Open Letter: Let’s do some math with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Dear Taxpayers,

City council pensions are out of control! Well, that’s what the novelty placard held by CTF Alberta Director Colin Craig says anyway.

Craig’s quote bothers me. “If you do the math, it works out to councillors putting in $1 while taxpayers had to put in about $5.”

This is fine and well if there were one (or even five) taxpayers per councillor. But if you take a moment to actually do the math ugh – and I mean “show your work” just like in school – it’s a little more challenging to feel put out as a taxpayer.

(I feel like Jim Prentice telling Rachel Notley that “math is difficult,” or like Alison Redford telling me “if I actually understood budgets)

Anyway, here’s the math, boring though it is:

In the 10 years from 2007-2016, city councillors put $1,187,000* into councillor pensions.
$118,700 per year divided by 15 on council.
$7,913.33 per year per councillor.

Now here is the math from the taxpayers’ side:

In the 10 years from 2007-2016, city taxpayers put $5,803,000* into councillor pensions.
$580,300 per year divided by 464,000** Calgary households.
$1.25 per household per year.

The $1.25 hit to the individual taxpayer is hardly something to light one’s hair on fire about. It’s actually quite a bargain. Colin does go on to say that there’s a second pension plan we don’t have the details about, which is rather sketchy I must admit. But I’m not convinced the CTF’s yeoman’s work should be putting a few pennies back in our pockets each year.

This silly math ruse distracts from the point of the protest by the CTF, if there is one. I’m sure there is. It’s kind of lost on me since there’s no real substance in this protest.

Case in point, this quote/red herring from Colin Craig:

“It’s simply not fair for taxpayers, given that so many taxpayers don’t even have a workplace pension.”

This raises a lot of equally silly, equally disconnected questions.

Should taxpayers only be made to contribute to things which are made available to them in the workplace? “I don’t have a workplace City Hall/Police Service/Building Code Enforcement! What’s with this bullshit!?”

Here’s the thing:

Dear CTF,

Don’t waste our time with this petty crap. In a million years, you’ll never get me to believe that my personal contribution of about $2.75/year for the total compensation of the board of directors of the $3 Billion city/corporation in which I live is a raw deal. (I’m more pissed that it isn’t more than that given the talent that turns up for these elections every four years.)

Stop it with the low-hanging fruit photo ops with big numbers that painfully reinforce the need for basic financial literacy education in our province’s high schools.

Instead, please focus on the regressive and idiotic tax collection schemes we have in place right now (property tax, corporate income tax, personal income tax, etc.) and how much further ahead we could be as cities if we simply had the intestinal temerity to force the much-needed upheaval of out tax system.

Also… don’t be so patronizing.



*Assuming CTF numbers to be accurate.
** Assuming 464,000 households based on 2011 StatsCan data.

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