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“New Deal” not working

Nobody likes a tax increase.

Nobody likes a tax increase.

So, it is not surprising a proposed 5.5 per cent hike in property taxes in the Town’s preliminary 2020 budget was met with scorn by Interior News readers.

It is tempting, of course, and may even be legitimate, at least in part, to blame the current and previous Town Councils for not planning well enough or far enough ahead.

It is more complex than that, however.

As deputy mayor Gladys Atrill pointed out, there are some big ticket items driving this year’s proposed increases, specifically aging infrastructure, a new RCMP officer and affordable housing concerns.

We can all agree on how important these things are, until it comes to footing the bill.

Ultimately, there are alternatives to tax increases that should be seriously considered, such as reviewing permissive tax exemptions, although that is its own can of worms.

The big driver, though, is provincially-mandated asset management. Council is trying to get ahead of the curve so that down the road, replacing and/or maintaining water and sewer, buildings, roads and equipment is sustainable.

A big part of the problem is that, while the provincial and federal governments impose regulations on municipalities and upload responsibilities, they don’t always step up with the concurrent funding or means of generating the necessary revenue to address them.

And when they do, there are so many strings attached we sometimes get what we want, but not necessarily what we need.

A “New Deal” for cities and communities has been bandied about since the 1960s. In 2015, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals campaigned extensively on their new “New Deal.”

The premise of these plans is always more autonomy for municipalities.

Yet here we are in 2020 and it’s still the upper levels of government tightly controlling the purse strings leaving local officials to go back to their only available well.

The “New Deal” is the same as the old one—and it’s not a good one.

Smithers Interior News

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