A Made in Ontario One Cent Solution

Later today, we can expect our friends in Ottawa to announce that indeed the GST will be reduced from six to five percent.  Once the dancing in the streets winds down, we need to focus attention on Queen’s Park.

The idea that one cent of the GST should be redirected to municipalities was first raised by Mayor Miller of Toronto and gradually attracted support from other “big city” mayors across the land.  Even outgoing Ontario Finance Minister Greg Sorbara endorsed the idea about a week ago.  Alas, Stephen Harper’s government wants nothing to do with this scheme.  That’s their prerogative.

However, if Queen’s Park were really serious about funding local governments, they would move into the space vacated by Ottawa and raise the PST by one percent.  This money would be dedicated to Ontario municipalities.

Of course, Dalton McGuinty would have to actually defend this position saying that cities and towns really need the money, and if that nasty Mr. Harper won’t give it to them, our Dalton will simply do the taxing at the provincial level.  It’s easy to blame Ottawa for problems, much harder to take action locally.

The marginal cost to Ontario taxpayers would be zero — one percent is one percent regardless of who collects it.  The cost to Queen’s Park would be zero because this would be new revenue simply passed through to local governments.

This approach would undermine the campaign to get Ottawa at the table for transit funding.  However, we will wait a very, very long time before a federal government of any stripe makes real commitments to transit that don’t come with severe time and eligibility constraints.  (Even the Liberals would only fund new hybrid buses and other projects that could be construed as a contribution to the Kyoto protocol goals.  Replacement and rebuilding to maintain what we already have wasn’t on the table.)

We really need to start funding transit infrastructure and operations with local provincial and municipal revenues.  Transit should not be hostage to Ottawa’s hatred for the municipal sector and for Toronto in particular.

Is anyone at Queen’s Park listening?

26 thoughts on “A Made in Ontario One Cent Solution

  1. Steve:

    An excellent idea!

    In fact a far better solution to municipal funding problems that the current solutions being implemented.

    But I doubt that anyone at Queen’s Park is listening.

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  2. PST and GST are structured differently, so your proposal would not be revenue neutral. While I would like to see the feds fund municipal infrastructure including transit from the GST the situation in Ottawa and Queen’s Park is completely different. Ottawa is looking at a potential $14.5 billion surplus this year, while the province is barely in the black with a slowing economy and significant demands on the budget, such as uploading services and various health care & education promises during the recent election campaign. Also given that during election campaign three weeks ago – increasing PST was not on the Liberal agenda it would be a rather stupid political move to enter territory supposedly vacated by the feds (which it isn’t since GST and PST are applied differently on a number of different items such as housing & machinery – which make up very significant parts of the provincial economy).

    That said the big city mayors and provincial Liberals should still keep the pressure on the feds to share the wealth… Queen’s Park doesn’t have a whole lot of wealth to share right now, but will have to do so anyway over the next couple of budgets following the Provincial-Municipal Fiscal & Service Delivery Review report. There is also a lot of provincial funding coming down the pipeline for capital improvements to transit systems.

    Rather then increasing the PST another idea at the provincial level would be to increase the amount of the existing gas tax that is funneled to municipalities or perhaps consider increasing the gas tax in the context of it being a sin tax to encourage people to drive/pollute less.

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  3. This is a possibility, but I predict our friends at Queens Park would do this in a fashion to avoid the blame.

    Much like they did in the City of Toronto Act, they will give every city council the option to individually raise the PST within their respective boundaries, and receive the windfall of each new cent collected there.

    Unfortunately, this seems the only way the Province could pull it off, and I can imagine many city councils will take to the idea (albeit it might take one brave city to get the domino effect going.)

    Steve: I suspect that this would run aground on the machinery needed to collect the tax at different rates in various municipalities. All or nothing is much simpler.

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  4. Steve

    I believe there are two reasons for the emphasis on the GST. After all, direct responsibility for municipalities is accorded to the province, since they have no separate status, and ordinarily it should be for the province to provide funding sources for the cities.

