Saturday, October 4, 2008

Make GST school exemption an issue this election

Toronto District School Board Trustee Bruce Davis is fed up. So is a growing chorus of trustees who have joined a campaign to fully exempt school boards from paying the GST on purchases for everything from books to construction materials.

And it certainly adds up for the school board: Toronto's public system has sent $23 million to the federal government in GST taxes in the last three years.

But unlike cities, which are completely exempt from paying the GST, school boards only receive a 68 per cent rebate of the unpopular federal tax.

Davis, who represents Ward 3, Etobicoke-Lakeshore, and his like-minded trustees have already ponied up a portion of their expense accounts to fund the campaign, and it's already raising eyebrows.

Along with a couple of clever radio spots highlighting the issue, Davis also cheekily suggested banning MPs from school properties until they took a position supporting the board and call for its exemption.

That could easily be seen as a cynical ploy, but is no more so than politicians showing up at school functions to boost their image and pose for a few photographs.

At its foundation, this school board campaign is both fair and necessary.

Imagine the money that could be used for programming or additional resources in some of Toronto's neighbourhood schools with a few extra million dollars every year.

We hope Davis and fellow trustees continue with this initiative and work to make it an issue on neighbourhood doorsteps during the remainder of the federal election campaign.

In the meantime, we encourage ordinary citizens to get a position from all of the federal election candidates currently making the rounds in a bid to drum up voter support.

Do they have a position on fully exempting school boards from the costly GST? What is their party's view? Would they support a motion to that effect in the House of Commons if they are elected?

These are important questions to local taxpayers and must be both seen and heard as the debate unfolds.

There are only a couple of weeks left in the federal election campaign. Keeping the debate alive on this issue could serve Toronto well and possibly set the template for other school boards across the nation to follow.

School boards continue to struggle with adequate funding. It makes no sense that scarce dollars are being siphoned from the system and sent to Ottawa, particularly when similar governance structures such as exist in municipalities are given a pass.

David Pylyp The article is an Editorial that was printed October 2nd, in the Etobicoke Guardian. This issue was brought to my attention by Bob Poldon of the Mimico Residents Association. In this era of shrinking funding and changes in employment, investment in education is vital for our continued prosperity in Etobicoke.

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