City taxes will be paving Haitian roads

Calgary to donate $25,000 to Haiti

When paying municipal taxes one would, and frankly should, expect that their money is going towards local roads, not those 5,099 kms away.

On Monday, March 13, 2017, Ward 11 councillor, Brian Pincott brought forth a motion that would send $25,000 of Calgary’s reserve fund to help with the Hurricane Matthew disaster relief in Haiti through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Help for Haiti program.

The motion was put to a vote and was narrowly decided eight-to-seven.

Although we can be assured that it is a legitimate cause, mostly free of corruption, and it seems incredibly cruel to express distaste for charitable efforts, I can’t help but think this money should stay in the back pockets of the city in case of our own rainy day.

Logan Shot, a SAIT Millwright student, initially said, “it’s always a good thing to help people out.” Though, he was reluctant to give his true opinion on city tax money going to Haiti when I initially approached him, as he didn’t want to seem insensitive.

Shot said that charity should ideally start here at home, especially with so many people affected by layoffs in the oil and gas sector.

“It’s an honourable idea,” said Shane Keating, Ward 12 councillor, even though he ultimately voted against the notion, because of the tax breaks already given to bingo halls.

The city gives bingo halls tax breaks, which amount to $189,000 in revenue per annum.

This money is intended for over 100 non-profits. In order to qualify for the tax exemption, bingo halls are required to prove they don’t profit from the tax breaks.

In 2006, the late former premier of Alberta, Ralph Klein, gave every Albertan a tax-free $400 prosperity bonus.

As happy as I was to finally have an iPod, my social studies teacher Mr. Easton informed us that in a democratic society, we as taxpayers should be wary of an administration that does what they will with surpluses without asking for voter input.

This has always stuck with me, and I feel like any spending of taxpayer money should be cleared with citizens first.

Personally, I’d like $25,000 to go to animal rescue organizations and I’m sure my neighbour three doors down would like to support efforts to free Tibet.

That’s just it – who is the city to decide which organizations need our money? Why Haiti? This is not to say that Haiti isn’t a worthy cause.

Haitians can’t seem to ever catch a break, and I would argue that if people wanted to donate money to hurricane relief they could do so on their own accord.

Keating said this is the first time Calgary’s tax revenue has transcended Canadian borders, and there are very few other municipalities who have chosen to donate. He said the federal government has more of a responsibility to contribute in more specific ways, and he’s “quite sure Canadian tax dollars have already gone to Haiti.”

According to Canada’s Global Affairs’ statistical report on international assistance, nearly $81 million dollars was sent to Haiti between 2014 and 2015 and $1 billion since 2010. It also notes Haiti is actually Canada’s largest aid beneficiary in the Americas.

Let’s just be thankful that only $25,000 is going to hurricane relief and not the $100,000 that was initially proposed.

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