Editor’s Note: When Executive Director of the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce, Allan Asaph took a shot at those who criticise their betters at organizations like his business club or the City of Abbotsford it caused us to go back and re-publish some of the most constructive criticism we had published over the last four and a half years [Four Years Of Constructive Criticism].
Cover Art: Bostonians Reading The Stamp Act
In so doing we found a gem buried deep in the vault. It is one of the first pieces Vince Dimanno wrote for Abbotsford Today magazine called ‘A Revolutionary Act’ and, in light of the enormous financial mess that has resulted in the intervening years, thought merited a second look. Especially in light of Mr Asaph’s childish and self-serving remonstrances about those who criticize such apparently flawless Toffs as he, we thought appropriate to republish Mr. Dimanno’s prophetic words from October of 2008 in ‘The Truth’ as well.
A Revolutionary Act
September 19, 2008By Vince Dimanno. There is an underground culture in Abbotsford that is so strong it rules our everyday lives. We’ve discussed some of the political issues that are handled in this alternative way in our city, but it is not limited to City Hall. For example, the Abbotsford Soccer Association raised its registration fees by over 20% this past year. It now charges our children to use the new all-weather fields and struggles to get coaches so that children are going without teams.
Did you know we give property tax breaks and free rounds of golf at Ledgeview Golf Course? Do you realize that one more paid foursome per day would pay for all the kids that are charged to play on the new soccer fields?
What are our community priorities?
Certainly organizations learn from our government. After promising, at a public meeting, that there would be no rate increases at the Abbotsford Recreation Centre after the new addition, Parks & Recreation proceeded to raise fees by over 21% before the grand opening!
It is our opinion that our local government and local organizations get away with these things because no one is watching. How can you care if you don’t know about these things?
That’s where we come in. Abbotsford|TODAY is here to tell you exactly what is going on in your community, and we’ll cover both sides of an issue. It’s time for this city to break free of the suffocating media delivered by two of the largest media organizations in the country, neither of which seems to know very much about Abbotsford. They seem content to take your advertising dollars back to Winnipeg or Victoria while ensuring they do nothing to jeopardize their cash flow by printing anything controversial.
Abbotsford Today will eat up issues and feed on controversy. Writers and readers will thrive on opposing opinions.
George Orwell said, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act”
We hope we inspire you to discuss every word, every idea and every debate presented here in the pages of Abbotsford Today.
Join us in this adventure. Participate in the magazine and the website at www.abbotsfordtoday.ca.
October 21, 2008
I have no doubt that many people will read this publication and think the naysayers in town got their nickels together and put out some propaganda just before the election. I can handle that. Democracy is actually improved upon when there is opposition to the status quo. The problem in Abbotsford is that opposition is not allowed to speak out. In fact, opposition is suppressed in the most time-honoured way throughout history. Our municipal government simply tells you what it wants you to believe and then the media reports it.
A reader might be forgiven for concluding they had not been told the truth.
That is a strong accusation and I don’t make it lightly. This particular column is going to focus in on one example of this process of disinformation.
A few weeks ago, on the front page of the local newspapers, appeared a headline that read “Abbotsford 3rd Lowest Property Taxes in the Lower Mainland” This article was clearly handed to them by City Hall and the local papers printed it. I didn’t believe what I read so I wrote a rebuttal letter to the newspapers, which they did not print. In their defense, those newspaper publishers have the right to print whatever they wish.
Now – so do I.
There will be one major difference between this publication and theirs. We will ask questions and print the answers whether we like them or not*. We won’t print a press release from City Hall at face value. We’ll do the simple things, like ask the president of the local taxpayers association for a comment when City Hall makes the claim they did in the headline above. Since the local newspapers didn’t ask me, and wouldn’t print my comments, you can read them here.
