I see in today's Star that Metrolinx is outlining a series of options to squeeze more money out of me. And I couldn't be happier.
Tess Kalinowski's story on page one discusses everything from a gas tax (hear, hear) to a regional sales tax (also a great idea, especially given the lunacy of the federal Conservatives lowering the GST for no good reason), not to mention highway tolls and parking levies and other tools that appear to have favour with Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne.
Heck, even The Board of Trade, that bastion of conservatism that calls for lower taxes 367 days a year, is crying out for new spending to get us out of our morass. It's the only way to do it, and it would be best to bring in small to medium amounts of money from pretty much all the tools being discussed so we spread out the pain. But there has to be pain. I'm going to have to pay more. But that's how you build a city. And a tourism industry.
How did we build a good health care system? With taxes. How is it we have a relatively poor TTC product that's still the envy of many other cities? With taxes. You improve your city and country not by cutting spending, but by investing in your product.
As a veteran traveler and a guy who spent more than 15 years covering municipal politics in this town, I can tell you that going around cutting spending is precisely the wrong approach. Look at the great cities of the world. Look at Paris and London and Tokyo and New York and even Los Angeles of late. They invest massive amounts of money to keep their citizens – and tourists – moving. They understand you have to spend money to make it. You have to invest, just like the local shopkeeper has to keep improving his or her front windows and lighting and marketing.
This is a concept this city has failed to grasp – at a woeful cost. We could've spent relative pennies for 20 years and we wouldn't be facing this mess, but we did the wrong thing time and time again. A lack of foresight and lower than low property tax hikes for decades have forced us into this new tax grab.
Mel Lastman was a salesman/businessman but didn’t get it. David Miller wasn't a business guy so muich but seemed to get, although he didn't force the issue enough. Mayor Ford tells us he's got a business approach but he definitely doesn’t get it.
The great cities of the world aren’t defined by low taxes. I mean, did you ever hear anyone at your local Tim Hortons say to her husband, “Hey, honey, the municipal taxes are really low in Mississauga. Let’s go there for our next trip.”
No offence to Mississauga, but folks in Winnipeg and Moncton and Victoria dream of Paris and San Francisco and Sydney, places with culture and monuments and glittering waterfronts and museums and street art and bustling markets and cheap transit that blankets the city (unlike our paltry system) and allows them to get around easily and see everything. Places that think big and spend money and bring in tourists who want an escape from their boring, cost-cutting hometowns. It makes tremendous business sense as tourism is one of the easiest industries to boost.
Just look at the massive investments by the U.S. with their Brand USA campaign, which I see on TV all the time and in print. Then look (if you must) at Canada’s plunging support for the tourism biz. And look at Toronto’s decades-long failure to wrestle the congestion monster to the ground.
It is to weep.
When Barcelona won the right to stage the 1992 Summer Olympics, city fathers and mothers invested huge amounts of money in waterfront restoration, parks and public art. And they went from Podunkville, Europe to one of the continent’s top destinations. Overnight. And they’re still riding high more than 20 years after the Games. And look at what Atlanta did for 1996, pinching pennies and hardly investing in the public good, all in the name of affordable Games. Yeah, affordable and almost useless.
If this town is every going to make it to the big leagues of tourism we have to dream big. And spend a little cash. To do nothing is to commit this city to commuter gridlock, and to tourism mediocity.
That horrific rape and murder of a woman in India a couple months ago is having a chilling effect on the country’s tourism sector. A study issued on Monday found that tourism is down 25 per cent in India since the incident. And it appears women are taking a pass on visits to this wonderful, majestic country with more than its share of societal woes, as one report I saw suggested visits by women were down 35 per cent.
According to a report on travelmole, incidents such as the horrific rape and murder in New Delhi in December have "raised concerns about the safety of female travellers to the country," said DS Rawat, secretary general at Assocham, which surveyed 1,200 tour operators from different cities.
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