Down to the "Nitty-Gritty" - Campaign for Chair, Region of Waterloo - Vote for Oz Cole-Arn
In virtually every political campaign we citizens are assaulted with slogans that mean virtually nothing. By way of example in the very campaign for which I am running we can note that a “Re-Elect Ken Seiling” website highlights the slogan “Strong Proven Leadership,” whereas the anti-LRT (Light Rail Transit) business man Jay Aissa’s website states that a vote for him is a vote “For Change We Can Afford.” Not to be undone in the sloganeering department my Alliance Against Poverty (AAP) sponsored campaign begins with the two-pronged slogan, “Share the Wealth Campaign—Austerity is not fiscal responsibility.” Of course, slogans tend to hide more than they advocate. For example, I suspect that neither Mr. Aissa nor I would campaign under the slogan “Weak Unproven Leadership,” nor would I surmise that Mr. Seiling or myself would campaign under either the slogan “For Change We Cannot Afford” or “Against Change We Can Afford.” However, I believe that the slogan of my campaign has substance and marks me apart from the two above contenders. Hence I leave it to them and the other candidates for Regional Chair to provide clear, concrete proposals to back up their slogans, and I mean beyond the sound bites allowed in the formal debates.
THE DETAILS of MY CAMPAIGN
Oz Cole-Arnal for Regional Chair
First of all, my ”Share the Wealth” & Anti-AusterityCampaign. refuses to accept the media hype that the LRT issue is the most decisive of the campaign. Rather for us the LRT campaign and its handling (whether for or against) remain symptomatic of the major issue of our time (globally, federally, provincially and locally--- the absolutely obscene wealth gap between the so-called 1% and the 99% (“the rich and the rest of us”).
For example, the combined wealth of the 86 richest Canadians could purchase the entire province of New Brunswick—money, land, buildings, businesses, etc.—and still significant dollars would be left over.
Consequently my (our AAP) campaign takes on this issue municipally in the following four ways whereby we offer issues & methods to redistribute our local wealth more evenly:
GOAL Number 1-- TRANSIT FAIRNESS:
For my campaign transit fairness means ultimately an entirely public system paid out of tax revenue. The only way to create such a justsystem is through a fair taxing system, something sadly lacking in the municipal system of taxing, namely a flat rate percentage based on the value of owned property. Hence to raise local taxes on residents to pay for lowered or free fares falls most heavily on home owners who live below the poverty line (seniors, those on disability (ODSP) or welfare, those workers losing jobs in the manufacturing & other sectors. However, it is equally unfair to keep raising transit fares to support the huge financial investment of the LRT since the very same people have to sustain the burden of constant fare increases. As well, funding needs for the LRT have led to the shutting down of bus routes needful to our more vulnerable citizens, seniors (especially in Cambridge & Kitchener) & those dependent on the Food Bank on Guelph Street. Thus MY CAMPAIGN calls for immediate free bus passes for those living below the poverty line, half fare passes for all seniors & students. AS FOR A FULLY PUBLIC SYSTEM, we will move toward that goal with both due course & financial wisdom.
In addition, I support strongly that our fine bus drivers
receive at minimum, a living wage with benefits. In fact, we need more drivers via restoration of routes cancelled which serve poor and senior neighbourhoods. If indeed we have an LRT I would insist that union labour be used in construction and that LRT vehicles have unionized drivers at living full-time wages and benefits geared to inflation. Interestingly enough the wage increase negotiated in the latest contract between UNIFOR and the Region fell below the tax increase.
GOAL Number 2—HOMES FOR THE HOMELESS:
The issue of both HOMELESSNESS and the NEED for a MASSIVE
INCREASE in PUBLIC HOUSING has reached CRISIS PROPORTIONS. A few statistics underscore that reality:
Average lifespan of homeless person in Canada= 49 yrs.
Market rent (Waterloo Region)= $810.00 (one bedroom); & ODSP shelter allowance for same= $479.00.
