Delegation to City Council on Proposed Budget

Nov 15, 2023

Good evening Mayor Guthrie, Councillors, and staff,

My name is Shakiba Shayani, CEO of the Guelph Chamber of Commerce.

I wish to extend my thanks to all of you for your hard work to date and your leadership in difficult circumstances.

 I am here to represent a business perspective, not on any particular line item, but on the budget deliberations as a whole.

Businesses are part of this community; indeed, they are an essential part of this community.

These are challenging times – for our community, including businesses.

Our businesses are navigating many local and global challenges:

  • Ongoing challenges for main street businesses exacerbated by the acute challenge of mental health and addiction most visibly manifesting in the downtown core,
  • Continued high rates of inflation and the escalating cost of goods,
  • Labour challenges exacerbated by the housing crisis, and
  • of course, the worrying economic slowdown now experienced in many sectors of the economy.

I must admit that I struggled to figure out what the right delegation should be today.  I have many concerns – most of which I’m sure you can anticipate. 

I’m concerned that the size of the proposed tax increase will hurt businesses, families, and our community. I’m particularly worried of the impact on people and businesses already on the margins.

I’m concerned that this tax increase is presented in a way in which I, nor anyone else, can really understand the analysis, rationale or alternative options – that this proposed increase is simply a numbers game without any decision-making framework or easily understood long-term strategy around which these considerations can make sense.

I’m concerned that this significant proposed tax increase is not a solution but only the latest instalment in an ongoing series of tax increases that – at least in the way it’s being presented – aren’t about future proofing this community, but rather an effort to simply tread water.

For example, one of the City’s strategic priorities is dedicated to the Environment: to be a leader in climate action; and, to empower the community to help create a sustainable city. I cannot determine from this budget what resources are applied to this priority, nor the efficacy of those resources, nor whether those resources could be applied to other priorities, nor whether we might pursue this priority through other means (such as federal or provincial grants). The same is true for all of the priorities identified in your strategic plan.

Last year I delegated with similar concerns, stating, and I quote:

While we appreciate that the 2023 Budget’s tax raise of 4.96% is lower than the anticipated 5.17%, we are worried about how the trajectory of Guelph’s increasing fee and tax rates continues to risk our competitive advantage.

I don’t want to come back next year, and the year after that with the same lament about the unsustainable levels of taxation.

So, my message to you today is simple – I want to work in earnest on breaking this seemingly inevitable and unending tax increase cycle that merely allows us to tread water.

This is a critical imperative – we have unprecedented challenges.  Challenges that we cannot expect to solve by – in the wise words of Albert Einstein – “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Like always – I and the Chamber network are committed to building a community that values and creates shared and sustainable prosperity.

We are your partner and an enduring essential part of this community.