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Torontonians Smash Ford's Anti-Tax Agenda

Consultation Shows Public Wants Services Before Tax Cuts

by Enid Godtree

Torontonians Smash Ford's Anti-Tax Agenda

The results of a public consultation with Torontonians released last week has dealt a blow to Mayor Rob Ford's agenda.

The Core Service Review - Public Consultation released by the City shows that public opinion towards the City's budget deficit is in direct opposition to the Mayor's agenda. Over 13,000 Torontonians completed the consultation.

Ford, who campaigned heavily on reducing City 'waste' and freezing tax increases, has faced a dilemma partly of hs own creation.  While inheriting a large surplus from his predecessor, his decision to freeze taxes in 2011 and eliminate a number of revenue streams has the city facing an over-$700 million deficit for 2012.

While Ford has commmissioned audit firm KPMG to find savings in various departments, the size of the deficit has forced Ford to recently backtrack on one of his 2010 campain promises.  While he initially claimed that a property tax increase would not go over 1.8% he recently said, “At the very most, I’ve said you can raise property taxes, at the most, 2.5, maybe 3%.”

Ford had urged his supporters (dubbed 'Ford Nation') to overwhelm the public consultations to promote an anti-tax, cutting-spending agenda.  However the results of the consultation have turned out quite different.

The results of the consultation conclude that:

  • Torontonians' number one priority is "Transparent and accountable government".  The third highest priority is "Meeting the needs of vulnerable people" while "Fair and affordable taxes" was ranked dead-last out of nine available options.
  • Public Transit, Fire Services and Water Treatment were deemed to be the most necessary services for the City.  The management of Exhibition Place and the Toronto Zoo by the City were considered to be least important. 
  • Survey participants overwhelmingly supported increasing "property taxes to keep the same level of City services."  Not increasing "user fees or taxes even if this means reducing the level of service" had the least support.
  • According to the report the mean recommended "property tax increase for all participants was 5.15%."  Over 20% of participants recommended a 5% tax increase.  19% recommended a 10% tax increase.  

With the publication of the results, some Ford's allies on City council have stated that they will not follow the recommendations of the consultation.  Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong stated, “It’s not statistically valid, those people self-selected, they decided to fill that form out as opposed to if you were to take a representative sample and have a pollster do it.”

Statistically, participation in the consultations was over-represented compared to other consultations in the Downtown core, by computer users (higher income, higher education, youth) and parents and low-income Torontonians.

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Comments

Interesting results...

I work for a UK communications agency that specialises in the delivery of Counter Context - www.countercontext.com

It'll be interesting to see how the public feedback will be used to shape future decisions, given that they are different to what the Ford agenda wanted.  If they're ignored this will clearly send out a message that the public have not been listened to - and will damage the likelihood of people responding to future consultations.

If decision makers think that the results are skewed then they should consider doing some research with a statistically representative sample of people (age, gender, ethnicity, education, employment etc) to see how the results compare.

 

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