I am extremely concerned that our mayor is not taking the global economic meltdown anywhere near seriously enough. When I see the Muni spending $1.5 million on two new fire trucks with the poor excuse that we must be prepared for the 3 billion eyeballs watching us, I see us going into 20 years of debt for a 17 day event. VANOC is cutting back, Fortress is jumping ship but our muni presses on.
January has been a bath for the economy. The New York stock exchange has had its worst January ever, North Americans are losing jobs at the rate of 600,000 a month and the major banks' toxic loans have doubled again and now stand at $2.5 trillion.
Not only this, but a severe drop in the U.K. pound, the Australian and the New Zealand dollar has raised the costs of visiting here of some of our most important customers by a wide margin. For example the day-ski ticket for a Kiwi has risen from $110 to $159 in their currency in the last 12 months.
So with a poor snow season compounded by an economic catastrophe, council should be getting ahead of the game by freezing salaries, reducing staff at least by attrition, cutting back on landscaping (will the lost dogs at WAG miss their expensively maintained garden?) and freezing capital expenditures. The consequence, if we don't move aggressively on this, will be at the very least a $4 million deficit and a huge tax increase - my guess 10 per cent-plus.
A thought on raising revenue would be to impose a two per cent tax on all rides sold in the municipality which use fuel to get their customers around - hitting Hummers, ATVs, snowmobiles, heli and cat skiing and the mountains' lifts. This would at least re-capture the tax break we gave the scoundrels at Fortress and move us to promoting more eco-friendly activities. It would also move a majority of the burden to our visitors rather than locals. We are a municipality which provides much more than the average muni for the visitor.
And finally, before I leave off on my tirade, it would make a lot of sense to me to stretch out the life of fire trucks just on an environmental basis. Creating a vehicle out of 40,000 pounds of steel, aluminium, rubber and paint must be one of the worst forms of pollution. Certainly something which must dwarf the 45 minutes we wouldn't let the fire trucks run in the Canada Day Parade.
Also we should note that no jobs in Canada or the valley were created from making this capital expenditure.