Reduced city services show more money needed from federal partners

By Lindsay Advocate

At the end of July, Mayor Andy Letham warned that people were “going to notice” the service cuts that were coming. Ditching and brushing, grass-cutting and street sweeping, service centres and arenas — all  of this and maybe more affected by the pandemic.

This is utter nonsense for citizens to have to accept.

Let’s back up though. Municipal governments have extremely limited fiscal autonomy. There is only so much money coming in from municipal transfers, property taxes and grants, and this prevents cities from solving challenges as they arise — especially the challenge of a global pandemic.

Given this fiscal constraint, it’s not a surprise that the mayor and council are looking for answers to their budget woes. Letham’s reluctance to raise taxes is reasonable — and something the Advocate supports. The middle class, especially, has been taxed enough.

We have been taught all our lives that government should budget like a household. That’s true for municipal governments, and it’s even true for provincial governments. But it is not true for the federal government.

Unlike a household, the federal government issues the very currency it spends. It only needs to keep control over inflation. It does not need to worry about running a perfectly manageable deficit.

Canada has complete monetary sovereignty. That is, we can use our currency-issuing power to tackle whatever social policy challenges we need to turn our attention toward creating a better and more equitable nation. This includes giving more money to our provinces and cities, which deal more with managing the day-to-day services we depend on.

We have the ability to create better cities, with robust, meaningful services like vibrant libraries and top-notch waste management. There is no need to slash services if the federal government simply acts with more ingenuity — and honesty. The mayor and council should be demanding more from their federal partners to improve life for citizens here in Kawartha Lakes.

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