Episode 149 of Speaking Municipally took a closer look at a few of the survey questions related to financial decisions.
Not a single candidate chose "City council hasn't been willing to raise taxes enough" when asked What do you think the city's main fiscal challenge is?.
Twenty of the candidates chose "The city has limited ability to raise revenues," and eight chose "The city spends too much." But by far the most popular answer, with 34 responses, was "The city spends its resources inefficiently."
"Progressive or conservative, spendy or not spendy, everyone is going to say, 'I want more value for taxes and I want to find efficiencies'," podcast co-host Troy Pavlek said, noting that the candidates seemed to be unaware of the Council's 2% initiative to continuously find ways to economize.
Property taxes provide roughly 57% of the city's $3 billion in revenue each year. Municipalities are not allowed to run deficits, which means that beyond raising taxes, city council must generally focus on managing expenses, by spending less or trying to find efficiencies. That latter option can be a bit of an escape hatch when one is campaigning for office, said co-host Mack Male.
"We tried really hard... to not have any sort of wishful-thinking responses," he said. "The response that we've highlighted here — 'The city spends its resources inefficiently' — is probably the most wishful-thinking response on the whole survey. You might believe that, but show me. Where do you think they actually spend it inefficiently?"
On a related question, What do you think of the size of the city's workforce?, 17 candidates chose "The city has too many employees," including incumbents Moe Banga, Tim Cartmell, and Tony Caterina, as well as mayoral candidates Rick Comrie, Kim Krushell, and Michael Oshry. Male and Pavlek noted that it would be interesting to know which departments those candidates would like to cut.
When asked about the revenue split between residential and business property taxes, most candidates agree that the current mix of half-and-half is acceptable. Three incumbents — Cartmell, Bev Esslinger, and Sarah Hamilton — were the only ones to say residences should pay a bigger share, while two challengers — Gino Akbari in O-day'min and Scott Hayes in sipiwiyiniwak — said businesses should pay a bigger share. And 10 candidates said both residences and businesses should pay less, even if that would mean a reduction of services.
Speaking Municipally also looked at Andrew Knack's unexpected answer to Should city council continue to have a code of conduct?; the surprising call from mayoral candidate Cheryll Watson to pause the Valley Line West LRT; and outgoing mayor Don Iveson's transition memos and endorsements.
The survey has received more than 8,000 responses from voters looking to see how they match with the candidates, 64 of whom have provided their answers so far.
Note that if you are heading out to vote in the advance polls, you will also be voting for a school board trustee in the public or Catholic system, and you will be voting for a senate nominee and on two referendum questions, one on equalization and the other on daylight saving time. Advance polls are open until Oct. 13. The election is on Oct. 18.