The article in question states that statistics from the Ministry of Community Services were used to compile the data. If you go to the Ministry web site and click on ‘Civic Info’ and then ‘Surveys and Statistics’ you are able to generate a report on all the Municipal Tax Rates. I have done so and the table is below:
These figures make it plain that Abbotsford has the 3rd highest tax rate in the Region. In fact, these numbers are based on 2006 data and no other municipality incurred a 17% increase in 2007 like Abbotsford undertook because of Plan A.
These numbers are further substantiated by a report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), which can be found at http://www.fcei.ca/legis/bc/pdf/bc9501.pdf and on the Provincial Government’s web site for investment at http://www.investbc.com/. There is no lack of reputable, government generated data showing our true tax rate. Further, we have not been able to make any calculation that generates the numbers cited in the article submitted by City Hall and printed in the local newspapers. We have had a Chartered Account attempt to do so and he was unable to duplicate the numbers. If all this wasn’t evidence enough, the Township of Langley, feeling very bad about a 6% tax increase, published an article in their local newspaper comparing their tax rate to other cities. They placed Abbotsford at the top of their list, directly in line with the numbers you see in the table above.
So, why is knowing this important?
People ask me all the time why I bother. I’m not seeking office, I can extract no benefit out of my efforts and it is a lot of work. The city is not in ruins so if I don’t like certain things then I why don’t I just ignore them, or move? What motivates me is that when you really dig deep into the way all levels of government perform you find mistakes. We are human and mistakes will be made. However, at the Provincial and Federal levels they have Official Oppositions. There is no Opposition in Abbotsford, official or otherwise. When government runs unchecked, and then feels it must fabricate information in order to keep citizens feeling secure in their competence, things are seriously wrong. This invariably leads to more fabrications -over and over again telling you to relax and that things are OK – your government is doing a good job. Just ask us… we’ll tell you! Moreover, if you are told that property taxes are low, then they can still be raised. Since they are so low you must still have money that they can take from you – and you should feel good about this because they are doing such a good job with it when they get it from you.
This has a direct effect on your daily life – especially in these troubled times.
This city spends more than double the amount of dollars per capita than the national average. It is now in debt second only to the City of Vancouver here in British Columbia, and it has no more money to do some vital and basic things. For example, they say we are running out of water. We don’t have the money. Our sewage treatment plant is operating over capacity and needs $30 million spent on it. We don’t have the money. We have one of the highest property crime rates in all of Canada. We need a new Police Station and officers at a cost of well over $50 million. We don’t have the money.
Certainly Plan A has played a big part in this, but it is not solely responsible. It is a matter of priorities. This City Council decided that a Friendship Garden, at a projected cost of $500,000 of our income tax dollars combined with $500,000 of our property tax dollars, was in our best interest. That kind of ‘vanity project’ simply must be re-thought when we are in the financial situation in which we find ourselves.
Perhaps the truth is that the current Council was unaware of these facts. They voted to accept the latest budget and financial plan for the City of Abbotsford with less than 15 minutes of public discussion. An annual budget of $225million – and no one had a single question. Either they didn’t want it discussed in public, or they didn’t understand it. Either way, we need different people representing us at that table.
You have an obligation to use the one power granted to you in this country that is valued around the world – your vote. You are also obligated to vote based on your true belief that the person you are voting for will help to improve the lives of everyone they govern. You can only do that if you know the truth.
We naysayers can afford to give you two editions of that truth. We will likely have our credibility and our motives attacked, but that’s okay with us. It is precisely the credibility and motives of the people for whom you will vote that we are most concerned with. Ask them questions and make sure you get real answers. Then vote based on those answers. That’s what I’ll be doing and I hope you will all join me.
* As for our story on taxes; we welcome any input from the administration, the media or those in the race to run his city, that will prove us wrong or that can substantiate the figures quoted by the City (http://www.abbotsford.ca/Page358.aspx?PageMode=View&ContainerPageDefID=11&TemplateID=5&qSearch=taxes).
We’ll print it.