DeJONGHE: What are we paying for?

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Canada has three main levels of government, with a division of powers enshrined in the Constitution Act, 1867.

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I guess we all know that part.

According to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and several government websites, the federal level deals with areas of law and matters that generally affect the whole country, including national defence, foreign affairs, insurance -employment, banking, federal taxes, post office, fisheries, commerce and commerce, shipping, telephones and pipelines, native lands and rights, railways and criminal law.

The provincial level is responsible for areas such as education, health care and hospitals, certain natural resources, road regulations, direct taxes, prisons, environment, agriculture, roads, marriage, property and civil rights.

The act also stipulates that power over agriculture and immigration should be shared between the federal and provincial governments.

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The municipal level receives authority from the provincial government. The town, city or town council controls by-laws that deal with matters affecting their community, such as public parks, libraries, social services, local police and fire departments, removal and garbage recycling, public transportation, airports, ambulances, animal control, by-law enforcement, property assessment and tax collection, community development, sidewalks, snow removal, electrical services, long-term care term and housing, water and sewer, social housing, provincial offenses administration, arts and culture, child care, economic development, road maintenance . Municipal governments are headed by mayors or reeves in cities, towns, villages and townships.

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All of these powers, controls and responsibilities, at every level, require dollars – billions of dollars. Everyone can consult the budget of the municipality in which they live online. The Township of Norwich has an operating budget of over $10,317,650 and a capital budget of $4,803,276 for a total of $15,120,926 for 2022. Protective services (police and fire) alone are budgeted at just over $4 million; parks, arena, swimming pool, community halls and libraries at approximately $2.2 million; transportation (roads, winter control, bridges) are $5.8 million.

We don’t like to pay taxes. We all think they are way too high and not always fair. Often we don’t think about what these payments provide. You may not be interested, as an individual, in shipping, foreign affairs, railroads, prisons, the environment, etc. You may not even think about parks, snow removal, street lighting, childcare, or bylaw enforcement in your day-to-day life. For many of us, these things only come to mind when we need them, and if they’re not there. So, well, you know the proverbial fan.

I’ve heard people ask, “Why should I pay for the arena, I don’t have kids playing hockey or figure skating?” This hockey family may also object to paying for public housing or airports. What programs are you willing to give up – fire services, your community hall, long-term care, water and sewer, libraries, garbage pickup? What about availability of skating, swimming, hiking, playground equipment?

We will each need certain services provided by the government at some point in our lives and we want them to be available when we do.

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