Waterloo Chronicle (July, 2014)— series on seniors’ housing issues for example.
Vital Signs, Waterloo Region (2013): waiting list for affordable housing is above provincial average & rising (3,287 in 2013, a 4% rise over one year).
OUT OF THE COLD—THIS SUPPOSEDLY TEMPORARY NEED HAS BEEN USED BY THE REGION AS A DEPOSITORY FOR THE HOMELESS SHOWING HOW LOW THIS IS AS A REGIONAL PRIORITY. INDEED THE CURRENT CRISIS SHUTDOWNS HAS EXPOSED THE LOW PRIORITY OF SHELTERING THE NEEDY IN OUR FREGION. COMPARED TO THE LRT (Pushed through in five years) OUT OF THE COLD HAS BEEN WITH US FOR 15 YEARS & STATISTICALLY THE NEED FOR RESOLUTION OF THE HOUSING CRISIS IS GROWING NOT DECLINING! OUR PRIORITIESARE WRONG-HEADED & WRONG-HEARTED. A “Yuppie” upbeat high-tech community DOES NOT TRUMP HUMAN NEED!
III.GOAL Number 3-- FAIR or “LIVING WAGES NOW:
Shortly after the upcoming election the Mennonite Central
Committee is holding a meeting on the Living wage Campaign, a justice issue that REFUSES TO GOAWAY.
If elected as Regional Chair I will push at meetings & throughout
the general public for such a wage for ALL EMPLOYEES OF THE REGION ($18.00 per hour for our Region, full-time with full benefits pegged to inflation). By such an action we show to all workers our own commitment to the issue & demonstrate that our own practice will coincide with OUR RELENTLESS PRESSURE ON BOTH QUEEN”S PARK & OTTAWA TO DO THE SAME.
BEYOND THIS WE WILL UNITE BOTH “THE FAIR WAGE” & “MINIMUM WAGE” CAMPAIGNS IN OUR PRESSURE ON GOVERNMENTS BOTH PROVINCIALLY & FEDERALLY.
Also it is well to remind our austerity promoters that higher
wages mean more tax dollars for services & more money in the hands of local businesses as the majority has more spendable income.
GOAL Number 4—TOWARDS COMMUNITY DEMOCRACY:
It seems that all candidates support more transparency in municipal politics and in other echelons of government. I have yet to hear a candidate say, “You can count on me to make hidden deals behind your back,” or “democracy is so messy that I promote elite ‘efficiencies’ behind closed doors.” What citizens need to know is JUST HOW EACH CANDIDATE PLANS SPECIFICALLY TO MAKE “TRANSPARENCY & DEMOCRACY WORK in real time.
Oz Cole-Arnal & the AAP DEMOCRACY CAMPAIGN:
Make certain that huge financial deals get FULL PUBLIC TREATMENT beyond the required often pro forma public input. Community Councils (wholly represented of the neighbourhoods—business, labour, social service groups, etc. & above all chosen representatives elected out of community [ward] councils. Neighbourhood representative councils from the grass-roots are needed to offset vested interests (WHICH WRONGLY HAVE INTIMATE ACCESS TO municipal government that most citizens do not in spite of rhetoric to the contrary).
If elected, my office will have hours listed where I will meet with citizens in order of requests. NO PREFERENTIAL TREATMENT for those who expect it, namely the powerful. MY ONLY TEMPTATION TO GRANT PRIVILEGED ACCESS WOULD BE FOR THOSE WHO LIVE BELOW THE POVERTY LINE, SENIORS, STUDENTS, WORKERS, SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS.
