What Larry Hummel, vice-president of Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC), says about politicians and other high-profile people showing up on a secret list
"We're a municipal corporation. We get our funding from municipalities. We do an awful lot of business with the province and municipalities (and) politicians who have a great deal of say over our funding and sit on our board. We want to make sure that those values are fair and accurate and that there could be no perception that people are being favourably treated. That's a reasonable practice, I think, to ensure we have integrity in the product. It could be viewed that we're playing favourites, but we're not. This is undertaken by the different field offices. They may have added one or two high-profile individuals to the list who may have complained in the past."
What former MPAC property assessor Bill Henry says:
"I don't think it's a coincidence that they pick influential people. You wouldn't want someone with stature appealing their assessment, would you? It makes MPAC look bad. If your assessment's high, who cares? But if it's Hilary Weston or Mel Lastman, it'll be all over the front pages. Every field office across the province does the same thing. Municipalities are pretty upset with MPAC now because the system is crashing as we speak and they don't want councillors saying, 'Not only have you messed the whole assessment, you've messed up mine.'"
What an insider at MPAC's Toronto field office says:
"I suppose I would expect any organization to be careful when coming in contact with the media, but this does look to me like a case of favouritism. I know the inner workings of the company. I've been there a long time. It's ideologically driven. All these things go hand in hand with Reform or Conservative thinking in which there is one rule for rich and influential people and another for the rest of us. I don't think there'd be an axe to grind if things such as the day-to-day running of the place were being properly dealt with. We're expected to do more work and turn out a reasonable assessment at the end of the day, and then we see this crap. It doesn't make us feel very good."
What OPSEU president Leah Casselman, whose union represents MPAC workers, says:
"The practice of giving special treatment to influential politicians and celebrities who might complain about their property assessments is designed to mask the effects of downsizing at MPAC... to ensure that no politician ever has a personal experience with the level of service that regular taxpayers can expect."
Other high-profile people on MPAC's "fine tuning required" list:
Citytv anchor Gord Martineau
CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge
Former lt. governor Hilary Weston
TVO head Isabel Bassett
Business columnist Garth Turner
Police services board chair Norm Gardner
Urban activists Jane Jacobs and John Sewell
Former T.O. mayor Barbara Hall
United Way head Frances Lankin
Mayoral aspirant John Nunziata
All members of Toronto council
All Toronto-area Grit MPs