Opinion: Wake up, council: Tax hikes don’t support affordability

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Calgary’s latest proposed tax increase has made everyone talk. A friend claimed she would be unaffected because she didn’t own a house, but learned you still end up paying more through increased rent — landlords simply pass on tax hikes to their tenants. It’s important to understand that the burden of tax increases falls on every Calgarian.

Affordability in our city is a big deal. For many, the largest proposed tax hike in more than a decade feels like a punch in the stomach given the rising cost of everything, pushing many to the brink of financial instability.

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The mayor’s suggested eight per cent property tax increase flies in the face of her “affordability” promise. The irony is, city administration presented options for a smaller tax increase, but the mayor and her followers made a conscious effort to spend more. The city budget is no longer about delivering value for tax dollars spent; it’s about funding a laundry list of “emergency” pet projects.

These increases come at a time when many people can’t afford their current expenses. It’s not just about a tax increase, it’s another eight per cent on top of every other rising cost. More for groceries, gas, utilities, heat, school — more for everything, while our salaries remain flat.

When did you last get an eight per cent salary increase?

It’s not that Calgarians don’t want to pay taxes. They just want to know their hard-earned money is used wisely. Calgarians understand the necessity of contributing to the city’s future, but it becomes disheartening when funds disappear into a dark hole never to be seen again. There is never a feeling that council takes time to explain what they’ve done with our money.

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From the tripling cost of the new arena, an $87-billion climate emergency, $100 million more per year for affordable housing, to perplexing decisions such as the $350-million purchase of electric buses, wasting hundreds of millions in recently implemented natural gas alternatives, the mismanagement of public funds is undeniable. Consider Enmax (which you own), where rates have skyrocketed, especially affecting newcomers and those lacking established credit. Many Calgarians will face the unacceptable choice this winter of feeding their families or heating their homes — the result of decisions made by the supposedly caring City of Calgary.

Some of the most vulnerable affected by this tax increase are our seniors. I spoke to a Westgate resident who purchased his home in the 1980s for $70,000; today, it’s valued at $750,000. Now on a fixed income, he’s left with the difficult choice of leaving his home of nearly 50 years or risk financial ruin due to escalating taxes. Is this the retirement we envision for Calgary’s hard-working individuals? Is this our future? A life of hard work, only to be forced out of one’s home due to increasing tax burdens?

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We need a council devoted to fiscal responsibility, transparent budgets and wise decision-making that involves citizens in crucial choices instead of disregarding their opinions. A council that looks at the big picture, not one that continuously pickpockets Calgarians.

For many, it seems politicians just don’t care what we think. Meaningful community consultations should be essential, yet the surveys put out by the city often manipulate results. I expect politicians to collaborate with residents to ensure wise, sustainable investments are aligned with community needs and values. However, that seems difficult as they take away our right to meaningful community consultation.

Perhaps it’s time for a referendum on excessive tax hikes to reflect citizens’ priorities when increases seem unreasonable. A prosperous Calgary is within reach, but only if we ensure tax dollars are spent wisely, efficiently and with the community’s best interests at heart.

I encourage everyone to call or email your city councillor and make your priorities heard, ensuring your hard-earned dollars are allocated responsibly.

Jeff Davison is a dedicated Calgarian and former city councillor.

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Originally posted 2023-11-22 13:00:37.