After a detailed study of the Regional Budget I discovered that such documents often hide more than they deliver. I cite two examples from this year’s regional budget:
1). Salaries: By way of illustration p. 14 of the budget under the category of “Elected Officers—Members of Council” lists total expenditures of $1,235,174 with “Salaries, Wages & Benefits totalling $1,502,363. PLEASE NOTE that I am not suggesting the notion of cutting jobs in the name of efficiencies. TO THE CONTRARY: I support NO JOB CUTBACKS in the old Mike Harris cuts or the latest Tim Hudak version. I ADVOCATE KEEPING ALL JOBS in the name of TRUE FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY. Also note that this is money for elected officials et. al. which I do support. BUT WHAT I DO NOT LIKE ABOUT THIS FIGURE IS WHAT IT HIDES—NAMELY THE BREAKDOWN OF INDIVIDUAL SALARIES. Does this include wages & benefits for staff workers--- secretaries (mostly underpaid women I suspect). When you lump together wages & benefits (AS YOU WILL FIND IN VIRTUALLY EVERY BUDGET CATGORY) the net result HIDES THE UNJUST WAGE DIFFERENTIAL BETWEEN BOSSES & STAFF! Under austerity budgets who gets cut first? Almost always it is so-called LOW-LEVEL WORKERS habitually called BUREAUCRATS.
WHAT ABOUT DEMOCRACY FOR CAMBRIDGE?
Personally I quite like the LRT as a concept and YES as a dream. BUT THE MEANS OF ITS CURRENT REALITY IS A NIGHTMARE! Major Doug Craig would not serve his constituents if he voted to support this MALL to MALL scheme. Once again, Cambridge is scorned & expected to pay for what does not serve its citizens. NO BIG SURPRISE TO ME—Cambridge does not fit the “yuppie” model of success like the upscale images being promoted by the big business & political elites. This kind of preferential treatment does not pass the “Sniff Test.”
If elected I will give Cambridge a high preference due to
years of neglect by the Region. I read in a recent piece about the undemocratic character of regional government with the suggestion that no REGIONAL CANDIDATE would vote himself/herself out of a job. WROMG! I would under two conditions: 1). that a more democratic alternative be proposed & 2). that all regional employees beyond elected officials could be guaranteed fair wage & sustainable jobs should such an alternative be tabled.
FUNDING WEALTH DISTRIBUTION
Well and good, Oz! Sounds great! But how do you plan to fund such change? Once again, I underscore that the above program is a clear commitment to SHARE THE WEALTH. To get there I suggest a two-pronged approach:
A Municipal System of fund-raising that helps REDISTRIBUTE THE WEALTH:
Actually it seems next to impossible to practice a MUNICIPAL FORM of RAISING REVENUE to PAY FOR NEEDED SERVICES in a FAIR & EQUITABLE WAY:
Isn’t it IMPOSSIBLE to “share the wealth” based on local taxation because structurally MUNICIPAL TAXATION is inherently REGRESSIVE (unfair) based on a fixed rate (%) of taxation on property.This binds local government leaving it with a choice of levying more taxes (which hurts home owners at the lower end of the income chain, many being seniors).For others who have, at least, some money to spare, we can afford such hikes.At the same time others need a large expansion of services (transit, homes, living wages).HOW CAN WE HELP ONE OF THESE TWO CONSTITUENT GROUP WITHOUT SERIOUSLY HURTING THE OTHER?
IS THERE A WAY OUT OF THIS DILEMMA? Can the Region provide fairer ways to not have taxpayers who have so little be expected to fund SUCH VITALLY NECESSARY SERVICES for our REGION?
MY ANSWSER—YES, there is a way to MOVE CLEARLY & DECISIVELY IN THAT DIRECTION (via incremental yet VERY REAL STEPS):
Step 1—If elected Regional Chair I make one promise that I can keep without a single compromise, name to giving my total salary toward “SHARING THE WEALTH.”
This means, in real terms, that my annual salary of $158,000 would translate into 3761 free monthly TRIP passes for those on disability (ODSP) or social assistance. Let’s call this step 1 toward lower transit rates toward a totally publically funded system.
2. Step 2—Promote Wealth-Sharing via the Annual Budget by reducing all municipal salaries of $100,000 or higher by the current rate of tax levy (1.8%).
