Winnipeg’s 12 year Tax Freeze


March 14, 2010


Dear 2010 Municipal Election Candidates,


The reason why the Ottawa Taxpayer Advocacy Group was formed is to address property tax increases. They have no correlation with income, thus when the City wastes money, it is money taken from people working two jobs, seniors without pensions, young single income families struggling to raise kids and keep their home and many other who have lost high paying technology jobs.


We would like to thank for putting your name forward and accepting our invitation to address members of the community at a cocktail on April 25. While you cannot comment on these specific issues, during your 2 minutes speech, it would be helpful for you to know these facts.


1) “Winnipeg has remained competitive with other cities in Canada and has worked diligently to keep property taxes frozen for the 11th year in a row in 2008. This is an accomplishment unparalleled by any other municipality in our nation”

It is unfortunate that yesterday some speakers tried to mislead you; the right approach is to ask questions like what have Winnipeg department heads been able to achieve inspite of their unionized enviroment? Department to population staff ratios? Best practices? For example the Chief Financial Officer in Winnipeg has a blog so that people can ask questions and get answers, but in Ottawa we have to wait for a Financial Summit and this is still no guarantee that we will get answers.


2) Ottawa has managed to retain the worst record, 50% higher than the average in Canada and higher than other cities in Ontario that also experienced downloading. According to the 2008 City of Edmonton Residential Property Taxes & Utility Charges Survey for the 16 largest cities, the average residential property tax plus utility (water, sewer, garbage) charges for Ottawa is $3,787, higher than Brampton, Toronto, London, Hamilton, Vancouver, Montréal, Laval, Burnaby, Surrey, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Regina, Halifax, Saskatoon, Calgary.


3) Compensation has grown 13 times faster than service. This means that the City is reducing services in order to pay higher wages.


2002 non compensation operating expenses: $961,212,023; 2009 non compensation operating expenses: $999,968,000; therefore services have grown by 4% in 7 years
2009 compensation operating expenses: $772,787,977; 2009 compensation operating expenses: $1,184,000,000; therefore compensation has grown 53% in 7 years


4) We should have reduced the staff size at amalgamation by 10% through elimination of duplicated functions and property. The average wage and benefits person has grown from $52,000 at amalgamation to $84,777.32 in 2009. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) showed that city staff are paid 15% more than the private sector. The Canadian Taxpayer Federation shows that the gap between public and private sector pensions is 40%. The City of Ottawa looses 500 people yearly by natural attrition; they could reduce their workforce by 10% in 3 years without laying off anyone. If Paul Martin could freeze wages to cut the deficit, surely the Province can do the same for us.


5) Would you support a public debate between the proponents of BRT (bus rapid transit) and LRT (light rail rapid transit)? Based on figures reported in the media, which option would you support?
BRT-hybrids or battery powered with tunnel (city’s contribution is less than 100 million)
LRT with tunnel (city’s contribution is more than 900 million)
LRT without tunnel (city’s contribution is more than 900 million)
BRT-hybrids or battery powered without tunnel (city’s contribution is less than 100 million)
Heavy rail from outlying cities and BRT with tunnel (city’s contribution is less than 100 million)
Heavy rail from outlying cities and LRT with tunnel (city’s contribution is more than 900 million)


6) The bus garage discussion started at about 38 million dollars and is likely to be completed at a cost of 100 million dollars. This type of cost overruns is just a symptom; the problem is that Council does not have monthly budget variance meetings for all projects over 1 million dollars and some specific issues like consulting fees or overtime for specific departments. The City of Nepean implemented a pay as you go requirement for all capital projects. If we implemented this, it could mean that any money for a new central library come from the existing library budget.


The City of Mississauga is debt free. In Ottawa the figures are:
2002 total debt plus other liabilities $1,406,534,931
2008 total debt burden plus other liabilities $2,429,074,464

7) In 2009 the City had a 16 million shortfall in water revenue and they would now like to tax rural home owners who receive no water from the city. The average cost of a well is $35,000; over the life of the mortgage the cost is closer to $100,000. They were also recently saddled with a green bin tax even though they already compost. Since the City does not provide hydro to rural dwellers they have to pay higher rates with Hydro One. Is it even moral to consider such an no water tax at the same time the HST is being implemented? How much more can they take?