Toronto spent too much ‘green’: Editorial

Toronto Sun
It’s one thing for City Hall to spend our tax dollars on services we all use.

Most people understand the need to pay property taxes to fund the police, fire and ambulance services, public transit, road repairs, libraries, parks, garbage collection, water and sewer mains, snow clearing and street cleaning.

Naturally, we want these services to make efficient use of our tax dollars and, sadly, that isn’t always the case.

But we accept in principle that property taxes pay for the services a city needs to thrive.

However, when it comes to using taxpayers’ money to dole out grants to select groups — for example on climate change initiatives — the issue of how and why the money is spent becomes far more controversial.

Particularly so, in these tough economic times.

Funding such programs means relatively few people benefit from the taxes all citizens pay.

Unlike special interest groups who constantly lobby City Hall for funds, most taxpayers are too busy working and getting on with their lives to make a second career of trekking down to City Hall, seeking a special piece of the pie for themselves.

That’s why the awarding of grants has to be a rigorous process.

And it’s why problems City Hall columnist Sue-Ann Levy reported last week about the city’s climate change fund are so concerning.

The fund, part of former mayor David Miller’s climate change agenda, started out with $130 million to finance environmental initiatives, although it grew to $158 million when hydro revenues came in higher than expected.

Using property taxpayers’ money to pay for such “green” initiatives as rooftop gardens, ads in ethnic newspapers, theatre projects and bike lockers would be controversial, even if the city was flush with cash.

But with the city in a financial crisis — facing a deficit of $774 million next year — this money would have been better spent helping to pay down Toronto’s humongous debt.

Especially when the city’s auditor general, commenting generally on the grants, cited the lack of a formalized process to determine if they were achieving their goals.

That’s not surprising, given that projects were up to a year late in submitting progress reports.

Last week at council there was also predictable grumbling by some councillors about Mayor Rob Ford’s decision to discontinue multi-million-dollar city subsidies for purchasing low-flow toilets and disconnecting downspouts from the sewer system in older neighbourhoods.

These are worthwhile initiatives property owners can choose to do on their own dime.

But they are not things the city can afford to keep doing on the taxpayers’ dime, despite claims that over the long term, they more than pay for themselves.

Funding too many programs that were supposed to pay for themselves over the long term is one reason the city is in the financial mess it is.

Now, we have to start digging ourselves out.

9 thoughts on “Toronto spent too much ‘green’: Editorial

  1. So… the first step to dig ourselves out is to demand that McGuinty step down NOW due to a non confidence vote and let Mr. Tim Hudak cancel the Green Energy Act and stop our massive subsidies to wind & solar developers. Tell Mr. Hudak that you want a non confidence vote asap…before more of Ontario is destroyed! Before our economy is destroyed. Allow him to be able to stand up in the Legislature and say…
    ” Mr. Speaker, I have been overwhelmed with letters from people all over Ontario asking that Mr. McGuinty STEP DOWN NOW!” They want to take their province back!

  2. One scenario that McGuinty doesn’t want to ever see happen is for some “rogue” Liberal MPP to come “out” against McGuinty and his Gang Green and expose McGuinty’s failed Green Energy Agenda with “secret” details on how Lobby Groups have had unfettered access to the Ministry of Energy and Ministry of Environment.

    These MPP’s are “career politicians” and when their jobs appear to be “on the line” they suddenly lose all “loyalty” in their leadership and basically “throw them to the wolves” in order to retain their paycheques!

    We can only “hope” this comes to pass!

  3. Good thought Quixote! I never would have thought of that but then I am an honest person that can not relate to politicians.

  4. Barbara, Thanks for the heads-up on this odd Sunday announcement. Harper’s buying votes to save Greg Kerr’s hide in Digby, but if his electorate are wise they’ll let him know they aren’t pleased with this farce.

    Nova Scotia Power Inc./Emera own the 20 IWTs on Digby Neck, and the latest info shows only 10 turbines were operational. How and why EcoENERGY is going to dole out $9.2 million over 10 years is anyone’s guess – NSPI/Emera is a private company so we doubt if we’ll be hearing much from them. This is going to be very interesting to say the least. Cheers.

  5. “That’s why the awarding of grants has to be a rigorous process”

    There should bloody well be NO GRANTS to ANY entity from ANY level of governmnet EVER!

    The “peoples” money is for the people damn it!

    IT’S OUR MONEY!!!!!

    AARRGGHH!

    R.R.

  6. Bluenoser,
    “Nova Scotia Power Inc./Emera own the 20 IWTs on Digby Neck, and the latest info shows only 10 turbines were operational. How and why EcoENERGY is going to dole out $9.2 million over 10 years is anyone’s guess –”
    When were those 20 IWTs installed? How long have 10 of them been not working? Is it rime ice like the bunch in N.Brunswick (which have been frozen solid for several weeks)?

  7. DoNoHarm, I wish I knew, but I’m three hours away from the site, and have no contacts in that area.

    As with the N.S. Pubnico Pt. IWT farce, which traded many hands (now owned by Florida Power and Light), this Digby Neck project was initially owned by Interwind (formerly SkyPower Corp.) and Scotian WindFields/Interwind which eventually fell under creditor protection.

    Emera eventually bought Interwind and Scotian Windfields/Interwind Feb 2010.

    Then Emera transferred this project to NS Power in Jun 2010, and it was supposed to be completed by Dec 2010 – as of Jan 2011 only 10 of the 20 turbines were reported operational. I was of the understanding all 20 had been erected, but I’ve searched off and on all day and still can’t come up with the answer.

    We’ve heard nothing of ice build-up like Bathurst’s, but with Digby Neck being a spit of land on the Bay of Fundy, we suspect these 10 are shut down more often than not…

    Our provincial daily has a skeleton staff now – all we hear and read are press releases from NSPI.

    BTW, NS Power had to shut down 19 of their 22 turbines on Nuttby Mountain (Feb 2011) due to cracks in the cement foundations – we can only imagine the subsidies and tax credits they’ll gain from those white elephants.

    Thanks for your interest, and I’ll continue to delve for answers. Cheers!

    As NSPI/Emera is a private company information is almost non-existant, and our provincial daily has cut back its staff and relies on press releases from NSPI – only in Nova Scotia!

  8. Bluenoser,
    Thank you for your info from the Maritimes. It’s good to remind us what’s up & going round (or not going round) outside Ontario. Also a heads up to what sort of situations we could be up against next, here.

    This whole mess never ceases to amaze me. Like trying to wake up from a bad dream . . . but this is real.

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