Urban Defender

Urban Defender: Mayor pushes for tax share to ease funding gap

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Mayor pushes for tax share to ease funding gap

City's budget gap tabbed at $1.1B
Economic group's study says city's situation unsustainable

Toronto Star

Well Mayor Miller should be congratulated once again on commissioning a study, done by the Conference Board of Canada, that lays out just how bad things are for the City that underwrites the Province of Ontario, and gives a significant helping hand to Canada but cannot finance its own infrastructure, schools, housing and transit. But is pitching for a cut of the sales tax, the income tax or asking for uploading (giving the Province back our bills for housing and welfare, for example) the answer? Miller states in the Toronto Star article that he does not want to add to the tax burden of his citizens, just reorganize the way the pie is shared. And that is not necessarily a bad thing at all but if there are real costs that are going unmet and there are, is a slice (that is by the way no where on offer) of the sales or income tax pie going to meet it?

At the very least Toronto needs to change the argument and expand the range of ideas for fairly generating revenue, including reason debt financing for infrastructure programs. And as observed here before is a tax committed to the City that its own politicians are not directly responsible for a good idea? So if we are to get a slice of the sales tax or the income tax would it not be better for if it was a Toronto tax controlled by Toronto’s elected officials?

And why are we afraid of road tolls! By themselves they will not solve the fiscal mess but a small and dedicated road toll for transit would be a good idea to implement as soon as the (when is it coming exactly) the new City of Toronto Act permits it. Why not chare drives $2.00 every time they take the Gardiner Expressway or the Don Valley Parkway? At least a rush hour for a start. There would be creaming and predictions of doom but people will pay and the City will reap the rewards.

And as far as funding the City’s needs let’s task our leaders and the Mayor with coming up with ways to get a fair deal and accountable deal for Toronto that matches revenue generation with real costs and gives the political level responsible for those costs both the power to levy the revenues and the ensures they are accountable for it. So yes if the Province sees the wisdom (and there is wisdom in it) of giving Toronto a piece of the sales tax and the income tax, let’s make sure the City Council has the wherewithal and responsibility to set the rate for their portion of such a tax.

And as far as uploading costs back to the Province, do we really want to give up power for decision-making on some files, which would be the price of such a move, or do we accept that downloading had some upsides (such as local control of public housing that permitted the Regent Park Revitalization to move forward) as long as it is (at long last) accompanied by the appropriate power to raise the revenues need to support the programs that are now in the City’s domain.

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