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Real talk on money and the budget

Several councillors looked shocked when the recent update on their reserve accounts was flashed onto the screen inside the committee room. A violent blue line plummeted to the floor, indicating the deteriorating state of the city’s capital reserve accounts over the next nine years.

The main culprit of this decline is the city’s growing infrastructure deficit; a massive wealth of important upgrades and projects over the next decade that have no funding source.

For years, the City of Oshawa has given nominal tax increases at budget time. This is seemingly a good thing, seeing as Oshawa residents are facing some of the highest taxes in the GTA. Clearly, councillors have bought political clout with those tiny increases, as residents continue to elect them election after election.

However, it’s now become clear that each of those tiny increases has sent the city into the vaults for reserves that are rapidly dwindling.

But the gig is up. Year after year of plundering has created a situation that must now be addressed in order to maintain a healthy reserve to cope with aging infrastructure.

The city’s director of finance said it best when she announced “significant challenges” ahead. Indeed.

It’s time for councillors to stop hiding behind platitudes and start making the tough decisions that this city needs.

It’s also time that we, as residents, take a look in the mirror. We demand marginal tax increases and high services without understanding the implications of these demands. We force our politicians into a shell game since their jobs rely on the vote of a popularity contest. Look at what Premier Kathleen Wynne has doled out to the public with an impending election in 2018 and a very unsatisfactory ranking in the polls. Ontario is the world’s most indebted sub-sovereign borrower, thanks to a system that needs revision.

So, when councillors like to point to the fact that Oshawa is not alone in its deficits, that all municipalities in Ontario are struggling with the same problem, they are correct. But maybe it’s time to buck this unhealthy trend in money management.

And they can start by making the complete salary of all politicians in this country subject to the same taxable income rates we all face. There’s no reason for a portion of each politician’s salary to go untaxed, especially with pensions after 8 years of service, mileage and expense accounts for all.