Sunday, July 25, 2010

More Bad News.......

Yikes! How much more can Ottawa property-owners take ?
We learned this week that there's a cost overrun on refurbishing the Fairmount Avenue cop shop -- small change -- only $450,000.
Big dollars, however, will be involved when the pension plan which covers all municipal employees in Ontario increases mandatory contributions next year. The increases in contributions msde by both employees and employers are required to offset a shortfall of $1.5 in the primary plan run by the Ontario Municipal Employees' Retirement Services, known as OMERS. This shortfall is expected to grow to nearly $5 billion over the next four years. How could this happen ? Have municipal employers (including Ottawa city council) been asleep at the switch ?
The Municipal Employer Pension Centre of Ontario estimates all OMERS employers together would pay $51 annually for a 1% increase. The Ottawa Police Service alone is expecting to pay between $1 and $2 million more in pension contributions next year.
So before Ottawa's new council has had a chance to settle into their seats at city hall, they're faced with a situation which definitely will impact on the 2011 city budget. Puts mayoral candidate Jim Watson's goal of holding property tax increases to no more than a 2.5 % increase in jeopardy.
This can't go on. The next four years are going to be tough ones for the city. For all intents and purposes, the province is bankrupt and the feds have told their senior officials that there's no new money. If there's a federal election and Steven Harper is re-elected with a majority (even a slim one) watch out. Cuts will come -- maybe not as drastic as those imposed by governments in the UK and Europe -- but cutbacks and layoffs in the federal service don't bode well for Ottawa's municipal tax base, not to mention cutbacks and layoffs of provincial employees working in this area, and hospital staff as everyone tries to balance budgets and do more with less.
Citizen Ellie lives in a city ward that's number 2 in terms of being home to the city's older residents. She's starting to hear people who are coming up for retirement talk about how they're planning to move as Ottawa is becoming too expensive. She hears pensioners talk about how tough it is to make ends meet and while they'd like to stay in the homes they've lived in all their lives, it's time to go somewhere else where the cost of living (namely property taxes and municipal service charges) is cheaper. And that doesn't mean downsizing from a house to a condo in the city. It means crossing the river to Gatineau, or heading to small town Ontario.
Meanwhile the union representing city employees is paying for expensive prime time television ads touting how valuable their members' work is --a thinly-veiled tactic designed to scare voters into thinking all those services will disappear if they elect a cost-conscious mayor and council. It would be interesting to know just how many on the city's payroll (including police and fire departments) actually live within the city limits and pay city taxes; how many live in less expensive locations such as Gatineau, Embrun, Rockland, Smith's Falls, Carleton Place etc.; and how this affects attitudes of those who spend our municipal tax dollars.
There's a growing resentment among private sector workers who pay for public sector salaries, benefits and pension plans through their taxes. Private sector workers resent the fact that their public sector counterparts have, so far, escaped all the pain of the recession. Prime Minister Harper recognizes this as does Ontario's Finance Minister Dwight Duncan when they freeze their employees' wages for two years. They know that the louder public servants and their unions whine, cry and wallow in self-pity, the greater the anger among private sector workers. There's no sympathy out there for public sector workers and their unions.
That resentment is filtering down to the municipal level. And it will have an impact on the October 25 election despite all those TV ads sponsored by CUPE.
New posts usually on Sundays

Monday, July 19, 2010

Citizen Ellie is thinking..........

..........about throwing her hat into the political ring ! Citizen Ellie could be your candidate for councillor in Ward 13, Rideau-Rockcliffe in the upcoming municipal election in Ottawa.
Interested in joining Citizen Ellie's campaign team ? Volunteers for canvassing/telephone tree etc. are needed. Send Citizen Ellie your thoughts via e-mail:
Send a common-sense, tax-sensitive, consensus-building team player to city hall on October 25.
Get it DUNN ! Right !

