The Peterborough Examiner - - Opinion - Ch­eryl Lyon, Town Ward

The city is not a busi­ness

On Oct. 2, in a dis­cus­sion of so­cial is­sues, can­di­date Daryl Ben­nett is quoted as say­ing that city coun­cil can't use mu­nic­i­pal taxes as a means of "wealth re­dis­tri­bu­tion," col­lect­ing from the en­tire pop­u­la­tion to help those in great­est need. Then why do we col­lect taxes? Sim­ply to be ac­cu­mu­lated? For whom? Can­di­date Ben­nett has, in the past, in­sisted that the city is a cor­po­ra­tion. If so, then are taxes to be used for only profit, as in cor­po­ra­tions? Profit for whom?

If the city is a cor­po­ra­tion, it is a non-profit cor­po­ra­tion, which is de­fined as one that turns its earn­ings back into the cor­po­ra­tion for so­cial ben­e­fit. The “profit” reaped by taxes goes to ev­ery­one in a city. It funds the set of hu­man ser­vices that is a city. These ser­vices – fire, po­lice, recre­ation, hous­ing, pub­lic health, wa­ter pu­rity, garbage col­lec­tion, sewage dis­posal, Mu­sicfest, etc. – keep a city live­able, peace­ful, healthy and func­tion­ing – for all peo­ple, not just those who pay the most taxes.

The pri­vate sec­tor cor­po­rate men­tal­ity ev­i­denced by Can­di­date Ben­nett’s re­mark shows he does not un­der­stand that the is­sue of drugs down­town (“enough is enough”) is di­rectly re­lated to how we use taxes to make the whole com­mu­nity, not just some peo­ple, bet­ter off. Does he not re­mem­ber that city taxes fund rent sup­ple­ments – a proven way of ad­dress­ing home­less­ness and giv­ing peo­ple a sta­ble life from which to be­come em­ployed, raise chil­dren, pay taxes? If wealth were not re­dis­tributed via taxes, then would greater use of pub­lic ameni­ties like Jack­son Park be given to those who pay higher taxes? Would the fire truck spend more time at a blaze in the home of some­one in a higher tax bracket?

Not ev­ery­one is able to reach a high in­come bracket be­cause not ev­ery­one starts out with money (for in­stance, in the fam­ily) or can af­ford post-sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion. Man­ual labour­ers and child­care work­ers con­trib­ute no less to so­ci­ety than those in high tax brack­ets. Some peo­ple have men­tal and phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties that pre­clude high earn­ings or even em­ploy­ment. Many on low in­come are work­ing harder than those with big pay­cheques. Ben­nett’s mis­un­der­stand­ing of taxes and the na­ture of a city im­plies that he be­lieves that ev­ery child does not de­serve an equal chance to thrive and find a place in his/her com­mu­nity.

A city coun­cil’s job is to find the balance be­tween what peo­ple pay in taxes and what they get in re­turn. A coun­cil must al­ways do this with the well-be­ing of all cit­i­zens in mind. Taxes hugely de­ter­mine qual­ity of life for all. Con­cen­tra­tion of wealth, com­pounded by a lack of un­der­stand­ing what mu­nic­i­pal taxes are for, is dan­ger­ous to democ­racy and turns a city into a place of strife, ex­clu­sion and sad­ness. Vote care­fully.

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