Ok, fair is fair, let’s all be accommodating and at the same time demonstrate a certain amount of humility. When Regional Staff made a presentation publicly and stated that the cost to implement a phased approach to the rapid transit system from Waterloo to Cambridge was going to be a 6% increase in regional taxes, we called them on it, and thus were run over by a truck. We were accused of misleading people, we were inaccurate with our statements, and on and on, quite a lengthy email bashing the Chamber actually. One of the direct quotes out of the email was this;
“Q2 says that the Chamber is projecting tax increases for option L1 of 9 to 15%. As noted in the Region report, the projected tax increase for L1 is actually 0.97% per year for 6 years, for a total tax increase of about 6%.”
I apologize to the author of the email bashing of me, for assuming it would be 9 – 15%, however in my own defense, I’d been asking for more accurate numbers for over a year, and no one confirmed them, so I had to assume. Thank you very much Regional Staff, for confirming that the LRT is actually going to be an 11.13% increase. Sorry if I mislead anyone, it is not going to be 9 – 15%, nor is it going to be 6% but rather it’s going to be 11.13%, collected at a rate of 1.5% per year over seven (7) years.
And without trying to add anymore doom and gloom or misleading statements, that of course is on top of any “normal” increases for operations that the Region may have for other areas. Let’s look at this past year, when Regional Council was delighted with the meager 1.5% increase they managed to slice out for 2011. The recent report also doesn’t really clarify the exact expected increases in GRT, so, again I walk on thin ice saying, “is the GRT increase in the new numbers?” If not, how much will that be? Oh and one more little inquiry. The St. Clair (LRT) project in Toronto was originally budgeted for 48 million, it ended up at 106 million, a small project compared to ours, but doesn’t that mean it could be worse? Just to clarify the St. Clair project wasn’t exactly the same, they street cars were already going up and down, they only had to build dedicated lanes and move the regular traffic off, ooops, could this mean something even worse?
I think the Chamber will still have to take the approach to assume, given that without any prompting, the Region itself has increased the number from 6 to 11.2. We would likely now be assuming much greater increases than before as this report identifies nothing about GRT enhancements (other than a one sentence blurb) or contingencies for business failures along the construction route and overruns. In the end, I believe this will be a tax crippling project, that the current administration won’t have to live with, another Council will bear the brunt of the public backlash. In today’s committee meeting, Councillors questioned the report and saying there were only 705 people who responded, and there are 500,000 taxpayers in the region. Councillor’s were saying that they get anti-LRT emails every single day. Mayor Zehr said most of the anti-LRT folks are uninformed of the details of the project and are more worried about the cost. Well of course Mayor Zehr, with all due respect, we have to pay the costs and we are worried about it as we should be. We know by our poll from Members that well over 80% do NOT support LRT, but that’s just the business community I guess. I take my hat off to the proponents of this, they are certainly spirited people, but their thinking is far from business-like. Maybe that’s because business spends its own money and government spends yours.