For the last several years at least, governments at all levels have been beating their austerity drums quite loudly. They have presented doom and gloom scenarios that if we don’t change our ways that society will crumble. Services will disappear, rivers will dry up, sidewalks will be non-existent sort of thing. I don’t disagree that on many fronts collectively we have allowed our governments to live above their means. However, if we are to look at government from a purely money in-money out math equation that balances I feel we are lost in translation.
In municipal terms, we have been fortunate for the last several years that taxes have not changed while at the same time pressure on the city bottom line increases. Under CAO Richard Butts, there has been a strong push for all departments to find savings, increase efficiency and all around do their best to be more streamlined. It is a balancing act whereby council sets policy, and then staff via the CAO enact the policies set forth by council. However, with a policy to not fill certain positions those gaps are and will leave our municipal services and infrastructure at risk. We are only as strong as our weakest link, and if the link is broken the impact over time will cause chaos.
For what, from my perspectives, feels like a large part of the 20th century and into our current century, governments have operated on a buy now-pay later philosophy. There are basic infrastructure that we have come to expect (and rightfully so) like transit, libraries, sidewalks, roads, snow clearing, recreation centres etc. Balance and priorities should be a focus of any government, but if we are allowing “austerity measures” to shield us from tax increases – that is illogical. The reality is things costs more today, and most likely will continue to increase in cost as time marches on.
The notion of “making our grandkids” pay I feel is a red herring. Having a healthy, diverse, vibrant city with infrastructure to support it costs money and the sheer base principles of accounting cause some expenses to be annualized over time. I want to see our city thrive and grow, to be a bastion of education, culture, family and environmental stewardship. But, I want to see our city and our infrastructure needs function in a sustainable, open lens. To simply not replace an employee in an attempt to save money to thwart taxes is bad management. We are at a juncture where government and citizens alike must look at our systems and have consensus on our needs, wants and expectations.
Operating under the guises of austerity robs our city of it’s true potential. It reduces or eliminates an honest dialogue on where we are and where we would like to be. It facilitates infrastructure failing and promotes a lack of accountability. It is time that we as a city with city hall have an honest, open and respectful dialogue about what our infrastructure and staffing needs are to continue moving our vibrant city forward.