Thursday, 3 May 2012

User-fees for public services suck

I've had to put a fair share of posts and ideas on the back-burner as my schedule's overloaded. My idea for doing an in-depth analysis of the the 2012 budget is one such thing that's taken a backseat, which is unfortunate. But there's one thing I just have to make clear: user fees for public services truly suck.

Death, marriage, and birth certificate fees are going to increase with this budget. Finance Minister Stan Struthers has touted what a "modern" way the overall approach to trying to balance the budget by 2014 is. User fees aren't and they really defeat the whole point of public services (as opposed to private commodities).

The whole point of public services (which includes necessary Vital Statistics documentation like birth certificates) is to provide all citizens with equitable access to given services without discrimination based on the ability to pay. Single rate user fees, like the fees Vital Statistics charges for birth, marriage, and death certificates, disproportionately hurts working poor Winnipeggers who need to get documentation, like replacing a birth certificate, changing a name, or getting death certificates, out the way to deal with a vast array of administrative issues which they can't afford to pay lawyers to deal with. Regressive user-fees just ad one more pain to the process.

This regressive revenue strategy disturbingly parallels a strategy at the municipal level in this city, where under country club conservative Sam Katz's watch this city has hiked user-fees to avoid raising property taxes. One of the most nefarious instances of the rise in regressive user-fees has been questionable photo radar ticketing, which started under mayor Murray but has expanded under Katz' watch (with help from statutory changes backed by the Manitoba NDP at the provincial level).

"Today's NDP" has truly betrayed it's progressive legacy through it's extended use of regressive user-fees to finance the public sector. Sadly, this is part of a larger trend, of shifting from progressive public financing to regressive financing all in the name of saying "this government hasn't raised (visible) taxes" - or, in this case, haven't increased income taxes that much. Hopefully, Tomorrow's NDP will be better.


 Postscript: The "No Deficit-financing" rule for (most) US States referenced in this video doesn't apply to Provinces, like Manitoba. But a similar trend of user-fee hikes in place of tax increases is present in this province as it is in other jurisdictions, so the video's relevant enough to warrant inclusion. Given the tuition freeze, the ballooning cost of public university (in the US, "State universities") is less exaggerated in Manitoba compared to the US State University referenced. Many of the specifics are different from Manitoba, as Canada in general isn't spiralling as far down the regressive toilet drain as the US is right now, but this nascent trend is still disturbing.   


  1. It looks like you are starting to get it. No other province treats its poor so badly. Consider the following:

    Note that Manitoba has almost TWICE the tax on lower income people than Ontario does. You think life is hard on the poor now? Wait until the truth about hydro comes out!

    If you keep coming to your senses like this you will have to change the name of you blog to RAT! ;-))

    1. Wow, Riverman, the Right's now against user-fees, eh? I guess someone forget to send the memo to the Frontier Centre for (Privatizing) Public Policy.

  2. No, the right is against the tax, borrow and spend NDP. Once you get a few years under your belt you will understand. Personally it disgusts me the way the poor are treated by the NDP in this province and you should feel the same way.

    What is wrong with the private sector? What have you got against it?

  3. "No, the right is against the tax, borrow and spend NDP. Once you get a few years under your belt you will understand."

    I have no idea how many more years could possible make me understand a comment on a post opposing user-fees as a regressive revenue generator congratulating me on seeing thing's the "right's way". But I take it that you just wanted to spam this comments section with your NDP derangement syndrome drivel.

    But, if you must do that, then cut the crap about "you'll understand". I'm not sure if whatever public or private (yet still probably generously receiving public money) educational institute lets you get away with condescending crap like that, but I'm calling you out on that. I know people with many years of age upon me, higher positions in private sector companies, and higher marginal tax rates who, nonetheless, support NDP policy.

    Now, hurry along, don't you have to teach your students that Jim Maloway caused the Hindenburg disaster?