McGuinty government bankrupting Wawa – by Christina Blizzard (Toronto Sun – October 12, 2012)

TORONTO – Wawa’s goose is cooked. The small town on Lake Superior is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, pushed to the edge by a provincial government that ignores and misunderstands the needs of rural and northern Ontario.

A series of decisions by the province has forced the town to cut services and even consider layoffs to police and other essential public sector workers.

Wawa’s main industries are forestry and mining. And before you city slickers roll your eyes and say it’s not your problem, consider this: Bay Street was built on forestry and mining. The TMX is the largest mining exchange in the world by number of listings.

The town’s woes started during the Mike Harris years. In 2000, the Harris government took power dam tax revenue from the municipal tax base and gave it to the provincial tax base.

This hit Wawa hard. It has seven dams with 16 generating stations within its municipal boundaries. That power dam taxation made up half its assessment – almost 45% of its tax income.

Realizing Wawa would go bankrupt, the province initiated a grant equivalent to the taxation income at the time – $2 million. They’ve only had a small, cost of living allowance since that time.

And the province is getting slower and slower in paying. The power companies paid their tax bill on time. The province drags its feet.

They were used to getting the money in April. This year, it didn’t come until September, after Mayor Linda Nowicki sent out a press release saying the town wouldn’t be paying OPP, its health board or the social services board as it had no money.

She estimates if the town got the money in April, it would have earned $35,000 in interest to help pay the bills.

Queen’s Park is Toronto-centric and doesn’t understand the rest of the province, she says. After Walkerton, the town was forced to build a new $12-million water treatment plant it didn’t need.

“The water going into our plant is better than the water coming out of other plants,” she said in a recent interview.

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