Given that our Region has 609 employees who earn $100,000 or better annually, we are talking of a total figure of in excess of $60,900,000. At a rate of salary reduction of 1.86% per person we would have at our immediate disposal $1,132,740 to put into an investment portfolio for HOUSING (and I mean “brick & mortar”) not studies or salaries for consultants.
3.Step 3—Cut hidden “perks” to elite interests by examining & exposing specific budget costs going to high-powered & high paid consultants & so-called experts brought in undemocratically to do promotional packaging without real vs pro-forma democratic consultation.
For starters I support pending provincial
legislation authorizing the provincial ombudsman André Maurin to study ruthlessly municipal spending to discover where excess spending occurs. A “FOLLOW THE MONEY” approach!
4.Step 4—PUSH THE ENVELOPE FURTHER—via
provincial & federal employees receiving $100,000 or more annually:
Given the reality that numerous employees at the public purse receive $100,000 annually or more, local politicians can break the “cozy” bubble of political chumminess by insisting publicly & relentlessly that our MPs, MPPs, hospital & university “bosses” openly & voluntarily give to the housing fund described above 1.86 % of their earnings. Since MPs earn $163,700 per year, the 1.86% x 4= an additional $129,179 with the comparable MPPS= a total of $11,918 added to the housing fund.
At this point while we appeal to MP and MPP largesse perhaps we might turn to Citizen Jim Balsillie and plead with him to donate 1.86% of his net worth of $731,598,732 to the housing fund, a sum of $13,607,736. Indeed if Citizen Jim were to give $185,000,000 to ending our Region’s public housing crisis, our citizens would be most grateful for such philanthropy. Surely ending homelessness and the public housing crisis takes precedence over a local NHL team.
HEAVY DUTY PRESSURE ON Provincial & FEDERAL GOVERNMENTS:
Given the above push on our own MPPs & MPs it becomes more realistic put extensive pressure on those levels of government which have the structures of a FAIRER TAX SYSTEM, namely the legal right to tax income on a graduated basis, to tax wealth & wealth transfers, to tax corporations, to tax estates and finally to find & extract wealth from tax havens.Such pressure includes also the restoration and expansion of regulatory programs (job safely, condominium building, etc.) as well as the restoration and expansion of pensions, EI, the return of ODSP & OW to a common base prior to the Mike Harris cuts pegged to inflation and the restoration of the Special Diet and Community Start-Up & Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB).
If we undertake the local measures of wealth redistribution we will locally embody what we demand federally & provincially as well as being prepared readily to push for more.
Given the above details of what my platform is all about, I welcome comments from all of you who have read the above. DO BE IN TOUCH firstname.lastname@example.org & I’ll make every attempt to answer questions or respond to comments
Also as the election approaches we (the AAP) will be announcing a PEOPLES’DEBATE shortly before the election. Weather permitting we will hold it outside and it will be notably LESS CONTROLLED than the other debates. No line up at the mike; instead all will get a chance to speak. MORE CHAOTIC? Yes! BUT MOST IMPORTANT--- MORE DEMOCRATIC!
Each week until voting day I will either answer questions/comments on this site, or as time permits address major issues in some detail. Again do contact me at email@example.com.
I give the last word to Ed Finn, editor emeritus of the, “A dirge for democracy,” (Sept., 2014), in which he contrasts government by the elite versus the democratic needs of the people:
“Pollution is profitable.Global warming is profitable.War is profitable....Offshore tax havens are profitable.Poverty is profitable.Inequality is profitable.Human trafficking is profitable.... Non-unionized labour is profitable.Child labour is profitable.Low wages and high unemployment are profitable.Unsafe workplaces are profitable.Purchasing politicians is profitable.
“Conversely of course, any policy or program that would benefit more people but not make a profit (e.g., fairer income distribution, cleaner air and water, better public transit, more help for the poor) will hardly be the priority of a government that primarily serves corporate interests.”
AUSTERITY IS NOT FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY!SHARE THE WEALTH!