PCs' Ability to Pay Act Stands Up for Local Taxpayers: Hudak
04 October 2012
PETERBOROUGH: It’s time to stand up for taxpayers by fixing a broken arbitration system that awards unaffordable contract settlements to government unions – a trend fuelled by nine years of the provincial government throwing money at its former union allies, PC Leader Tim Hudak said today.
Hudak made the comments following a meeting with Peterborough Mayor Daryl Bennett. Hudak discussed in detail his party’s Ability to Pay Act to deliver relief to municipalities facing tight-budget constraints.
“We must start with a freeze on new government spending and a mandatory, across-the-board government salary and benefit freeze for two years,” Hudak said. “But without bold reforms to the things that drive wages and benefits to these heights in the first place – such as the way arbitrators arrive at settlements – we’ll be back where we started from.”
With a million employees, salary and benefit costs in Ontario have gone up 46 percent, costing taxpayers $60 billion. Hudak said “while the economy is stagnant because of this government’s managerial incompetence, unaffordable contract settlements are still being handed out on the government’s watch and at the taxpayers’ expense.
“Some councils have been forced to raise property taxes, impose user fees or cut services to pay for contracts”. In March an arbitrator awarded Peterborough firefighters both retroactive and future pay increases of over 10 per cent. The city council was forced to spend half a million from its contingency fund to pay for the outrageous contract settlements and benefits.
The Ability to Pay Act is gaining momentum including an endorsement by Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion and the city’s council. Hudak said it’s an important step to ensure scarce tax dollars go to the things that create jobs like thriving cities, reliable roads and tax relief. The legislation has three key goals:
- Arbitrators must remember that taxpayers do not have bottomless pockets. They have to consider economic realities and explain those decisions in writing;
- Establish a panel of independent arbitrators to decide cases within three months;
- Dedicate an Ability to Pay Division that would publish comparative information on salaries and benefits, as well as all arbitration decisions.
Hudak concluded that “the Ability to Pay Act is just one of the many ideas the PC team has put on the table to balance budgets and foster job creating communities”.