Sunday, April 09, 2006

A Whack at MPAC

We've known for years that there was something seriously flawed about the property assessment system in Ontario.

We have complained often about a bureaucracy that was heavy-handed and adversarial and just plain unfair to taxpayers -- here in Ottawa and across the province.

But until yesterday even we didn't realize just how screwed up the system is and how badly it needs not just a tune up but a complete overhaul.

Appealing a property assessment in Ontario is a "David versus Goliath" battle against a byzantine, self-important Crown corporation that's been thwarting frustrated taxpayers for years, says the province's ombudsman.

Andre Marin's scathing report on the Municipal Property Assessment Corp. describes the property assessor as an elitist operation with a "superiority complex" and "questionable practices" that result in thousands of incorrect evaluations each year.

Wow. And we thought that we'd been tough on these guys.

The key part of the problem is that it's almost impossible to win a case against these assessment police, who have a bank of data to back them up and seem to consider property owners as adversaries to be defeated at any cost.

Disagree with them at your peril but then the onus will be on you to prove them wrong. And do it before a deadline that they set or you're out of luck.

"This is not a match-up, it's a slaughter -- and it's happening in tens of thousands of cases every year," Marin said in releasing his report.

He got the attention of Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, who is promising taxpayers an immediate extension in this year's appeal process and demanding MPAC develop an agenda to reform the system.

But that's the easy part. Dealing with a Crown agency that has been used to getting its own way for so many years is going to require the government to stand its ground and demand fairness for taxpayers. This is not a time for vague promises.

Marin has shown us where the system is broken. Let's fix it.

And another thing ...

Pamela Anderson is the latest in a string of celebrities wishing to meet with PM Stephen Harper to discuss the seal hunt.

While it may be a more tempting offer than a tete-a-tete with Brigitte Bardot or Paul McCartney and his wife, we doubt even Pammie will break through Harper's no-celebrity policy.


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