Sunday, July 11, 2010

He Loves To Tax

Back in the days when Citizen Ellie worked in the media, a picture was always worth a thousand words. Still true today.
A friend recently sent me one of those a "thousand word" pictures via e-mail. Thanks, Brad. Pitchfork readers may have received the same picture from someone they know.
As you scroll down the e-mail it becomes apparent that pigeons are the stars in this picture. Hundreds of them. They are gathered at what appears to be the foot of a statue -- or the base of a plinth if you're one of those "correct use of language" types. The caption ? "Audience anxiously awaits the unveiling of a statue of Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty."
Doesn't this just say it all ! Citizen Ellie bets there are many people in this province who would dearly love to do what the pigeons in that photo have in mind for the McGuinty statue. Especially now that we've had 10 days to feel the effect of the HST on our pocketbooks and are just now catching on to the fact that we're also being hit with new "eco fees" which in Citizen Ellie's view are another form of taxation regardless of what they call it or how the Dalton Gang tries to whitewash it.
When we get our next hydro bill we'll all be howling in pain. The HST came into effect while the province was experiencing the worst heat wave in recent memory, increasing the use of air conditioners and fans. And the worst isn't over. Long-range predictions indicate we're in for a much hotter summer than we've had in previous years and unless folks are prepared to sweat it out, those air conditioners and fans will be working overtime. Let's pray for a milder winter . Maybe we can save a little on heating costs.
Perhaps this is a good time to look at what our beloved premier has done to this province in the seven years he's held office. Remember -- this was a man who ran his initial campaign on the promise that there would be no tax increases during his reign.
He'd hardly warmed the premier's seat in the legislature than he implemented what he called a "health care premium". A tax by another name -- $900.00 per year for singles and as much as $1500.00 per year for couples with or without families.
Then he increased license fees -- another form of taxation. If you own a boat or a car, if you fish or hunt, you're paying more.
Hydro charges were increased by 10% on April 1 and on May 1, the tax on liquor and wine went up by 10%
And then there are all those "eco fees" -- on electronics, tires, paint, laundry detergent, window cleaners, cleaning solvents, aerosol cans, prescription drugs -- the list is endless -- and according to a story in today's paper, even his own cabinet ministers are unable to answer questions on exactly where this windfall of cash is going, especially since us ordinary folk are still using the blue box to dispose of our empty laundry detergent bottles etc. and our black box for paper and cardboard and we're paying a through our property taxes for the blue, black and green box programs.
Sooner or later we're all going to be forced into the SMART meter program which looks like a good thing in that there will be different charges for hydro consumed at different times of the day. We will be required to pay rent for these meters. You will pay less, for example, if you turn on your dishwasher or do your laundry in non-peak periods -- i.e. late at night, in the wee hours of the morning. But we Ontarians are not stupid. In order to save a few bucks, we'll all be doing our laundry and turning on our dishwashers late and night and in the wee hours of the morning. Soon those non-peak periods will become peak periods and predictably, if the Dalton gang are still in power, the charge for consumption during those hours will be steeply increased.
And what benefits have we Ontarians received in the seven years the Dalton gang has been in power ?
There was the e-Health scandal --$2 billion wasted or paid out to friends and relatives of the principals with Dalton giving the CEO of this financial boondoggle a $300.000 severance package. Not a bad payoff for someone who'd only been in the job for seven months. Citizen Ellie bets the laid-off Nortel workers in Ottawa wish they were so lucky !
There have been countless scandals involving Ontario Lottery and Gaming.
Instead of finding a company in Canada or even in North America to manufacture the windmills for hydro generation, Dalton awards the $7 billion contract to a company in Korea. Were there no Ontarians who could have done this work ?
Emergency rooms in Port Collburne and Fort Erie hospitals were closed on the grounds there was no money yet a Toronto hospital got $3 million -- right at the time when a by-election had been called due to George Smitherman resigning from cabinet to seek the Toronto mayor's chair.
And now we have this outfit -- Stewardship Ontario -- a government regulated body which is responsible for the "eco fee" program. It's supposed to operate at arms length from the provincial government -- but wasn't e-Health Ontario opperating at arms length from the Ontario Government and don't we know how that turned out ?
While we're being bled white, MPPs voted themselves a 14% pay increase.
Citizen Ellie could go on and on. But it's sufficient to say that the Dalton gang has taken Ontario from being one of the most prosperous "have" provinces in the country to one of the poor "have not" provinces in just seven years. Thanks to the Dalton gang, Ontario now has a deficit of $27 billion and we have another 18 months before we can send this bunch back to the political wilderness. Just think, Dalton has another 18 months to feast on the Ontario taxpayers' carcass. Our bones will be picked pretty clean by the time October 2011 rolls around.
Don't forget, folks, Mayoral candidate Jim Watson was a member of the Dalton gang. Sitting on the front benches, no less. Watson's got to wear some of this !
New posts usually on Sundays

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Some Questions YOU Should Ask.........

