Sunday, December 23, 2007

Toronto's expansion of property taxes: no panacea for urban financing?

Toronto's assumption of a land transfer tax places the city's financing doubly dependent on the peaks and valleys of the property market. The take looks attractive given the strength of a booming market in the City at present. It looked attractive in Cape Coral, Florida too:
(The Mayor) was keen to build a new high school. He hoped to widen roads and extend the reach of the sewage system, limiting pollution from leaky septic tanks. He wanted to add parks.

But then the US property crash happened, and property revenues crashed with it. What's it like in Cape Coral now?
Last month, the city eliminated 18 building inspector jobs and 20 other positions within its Department of Community Development. They were no longer needed because construction has all but ceased. The city recently hired a landscaping company to cut overgrown lawns surrounding hundreds of abandoned homes.

“People are underwater on their houses, and they have just left,” Mr. Feichthaler says. “That road widening may have to wait. It will be difficult to construct the high school. We know there are needs, but we are going to have to wait a little bit.”

Waiting, scrimping, taking stock: This is the vernacular of the moment for a nation reckoning with the leftovers of a real estate boom gone sour.

"Waiting, scrimping, taking stock" - the definition of Toronto in the last decade. Are we in for more of the same if people realise in 2008 that the 75 year old house they are looking at really isn't worth $500,000, as they thought in 2007?

Toronto needs access to a tax not tied directly to the property market and which rewards additional industrial and commercial activity which currently is almost entirely remitted to the federal and provincial governments. To my mind that tax should be a share of PST, and the sooner the better.

"Who will take the honour out of these killings?"

From the Daily Times in Lahore, Pakistan, Farrukh Saleem addresses the murder of Aqsa Parvez in Mississauga, Ontario by her father. Here's an excerpt from a stunningly direct analysis:
Honour killing is our export to Canada. Women who do not wear hijab are not virtuous. Hijab is a Muslim woman’s identity. Hijab is religion. Hijab is the sixth pillar. Hijab symbolises sexual modesty. The West is conspiring to crush Islamic identity. Fact or fiction?

Here’s a fact: Aqsa has been murdered. For us, denial is not an option. According to the United Nations Population Fund more than 5,000 women worldwide fall victim to honour killing. Denial is not an option.

According to the UN’s Special Rapporteur “honour killings had been reported in Egypt, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, the Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey and Yemen”. Egypt is 90 percent Muslim, Iran 98 percent, Jordan 92 percent, Lebanon 60 percent, Morocco 99 percent, Pakistan 97 percent, the Syrian Arab Republic 90 percent and Turkey 99 percent. Of the 192 member-states of the United Nations almost all honour killings take place in nine overwhelmingly Muslim countries. Denial is not an option.

More recently, honour killings have taken place in France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Canada. Intriguingly, all these honour killings have taken place in Muslim communities of France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Canada. Denial is not an option.

In reading some of his other work, he pounds the drum for better education and does so here also:
Illiteracy and honour killings are correlated. Jacobabad District has a literacy rate of 23 percent, the lowest in Sindh. Jacobabad has the highest rate of crimes of honour; 91 honour killings in 2002. In illiteracy, next to Jacobabad are Ghotki and Larkana. Both Ghotki and Larkana have high rates of crimes of honour: 67 honour killings in Ghotki and 62 in Larkana. Hyderabad, on the other hand, has a literacy rate of 44 percent and there were 5 honour killings in 2002. Denial is not an option.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Ontario Liberals Family Day means no extra day off for some.

When the OHIP "Premium" was introduced with a name designed to spin the impact of an extra tax, many people noted that unions with collective agreements retaining a provision to pay the old OHIP Premium would make claims. The Liberals said "we don't think that will happen" but declined to outlaw the possibility. Now TTC (among others) is paying the OHIP Tax on behalf of their unionised staff, at a cost of $6 million annually to the Commission (that's over two million TTC tokens, Dalton).

Before the last election, the Liberals promised an extra holiday - Family Day - in February, which will cost Toronto taxpayers $2.3 million but some private sector workers are finding out that they will lose a non-statutory holiday in August in return. Typically, the Labour Minister's response is a shrug - "no big deal".
"I think it's a terrific initiative and 83 per cent of Ontarians agree it's something this province should be doing," said Duguid, "Well the holidays outside of the nine public holidays are negotiated municipally or between employers and employees."