Transit Funding Promises Made by Other Ward 3 Candidates
Cost to taxpayers – $3.5 million – $8.2 million

Last month, each council and mayoral candidate was asked by BFAST, a Burlington Transit Advocacy group, to answer six questions regarding their plans for Burlington Transit, if elected to Council.

The six questions true/false questions that were asked can be found here.

Below are answers and comments made by each Ward 3 candidate:
Lisa Cooper
Darcy Hutzel
Rory Nisan
Peter Rusin
Gareth Williams

For those that don’t want to wade through all of the links, I will get straight to the point here by pointing out all of the candidates’ responses to question #3.  Every other candidate but me said YES to the massive increase in funding required to bring us up to the per capita level of spending of Barrie or Oakville.

Why did I say NO?  It certainly would have been convenient to take the easy way out and just to say YES to this and every other question that was asked.

But you expect more from your future City Councillor, and earning your trust is just as important to me as earning your vote.

So why did I choose to highlight everyone’s answer to this question?  Because by answering YES, it’s proof that the other candidates:

  1. Don’t have any understanding of the costs required to do this, or
  2. Do understand the costs involved, but feel that they need to spend your tax dollars anyway, or
  3. Answered the question in a way that they thought would make voters that support transit want to vote for them.

You see folks, municipal transit is run at a loss in Ontario.  That means that transit revenues (the fares that are charged to riders plus government grant money) fail to cover the operating cost to deliver transit.  The difference is paid by you in the city portion of your property taxes.

If you take the amount taxpayers are billed and divide that by the number of people in the city, the answer you get is called the Net Operating Cost per person of transit.

Follow me so far?  Good.

Using 2018 Budget figures and population estimates for 2018, the Net Operating Cost of Transit for each city is as follows:

Burlington: $67/person
Barrie: $86/person ($19/person more than Burlington)
Oakville: $111/person ($44/person more than Burlington)

If you then take the difference we would need to increase our budget by for Burlington to achieve the same amount of spending, and multiply by the population of Burlington in 2018 (estimated to be 186,000), you would get the following:

Bringing Burlington up to Barrie's spending level:  +$19/person x 186,000 people = $3,534,000 increase in taxes
Bringing Burlington up to Oakville's spending level:  +$44/person x 186,000 people = $8,184,000 increase in taxes

To put these increases in perspective, on a total net tax city property tax bill of $160.1 million for 2018, bringing Transit funding up to the level of spending of these two cities would mean the following (in millions):

Transit funding increased to Barrie's level:  $3.5/$160.1 = 2.2% per year budget increase
Transit funding increased to Oakville's level: $8.2/$160.1 = 5.1% per year budget increase

And before you ask me, yes those amounts are ON TOP of the 4.3% city tax increase for 2018.  And no, asking both levels of government for more money is not the answer, given their respective levels of debt.  The cupboards are bare, and some difficult choices need to be made.

Just this one question highlights the significant financial challenges we are facing as a city.  We can’t just keep saying YES to every new expenditure because it is convenient to do so.  We are now forced to make difficult choices about where our tax dollars need to be spent, and it’s going to require leadership at City Hall that isn’t afraid to speak the truth to taxpayers.  We need to begin the process of consulting the community about prioritizing our real needs over the wants of those who are unaware or unwilling to acknowledge the real costs that are involved.

We are going to need to find a balance that addresses the needs of the largest number of people in the most effective way.  I support modest, affordable investments in Transit service improvements that maximize benefits and minimize costs to deliver the service in our city.  I do not support increased spending to such levels that will prevent us from spending on other urgent needs for improvements that the vast majority of families and seniors in our city say they need just as badly, if not more.

Adding this to the other expensive promises the other candidates have made just shows just how little respect they have for your hard-earned tax dollars if elected. Keep this example in mind before you cast your vote on October 22nd.