Friday, October 16, 2009

Beyond Boondoggling
Citizen Ellie does not normally comment on provincial affairs, there being no dearth of municipal hoo-haw to fill this blog and then some. The E-Health scandal, however, bears comment.
You may think that Ontario Premier Dalton "The Deceiver" McGuinty's management of the province has no direct impact on you. Wrong. As a result of a previous Ontario government downloading a number of formerly provincially-funded social service programs on the municipalities, our property taxes have skyrocketed. (Citizen Ellie refers to Premier McGuinty as "The Deceiver" because he deceived Ontario voters in his first election when he promised there would be no new taxes but implemented the Ontario Health Tax almost immediately after taking office.)
There's a provincial funding formula to guide municipalities in regard to their share of the cost of these social services -- 80% paid by the province, 20% paid by the municipality. That's how it works in most Ontario municipalities -- not so in Ottawa where the generous chardonnay socialists on council thought 20% was not enough in some instances and increased the city's percentage.
Municipal Affairs Minister Jim Watson ( who may be contemplating another run at the mayor's chair) likes to crow about how the McGuinty government is taking over the funding of the social service programs which were previously downloaded and relieving the poor property taxpayer of this onerous burden. In 2008, that amounted to some $12 million. In 2009, the province will pick up $7 million. In 2010, $19 million will become the province's responsibility, with a further $19 million beling picked up in 2011.
You might think that the uploading would lead to a reduction in property taxes or perhaps no increase. Not on your life ! Ottawa's Long Range Financial Planning Committee directed that these savings be used to first replace unsustainable (one-time) revenues which had been built into the budget; secondly to fund an increase to the contribution for capital works; and thirdly to reduce the impact of inflation on the city budget. No one at City Hall apparently gave thought to reducing the impact of inflation on the property taxpayer's budget. They will, however, tell you that if the city hadn't used the uploading savings to offset elimination of one-time revenues, ratepayers would have faced a 6% increase rather than a 4.9 % in 2008. In other words, we were given these savings back in the form of a lower tax increase. But it should not be forgotten that property tax revenue earmarked at the municipal level to pay for social services freed up loads of bucks the McGuinty government could spend on other things !
And spend they did at E-Health ! With no controls. According to the province's auditor-general, the folks running E-Health had an expense account field day, swanning off to the dog races at Sarasota and other exotic places; billing for every second spent on their coffee breaks -- where they consumed designer muffins and $7 lattes while us taxpayers counted our pennies to find $1.49 for our once-a-week treat of a small double-double and donut at Tim's. Expensive consultants were hired -- who also billed for every second of their coffee and lunch breaks, mileage, and lord knows what else !
It turns out no one was minding the store. It also turns out people were playing fast and loose with E-Health's $800 million computer -- downloading games and using it for other personal activities. The one Citizen Ellie likes best is the Toronto doctor who used the computer linkup in his practice to download an "extreme fighting" series through the $800 million computer. But all is well, taxpayers. The doc has promised he won't do it any more.
Has anyone been fired as a result of all this ? The provincial health minister has resigned, but continues to warm his well-paid seat in the legislature. The E-Health executives have all been sent on their way with golden handshakes. But that's government for you. Heads roll uphill or out the door, pockets stuffed with taxpayer dollars.
Meanwhile the premier smirks his way around the province refusing to call a judicial inquiry into the activities at E-Health. "The Deceiver" faces the electorate in 2010.
Let's hope the electorate has a long memory.
Ottawa ratepayers are invited to a gathering at 10 a.m. tomorrow (Saturday, October 17) on Parliament Hill to protest the E-Health scandal.
Election Help From "The Beyond"
November is municipal election month in Quebec. You've got to hand it to those Quebeckers. They know how to liven up an election campaign.
News from the Saguenay this week that one mayoral candidate has artists in the communities (Chicoutimi, Jonquiere, La Baie) which make up this regional municipality creating voodoo dolls in the likeness of the incumbent mayor, who he hopes to defeat. The dolls are being distributed among the electors. Presumably they come with the necessary pins.
What an idea ! No doubt some of you would like to see Mayor Larry's likeness on voodoo dolls come election time. Citizen Ellie thinks there are other, far more worthy candidates for the honor both at the provincial and municipal levels.
New posts usually on Fridays