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Ross Murray's Border Report
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Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 02.28.11
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

Your local tax dollars at work

The thing about journalism is that it's easy to tell a story without telling the full story. Journalism is sometimes referred to as "the rough draft of history," but it could just as easily be described as "the tainted tuna of history, and, honestly, why would you eat that? Throw it out, already!"

Take, for example, a recent story in one of the Magog, Quebec, newspapers pointing out that the Town of Stanstead (where I live) had the highest tax rate in the Memphremagog MRC [Municipal Regional Council] at $.95 per $100 evaluation, while Stanstead Township (which I occasionally gaze upon with longing and wide-eyed wonder) had the lowest at a mere $.31 per $100 evaluation.

What the article didn't mention is that Stanstead Township, situated upon Lake Memphremagog, has a property evaluation of over $486 million. This is because all homes in Stanstead Township are made of solid gold, and, in lieu of foundations, are supported upon the backs of well-toned eunuchs.

The Town of Stanstead, on the other hand, has an evaluation of approximately $144 million. That's because our homes are fashioned out of discarded egg cartons and granite tailings held together by Fun-Tack, Stanstead being, of course, the Fun-Tack capital of Canada.

Consequently, if the value of your house equals the GDP of a small developing country, a low tax rate doesn't mean your final tax bill will be low. Likewise, if you own a modest house like mine, with its inherent structural deficiencies and the constant protestors tearing up the lawn, a high tax rate doesn't mean my bill will be high. It does mean that paying taxes is the pits, but, hey, that's everywhere. Except East Bolton. For some reason, those folks love paying taxes.

In other words, it's not fair to compare tax rates out of context. It's like comparing apples with tainted tuna.

If you want to know the complete story, context is everything. Yes, it's true that the Town of Stanstead's budget is $3.1 million compared to $2.5 million in the Township, where the children are honey-haired and never get the croup. But you have to look at what services those taxes provide citizens.

For example, did you know that the provincial cops routinely patrol Stanstead 3.43 times a week? In the Township, it's only 2.8 times per week.

As a resident of Stanstead, paying a bit extra on my tax bill is worth it for that peace of mind. Plus, you really get to know the officers. There's The Swarthy Guy, there's Officer Drives-Too-Fast and, of course, Possibly-Hot Chick Cop.

What else do my tax dollars provide? Well, it's sort of a secret, but every night our mayor goes around and tucks citizens into bed. Naturally, he can't do everyone every night. That would be ridiculous. But, according to municipal bylaw, every household is guaranteed three good tuckings a year.

(Incidentally, up in Rock Forest, the borough president offers wake-up calls to citizens upon request, but I think we can all agree that that's not quite the same personal service.)

Stansteadites (or as we call ourselves, "Ites") also enjoy free 24-hour Internet streaming of the classic 1992 Roxy Music album Avalon, which makes us a damn sexy town!

I can't claim to know for certain how tax dollars elsewhere are spent. I have heard rumours that citizens of North Hatley, at $.94 per $100 evaluation, get every second Wednesday off to watch their municipal representatives partake in some good-natured bare-knuckle boxing with their confreres in Ste-Catherine-de-Hatley, but I've never been there and only have the possibly doctored YouTube evidence to go on.

Suttonites (or as they call themselves, "Sutts") supposedly get one free trampoline per household. Add that to the nearby ski hill and you understand why Sutton is the chiropractic capital of Canada.

Abercorn taxpayers don't know it but their tax dollars go straight to the Starve the Children Fund, which is an absolutely abhorrent organization. Someone should really let Abercorners know.

I could go on (Ogden = waffles) but my point is that newspapers need to report all the facts. After all, if you canŐt count on newspapers to serve up the absolute truth, what can you trust? Certainly not tuna, let me tell you.

Ross Murray's collection, You're Not Going to Eat That, Are You?, is available in Quebec in area book stores and through www.townships.ca. He can be reached at ross_murray@sympatico.ca.

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