The Toronto Taxpayers Coalition has been an emerging right wing voice in municipal politics since its birth in 2010. According to the group, it advocates for smaller and accountable government while being mindful of government waste. Its founding President, Matthew McGuire, tells me about the group's ambitious mission, its latest controversial complaint to Toronto's Integrity Commissioner as well as reflects on the one "progressive" left leaning Toronto Councillor he admires most.
Tell me about yourself?
Like so many people in this city, I was born elsewhere, but I ended up here and I love it. I was raised in Eastern Ontario and have always been interested in politics and public policy. I've always found it amazing at how very few governments are indeed really fiscally responsible. I've always wanted to change that.
I'm employed as a software developer, and like everyone else involved in the Toronto Taxpayers Coalition, I'm a volunteer.
Tell me about the Toronto Taxpayer's coalition?
We founded Toronto Taxpayers Coalition in 2010 to ensure a strong voice for taxpayers long after the 2010 election. We knew the "respect for taxpayers" flavor of the day wouldn't last long after the campaign and we wanted to ensure taxpayers had a strong voice going forward. We wanted to engage people and get them involved between elections.
A group of us discussed the idea (amongst ourselves) and quietly organized for almost a year before we officially launched the organization. We held our first meeting in a library in Parkdale in December 2010. That group of five or six became the founding leaders of the group and we started consulting with all 44 wards. We identified supporters and signed up members.
In the two and a half years since then - we've been at the forefront of many issues. We urged council to find ways to eliminate a $774 million budget gap, pushed for expanding subways over LRT believing they have a much greater capacity as well as economical benefits and we filed a federal Competition Bureau Complaint against the bag fee. We also urged the elimination of jobs for life for municipal employees, issued report cards on the mayor and council, criticized the mayor for using city resources to coach his football team and put out a policy report identifying three new potential revenue sources that could expand public transit without increasing taxes.
In addition, we pointed out the unsustainable growth in public sector salaries on the sunshine list, file complaints with the Integrity Commissioner when we believe Councillors have broken the Code of Conduct, held an essay contest urging contestants to write about why lower taxes are good for Toronto. It has truly been a busy three years for our group and much more work is still ahead for us. I am excited.
Why is such a group important in Toronto? Why is such a group important in Toronto?
Before Toronto Taxpayers Coalition, there was no voice for fiscal responsibility in Toronto. People felt helpless in the face of every increasing taxes and worsening services under former Toronto mayor - David Miller. The arrogance of his inner circle was astounding, something that is best captured by Councillor Maria Augimeri telling a Downsview resident to "shut up" in the wake of the Sunrise Propane explosion, and by Councillor Paula Fletcher who screamed at a man to "Come on down, come and run against me baby!" for asking for small budget cuts.
Tell me about the coalitions latest integrity complaints against Councillors Adam Vaughan and Mike Layton?
The Code of Conduct is an important tool for ensuring Councillors conduct themselves appropriately and for holding them accountable when they don't. The Code is very clear in Section XII Conduct Respecting Staff - you cannot falsely or maliciously injure the professional or ethical reputation of city staff. We believe that's exactly what they did when they accused City Manager Joe Pennachetti of essentially making up all the numbers in his report. It's fine if Vaughan and Layton have questions for staff about the report, and they can disagree with the report all they want however they both crossed their boundaries when they accused staff of doctoring or "fabricating" documents.
We requested an apology from both of them and they refused, so we made good on our promise to file a formal complaint with the Integrity Commissioner.
Many people accuse your group of being too right wing for Toronto. Is that true?
I always laugh when I'm asked this question. If you look at the positions Toronto Taxpayers Coalition has taken, it's actually a very moderate and reasonable group. Lower taxes, less waste and accountable government is a very mainstream interest of the majority of Torontonians. These are our founding principles. Who calls that "too right wing"? Anybody who thinks that finding ways to minimize the amount of tax we pay so we can build sustainable and affordable growth is "too right wing" is showing their contempt for taxpayers - the same contempt that motivated us to organize in the first place.
I think the public understands that taxpayers need a strong voice and the politicians are coming around on this idea as well. In December of last year - we had our second anniversary and many showed an appreciation of our work by coming out and celebrating our milestone. We had several politicians and members of the media in attendance as well. We have become the voice of regular Torontonians who are sick of the special interests and the David Miller socialism that put the city in such bad financial shape with nothing to show for it. As well as the type of arrogance voice that thinks we have no business advocating on behalf of Toronto taxpayers.
Is there a progressive Toronto City Councillor that you admire most?
Certainly Mike Layton has always been a gentleman and we said so on his report card. His comments that we believe undermined city Manager Joe Pennachetti were very out of character. I'm a fan of the reasoned approach that Sarah Doucette brings to the table, and I also appreciate her use of private funds to rebuild the Jamie Bell playground after it was destroyed by vandals. That said, her publicly discussing possible health issues of one of her colleagues was in really poor taste.