"Reason is always a kind of brute force; those who appeal to the head rather than the heart, however pallid and polite, are necessarily men of violence. We speak of 'touching' a man's heart, but we can do nothing to his head but hit it." --G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Surviving our worsening economy

Let’s get right down to business and talk about the most important issue facing Coquitlam: What to do about the unsustainably high rate of city spending, and the high rate of property-tax growth that it causes.

Talk to the average homeowner or business owner, and you quickly learn that this is Issue Number One. And it grows even more important by the day, as the global economy continues to falter.

You might have heard that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty released his fall economic update on Nov. 8. He made it very clear: Our country’s economy is still weak. He warned that the European sovereign-debt-and-banking crisis poses a significant risk to the global economy and will lead to slower growth here. His government will have to adjust. (Euro-Crisis cartoon from www.mw.nl.)

What about here in Coquitlam? Over the past several years, the city has boosted property-tax rates to fund spending that is higher than what we can afford. One result is that public-sector wages soared, even as private-sector ones stagnated.

Given this record, can we trust council to do the right thing, and reduce the rate of spending and tax increases, in response to the ongoing economic slowdown?

Can we at least trust the incumbents, if re-elected, to make fair and balanced decisions at the bargaining table to control our rapidly growing expenses?

I am committed to responsible budgeting. That’s why I signed the CFIB’s Taxpayer Pledge, to support a municipal Auditor General, to cap spending increases, and to lower the job-killing gap between business and homeowner tax rates.

None of this will be easy. We’ll engage the public to help set priorities and make important decisions about protecting valuable services.

There’s a big job ahead. But I’m ready to take it on. My name’s Terry O’Neill and I’d be honoured to receive your vote on November 19th.

This is the text of the opening speech I delivered at the Nov. 8 all-candidates meeting.

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