by Pauline Kerr
Apart from making people with variable rate mortgages break out in hives, most of us are not too sure what the Bank of Canada’s decision to hike up the interest rate means.
We have been told that the financial powers-that-be have decided our economy is in urgent need of a cooling-off period, a “time out,” so to speak, so they are making it more difficult to borrow money.
How that will make gasoline and food – the major drivers of that record inflation rate of 8.1 per cent – more affordable remains a mystery.
Also a mystery is how it will find homes for the people who have been “renovicted” out of their apartments. In fact, with the cost of borrowing money rising, it would seem those desperately needed new apartment buildings are less likely to be constructed.
Inevitably, some people who negotiated massive mortgages on the assumption interest rates would remain relatively stable, or in the expectation of rising salaries, are going to lose their homes. There are already situations where people are caught between mortgage payments they cannot afford, and a house they cannot sell at a break-even price – creating the bizarre possibility of folks living in a $500,000 home who cannot put food on the table.
Locally, this means a greater demand than ever for subsidized housing and rent assistance programs – municipal programs stretched to the limit because of a decision made by senior levels of government.
Something that has yet to be discussed is what will happen when the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation gets around to reassessments. We are safe for this year. Assessments remain frozen at 2016 values for 2022. Next year? Who knows? There are some major shocks in store for people when they discover their house is worth a lot more than they thought it was, and they have to pay tax on the new value.
Unlike federal and provincial governments, municipal taxes are based on property values. It remains to be seen how municipalities will react to the shake-up that is coming.
Health care remains on everyone’s mind. Although a provincial responsibility, municipalities are increasingly involved in many aspects of it – recruiting health-care professionals being at the top of the list.
At least it was, prior to COVID-19. During the pandemic, municipal involvement in health care expanded to include assessment centres and mass vaccination clinics.
Now municipalities are active in trying to keep local emergency departments open and ensuring that training programs are graduating enough qualified staff for long-term care facilities and hospitals – education being another provincial responsibility in which municipalities are becoming involved.
A surprising percentage of the municipal tax bill goes to pay for federal and provincial programs that are mandated for municipalities, but not funded.
Of course, there are items that always were municipal responsibilities – local roads and other infrastructure, as well as recreation and various services. Add responsibilities that have been downloaded from senior levels of government recently – a greater share of public health funding being a key one – and ones downloaded a couple of decades ago – police and social services, for example.
What it adds up to is a list of important reasons to get involved in this fall’s municipal election, as a voter or candidate.
The things we deem crucial to our quality of life, depend on decisions made by us on Oct. 22 – keeping in mind the deadline to file nomination papers to serve on council or as a school trustee is Aug. 19.
Will the municipality in which we live be the kind of place where people want to live, work and invest, or will it languish behind more forward-thinking neighbours? Will our greenspaces, waterways and the most productive agricultural land in the world be protected for future generations? Will our children and grandchildren have educational and employment opportunities, and will our families have access to first-rate medical care?
Over the next few short months, we will be deciding the answers to those questions. This is one election we cannot afford to ignore.