PCs' Ability to Pay Act Stands Up For Scarborough Taxpayers: Hudak
10 October 2012
SCARBOROUGH: It’s time to stand up for Scarborough 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 during a discussion with Toronto City Councilor Michael Thompson, Chair of Toronto’s Economic Development and Culture Committee. Hudak discussed in detail his party’s Ability to Pay Act to deliver relief to municipalities facing tight-budget constraints. It’s an important step to ensure scarce tax dollars go toward things that create jobs and unleash economic development like reliable roads, bridges and tax relief.
“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 “the economy is barely growing because of this government’s inability to rein in overspending like unaffordable contract settlements that 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”. As evidence, an arbitrator gave a six per cent pay increase to TTC unions, which will cost Toronto taxpayers $100 million. Not surprisingly, the TTC recently approved another fare hike in an attempt to deal with an anticipated budget shortfall.
Councillor Thompson said “the Ability to Pay Act is long overdue. World-class cities like Toronto need it passed into law. Tim Hudak has taken the right steps to stand up for taxpayers by reforming the broken arbitration system.”
The PC legislation is gaining momentum including an endorsement by Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion and the city’s council. Toronto Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday also said it was “about time” for such legislation like the Ability to Pay Act. The legislation, which comes to a crucial vote on October 18, has three key goals:
· First, arbitrators must remember taxpayers do not have bottomless pockets. Their decisions must factor in specific economic and budgetary realities, like the local tax base and unemployment rate, when making decisions, and explain those decisions in writing;
· Second, establish a panel of independent arbitrators to decide cases within three months;
· Third, dedicate an Ability to Pay Division that would publish comparative information on compensation, as well as proactively disclose 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”.