Not going to happen, but something has to happen


(Auditor Howard Allan speaks to Augusta Township council Monday evening.)


I did not expect to hear a socialist-themed redistribution plan suggested in the midst of an Augusta Township audit, but there you have it. This is Eastern Ontario, where desperate economic conditions are now breeding desperate ideas.

To be fair, this was not as much a “plan” as a suggestion thrown out amid a broader discussion of the infrastructure gap.

Township councillors were lamenting the decline of the region's once lucrative commercial and industrial tax base, acutely felt in Augusta through the shrinking of its chemical industrial park.

As “C-and-I” tax revenues shrink, of course, homeowners and farmers must bear a greater share of the township's infrastructure and service costs.

Auditor Howard Allan noted how, in Toronto, property taxes are a much smaller proportion of homeowners' expenses, since larger centres have healthier C-and-I sectors.

Allan suggested this commercial and industrial tax wealth could be spread out across Ontario to level the playing field for smaller and have-not municipalities.

One can hear the indignant response from Mayor Rob Ford's office, all the way from here. Effing eastern socialists...

Clearly, this idea sits squarely in the not-going-to-happen file, and there are a variety of reasons why it is both impractical and even harmful.

Its emergence at rural council meetings, however, illustrates both the plight of rural Ontario municipalities struggling to maintain services with diminishing revenues, and the extent of their dissatisfaction with the Wynne government's response to this worsening crisis.

In essence, that response has been: “Go out and borrow money – and not from us. You're on your own.”

Allan's suggestion was of the left-field variety, yes. But as infrastructure costs escalate while revenues continue to decline, the solutions suggested, and those available, may seem increasingly unorthodox.