Mayor Larry's decision to throw his hat into the ring has heated up the municipal election scene in Ottawa. That is a good thing. It will bring out the vote.
This could be the year of big changes at City Hall. Four council seats are vacant -- with the retirements of Councillors Legendre, Feltmate and Hunter; and Councillor Alex Cullen giving up his Bay Ward fiefdom to seek the mayor's chair. At least two other councillors -- Doucet and Leadman -- are in trouble and vulnerable.
Possibly seven (including the mayor's) new faces around the council table ! Unheard of in the living memory of most people in this city !
In Citizen Ellie's ward, four men hope to replace Councillor Legendre. Looking at the city's elections web pages, it would appear that a lot of people see a council seat in their future. That is not a good thing in those wards where an incumbent is seeking re-election. A plethora of candidates in such situations virtually guarantees re-election of the incumbent. That is not a good thing. There's a lot of deadwood among the incumbents, many of whom fall into the "councillor for life" category and need to be put out to pasture.
Citizen Ellie has developed a series of 10 questions that she's asking the councillor candidates in her ward. She will also be soliciting answers to these questions from the mayoral candidates. You can use these questions -- even if you plan to vote for an incumbent. Most candidates have e-mail. You can get their e-mail addresses by accessing the city's web site ( Citizen Ellie suggests using e-mail to submit the questions. If you don't get an answer from a candidate, then that individual isn't deserving of your vote.
Here are the questions. Feel free to add to the list.
1) What is the candidate's position vis-a-vis reducing the city's bureaucracy and keeping property taxes to a minimum? Would the candidate favor a "no new money" approach to the city's budget -- similar to the approach taken towards spending at the federal level by the current federal government ?
2) Does the candidate support the proposal to build a transit tunnel beneath the downtown core ? Or does the candidate want to go back to the drawing board again on the transit issue ?
3) What is the candidate's position on the revitalization of Lanssdowne Park ? Does the candidate favor moving forward or would the candidate support reconsideration by the new council ?
4) Does the candidate favor privatizationof those services better left to the private sector ? OC Transpo is a good example -- would the candidate support privatization of this operation which currently cannot meet its operating costs without a taxpayer subsidy ?
5) Does the candidate recognize that the city's major employer, the federal government, is shrinking and will continue to shrink ? Is the candidate prepared to support a major move on economic development which would attract businesses to the city, creating jobs to replace those which will be lost as the federal government continues to downsize ? Does the candidate see economic development as a top priority in order to maintain the city's financial stability ?
6) Would the candidate support term limits ( two four-year terms) for councillors and mayor or is the candidate a "councillor for life" advocate ?
7) Is the candidate a forward-thinker with the ability to see beyond ward boundaries and support what is good for the city as a whole ?
8) Is the candidate affiliated with a community association or special interest group ?
9) What life experience has the candidate had which would make him/her a good councillor ? Why should you vote for that candidate ?
10) Is the candidate action-oriented and prepared to respond to constituents' queries/complaints in a timely manner ?
In Citizen Ellie's view, an informed electorate makes good choices. So inform yourself.
Voter turnout in municipal elections has been abysmally low in recent years. That's why the deadwood get re-elected, year after year, ad nauseam. These are the people whose decisions have a direct impact on your pocketbook and on the quality of life in this city. It's not enough any more to leave voting to the next guy. It's not enough to say you don't understand the issues or can't be bothered b ecause you're too busy.
People get the government they deserve. We deserve better in the nation's capital.

Legendre Watch
It's now almost a month to the day since Citizen Ellie sent Councillor Legendre (at his request) an e-mail asking for answers to three questions. One of the issues is now moot -- the financial sustainability summit supported by the Ottawa Taxpayer Advocacy Group has come and gone while the Councillor was away on his cycling fact-finding tour of Copenhagen. But Citizen Ellie would still like to know a) why work on 245 Crichton has ground to a halt and how long will neighbors have to put up with this eyesore and b) when will work be done to install storm sewers and resurface The Mews ? Perhaps Councillor Legendre feels that as he has announced his retirement, he no longer has to respond to constituents' queries.
Time-wasting Boredom
Citizen Ellie spent last Monday watching city council's final "debate" prior to voting in favor of the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group's private-public partnership plan for the rejuvenation of Lansdowne Park.
It was gawd-awful ! Sickening ! The same questions which had been asked at previous sessions were asked over and over again albeit in different formats as the opponents of the proposal desperately tried to throw up roadblocks to progress. Councillor Doucet distinguished himself with yet another childish tantrum -- as he packed up his stuff and left the council table he looked every bit like the little kid who takes the baseball, stops the game and goes home because he can't get his way. Hopefully the voters will pack up his stuff and send him on his way come October 25 !
Mayor wannabe Alex Cullen put forward a motion to defer the entire item until after the election so the new council (with himself, presumably, in the mayor's chair) could make the final decision. This motion sensibly was defeated by council's forward-thinkers. Citizen Ellie was enthralled by the thought that motions to defer will become few and far between at council when Councillor Cullen is also sent packing by the voters. On the other hand, this guy is slick. He'll read the tea leaves and if it looks like he doesn't have the proverbial snowball's chance at being elected mayor, he'll withdraw his nomination on or before September 10 and stand once again as a candidate in Bay Ward.
New Posts Usually On Sundays