To the editor,
Tim Bousquet missed the point in his assessment of last week's mayoral candidates' forum organized by the Downtown Halifax Business Commission (Reality Bites, Oct. 9). Bousquet wrote: "In pursuit of their own narrow interests, a collection of downtown business people has framed the election in terms of the peninsula vs the suburbs."
This assessment plays up the stereotype of the evil downtown corporation vs the little guy. As the co-owner of a small independent retail shop downtown, I find that to be overly simplistic.
All 1,800 businesses in the downtown are members of the DHBC. This membership includes the corporate "suits" in the bank towers along with every small retail business at street level.
The idea that this is a "downtown vs the suburbs" battle is an unhelpful simplification. Every city uses downtown tax revenue for capital spending throughout the city. However, it also makes sense to use some of that revenue to make the downtown an appealing place to live and to visit. In this way, tax revenue continues to flow from a healthy, prosperous downtown out into surrounding areas.
Unfortunately, this is not happening in HRM, considering that close to 99 percent of taxes levied in the downtown are spent elsewhere. It was pointed out to the mayor that in the period between 2001 and 2006, the municipality spent a total of $1.4 million in the downtown. The one city that was presented as a comparison was Windsor, Ontario, which spent $100 million dollars in its downtown during the same period. When a question about this was posed to the mayoral candidates by a downtown small business owner, the "likable" mayor Peter Kelly responded in a surprisingly belligerent tone, which he maintained for the rest of the evening.
Downtown businesses are part of the community, not the bad guys, and all of Halifax will benefit when this is understood and supported.
By --Cathy Merriman