When I ran for Board of Control in 2006, one of the issues that I considered to be an important part of my platform was fair charges, taxes and user fees. I had already become aware of the disparity in water rates between the residential ratepayer and the industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) sectors through attending council meetings at city hall, and I was anxious to take part in redressing that unfairness.
I got my chance to be involved very early on. Staff had already been examining the issue and was undertaking consultations with the various stakeholders. In May of 2008, Board of Control and Council adopted the following principles for allocating the water and sewer rates among the various parties:
• Fair and equitable
• Promote conservation
• Stabilize revenue
• Support economic development
• Be consistent
• Respect history
• Be defensible
• Support job retention and growth
The following year, the same thing happened. And this year, it is happening again. The time is “not right”.
Residential ratepayers, on the other hand, cannot pass their utility bills to someone else. No one else can be tapped to subsidize them. So whether you are a worker whose wage increases have been frozen or a pensioner on a fixed but inadequate income, you have to keep paying not only your own rate increases but also $4 million of industry and business increases. And it doesn’t matter whether you are filling your swimming pool or watering trees, you pay the full amount and the more you use, the higher the rate.
Staff has made the same recommendation three years in a row. Our staff has no interest in killing jobs or deterring industry from locating here. Staff is simply recommending what we asked them to do: offer a fairer allocation to pay for the services that are essential to all of us, residents and businesses alike.
The implementation would not be for another year. Thereafter it would be phased in over 3 to 5 years, plenty of time for planning ahead. Fully phased in, our rates would still be highly competitive with surrounding municipalities.
Let’s make fairness, not subsidies, London’s Advantage.
Update: The issue was debated earlier this evening. Fairness for the residential ratepayer was put off again. Supporting the deferral were the Mayor, Controllers Gosnell, Polhill and Hume, Councillors Baechler, Branscombe, Bryant, Miller, Hubert, VanMeerbergen, Caranci, Usher, and MacDonald. Opposing deferral were Controller Barber and Councillors Armstrong, Lonc, Orser and Winninger. Councillor Eagle was absent. You can read the Free Press report here.
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