Democracy, sports and Accès Gatineau
This is a reaction to the Bulletin article, “The City’s Accès Gatineau card grows in popularity”.
August 3, 2016. My letter in 2013 predicted the continuous rise in costs of the card and related fees, since the city did not follow provincial laws for user fees. As a reminder, here are the main points that were made in 2013:
The elected city politicians voted, about two years ago, on a sports policy, not on fees.
The cost of City resources taking over volunteer work (as organizations fold because of user fees) is as high as six times what is being collected in some sports: so brace yourself for continuous hikes!
Note that the ‘carte-accès’ has gone up in cost: juniors, who were supposed to get it free, are now paying for it. If you are already paying property taxes in Gatineau, why would you need a card to access sports and leisure activities? It is just another added tax under a different name, sold on the illusion that it permits accessibility.
Fees, by definition, are paid by the user and must be accounted for and returned directly in the service provided. In Gatineau, it is returned to the consolidated fund.
Here are some facts related to the access card that the article should have covered:
The carte Accès is not ‘popular’; it is imposed.
The provincial laws on municipal fees require that three conditions be met (this includes the accès card): they must identify what is covered within a particular service (ex: part of the capitalization, personnel costs, heating, etc. - to differentiate it from what is covered through the municipal taxation rate); no profits can be made to offset costs in some other service (ex: fees that should be applied to costs overrun - around two to three million a year for the Sports Centre - but are instead applied to sports in general); finally, that such fees be returned within that activity.
None of these conditions are being met by the city. The mayor, elected members and top public servants (in sport services) have been informed of this situation. They have chosen a wait and deny approach, knowing that most organizations or individuals do not have the money to bring this to court.
No information is available on how these fees and the access card costs have been calculated. In fact, top bureaucrats in the administration openly said they had no idea of the costs per particular service.
Here is my question: are the access cards and sport fees a benefit or a subtle and lazy way to tax us without having to justify these fees or use the word ‘tax’?