Now that's a shocker. NOT.
Judy Wasylycia-Leis, aka Judy Alphabet (as media people call her) , aka JustJudy (as she wants to be called) announced last week she thinks taxes are too low in Winnipeg. She wants to raise them at least 8 percent (two percent a year for four years).
By declaring her lust for higher taxes, JustJudy managed to demonstrate:
A - her ignorance about how the city raises and spends tax dollars.
B - her slavish adherence to the NDP party line, and
C - how, despite both the above, she's still managing to score points against incumbent Sam Katz.
JustJudy just won't let the facts get in her way. If she had bothered to do any research, such as speaking with Councillor Gord Steeves she would know:
* Winnipeg's operating budget is growing by 4 percent this year, eight times the rate of inflation (0.5 percent). That's EIGHT times inflation.
* Winnipeg's capital budget has grown 250 percent since 2001. In simple words that even a former NDP MP can understand, we're spending two and a half times more today on city infrastructure than we spent in 2001.
She never bothered speaking with Transcona Councillor Russ Wyatt, the city's former infrastructure czar who's on the outs with the NDP establishment for his attitude while supporting Steve Ashton for leader of the party.
He would have told her of the reports he received putting Winnipeg's infrastructure deficit into numbers: $380 million to fix the potholes, sidewalks, bridges and broken watermains each year, plus $360 million per year to build new roads, new sewers and new bridges to keep up with the growth of the city.
This year we're spending $430.6 million on infrastructure. Last year we spent even more, $476 million. We're more than keeping up with infrastructure repairs. Or, at least, we could be.
If we're not fixing potholes fast enough, it's not because there's no money; it's because the politicians have spent the money somewhere else.
And starting in 2013, Winnipeg will see the end of the tunnel of debt built up in the Norrie years.
Between 2013 and 2017, we'll pay off the last of the debt, said Steeves, leaving the city between $40 million to $45 million in pocket which has been going to interest payments. That's the equivalent of a ten percent increase in taxes.
JustJudy wants to raise about $9 million a year from higher taxes, a number city engineers snort at when pencilling in the cost of each city project. The Provencher Bridge was at least six million dollar over budget. One water plant was $30 million over. IF we could bring projects in on time and on budget we could fix what needs to be fixed, add what needs to be added, and still cut taxes.
But that's not the NDP way. Raising taxes and spending money willy nilly is.
So how does JustJudy intend to spend the money from higher taxes? She's already told us.
She wants to waive the $9 million a year the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is supposed to pay in lieu of city taxes. In other words, she wants to raise the taxes on your house so millionaire Gail Asper and her millionaire friends don't have to pay their taxes on the museum nobody wanted in the first place. The tax money will go to subsidize the taxpayer funded museum.
JustJudy failed to mention that her NDP pals on Broadway have been interfering with city planning for years. Winnipeg city council this spring formally adopted a list of 11 infrastructure priorities which could be financed from federal stimulus money. But the NDP insisted that $212 million be spent to build CentrePort Canada Way, a four-lane divided expressway linking the inland port at the airport to the Perimeter Highway, a project not on the city's priority list.
And Winnipeg is spending almost $1 billion on water plant upgrades forced upon us by the provincial NDP most of which is to be finished in time for their reelection campaign.
Today, Monday, JustJudy added a new reason for her proposed tax increase---the alleged "harm" done by the 13 years of a tax freeze. This is a mini-version of the provincial NDP's excuse for its spending orgy of the past decade--- blame Filmon.
You would think that Sam Katz would take the golden campaign issue handed him by his challenger and run with it. You would be wrong. Katz fumbled badly.
Asked his position on city taxes, Katz, despite a week or more to prepare an answer, said he had none. He was waiting for a committee report which won't be available until after the election, he said.
Maybe Katz should step aside and let the committee run for mayor.
The public demands a simple answer from every mayoral candidate---where do you stand on taxes. Katz lived down to JustJudy's blast that he's not a leader.
He failed to demonstrate a smidgeon of leadership in the tax debate and playing catch-up is a sure way to lose support.
Katz muttered something about maybe, possibly, having higher taxes if they are dedicated for something or other. Instead of saying what he meant( i.e. you want more police, it will cost this much, I think you are willing to pay $30 a year for more police) he thought he could get away with playing politician and smoothly ducking the question.
He was even more wrong by using the day to pledge a $1.2 million fund for community centres.
That might have been a big deal once upon a time.
But people have heard Katz declare that his personal priority for Winnipeg is not recreation for children, but a trendy electric train for south Winnipeg commuters to play with. The bill? $325 million to start. Add the usual 30 percent cost overrun and you're looking at $422 million to fund Sam Katz's legacy.
By his own accounting, it costs $50 million a kilometre to build the light rail transit line he has his eye on. That's 50 years of community centre funding. FIFTY YEARS.
Your lifetime and half your childrens' lifetimes to fund one single kilometre of an electric train to the University of Manitoba.
And how does he intend to pay for it? By borrowing money.
You know, like Bill Norrie did to lock us into a generation of debt which we're just about to pay off.
Is Judy Wasylycia-Leis the irresponsible one?