the bone to begin with back in the early 1990s and at this particular point we are really playing a dangerous game of deferring spending money to the point where the city's infrastructure is in danger of collapsing due to age and neglect. The reports of chunks of concrete falling off the aging Gardiner Expressway is just the tip of the iceberg of this very real problem.
Experts in municipal affairs on both the right and left of the political spectrum warned back in the 1990s to not to amalgamate because it had been proven to not work. Former Ontario premier Mike Harris finally ended up stopping further amalgamations in Ontario because they were not saving money. It is important to note that no further municipal amalgamations have been undertaken since the 1990s for that reason.
Toronto is not the only municipality that was forced to amalgamate that has run into the same issues of rising taxes with a reduction of services and efficiency.
The bottom line is that the former borough of East York had a working formula to keep property taxes low and the delivery of services high. Given how dysfunctional and polarized our current municipal structure has become, is it really wrong to re-introduce the idea of de-amalgamation?
Joe Cooper is a long-time East York resident and community activist. His column appears every Thursday. Contact him at email@example.com