    However, 1 percent of GST is not the same as 1 percent of Ontario PST, since PST is not levied on services and there are other exemptions, so the “take” from PST would be lower than from GST. A service heavy city like Toronto would especially benefit from 1pc of GST if it was distributed based on where it was collected.

    The other reason as I see it is that Toronto and the FCM have tried to make this a national issue, and Edmonton and Calgary have no PST to claim since Alberta abolished theirs.

    Steve: I understand and sympathize with the desire for this to be a national issue. However, we can wait forever for a national transit strategy, or we can get on with funding and building what we need in Ontario.

    Our friends in Alberta have no qualms about raising all sorts of local revenue from oil royalties and spending this on projects within their province. Ontario needs to raise funds locally too, and if the feds are getting out of the way by lowering the GST, so much the better.

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  5. When ever a politician says they want to spend more time with their family, something is up.

    Why did he quit? He got his subway and does not want to see the pain it will cause?

    Steve: Now that Sorbara is gone, does the GTTA have the freedom to change the priority of this line? Don’t hold your breath!

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  6. Both the federal and the provincial governments are awash in OUR cash, while municipalities are feeling squeezed.

    So, if the provincial government were to increase the PST by 1% to give to the municipalities, I challenge them to actually give 2% to the municipalities!

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  7. You do know that the Conservatives are setting a trap for Ontario’s Liberals. Assuming the Liberals do go through with this, this basically sets up a lot of ammunition from the conservative caps saying that the Liberals are taking everything but the kitchen sink away while the Conservatives giveth. Flaherty has already proposed this before and the Liberals did not bite that time.

    If he does this time, it will be a political disaster for McGuinty. He was already blasted at one point for the Health Care Premium that he introduced which I believe is a complete ripoff considering that it is not progressive and people who earn less have to pay a higher percentage.

    And also consider this about tax cuts: whatever tax cuts are granted to the populace, they are loathe to give them back in any sort of fashion. So if McGuinty does go this route, he has to make sure that he has some super strength sunblock ready as he is most likely going to get roasted. Or raked over the coals. Or whatever. Very few may justify any tax increase that the Liberals put in, but surprisingly (and to my disgust) they got reelected. The only reason why the Conservatives lost the provincial election is because of their own missteps. Had they not run on the religious schools issue, I’m pretty sure that Tory would have been elected. This (like the last time the GST was cut) plays into the hands of the Federal Conservatives who would rather see a conservative government in Ontario rather than McGuinty and his Fiberals. Which is why I expect the Fiberals to do nothing.

    Toronto really needs to quit the whining about lack of cash. I read in an article in the Toronto Sun which a councillor identified ways of closing the ENTIRE $400 million shortfall with several easy cuts. I’m just flabbergasted that Toronto is still whining about its financial situation, even if they got the land transfer tax and vehicle registration tax approved.

    Check and Mate in favour of Flaherty. In only one move.

    Steve: If McGuinty had done a better job of arguing for better municipal funding from the feds, he would be on strong ground to take up Ottawa’s tax savings.

    Toronto is not whining — we, and many other cities, have been screwed for years by other governments dumping costs of their programs on us. The Tory program as seen first with Harris at Queen’s Park and now Harper in Ottawa is to slash taxes and spending to hamstring governments’ ability to provide services. Pushing costs down to the municipal level eats up municipal tax headroom and forces City Council to take the heat for raising taxes to compensate.

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  8. I think it is good if the federal goverment simply cuts GST, and it is also good if the provincial goverment fills the space and raises its PST. Moreover, I would welcome a similar shift in the income tax rates that redirects some money from the federal to provincial goverment at a nearly-zero net result for the provincial taxpayer.

    There are two advantages in that:

    1) Different provinces have different needs and resources. Some need more public transit funding (all transit capital-intensive cities in Canada are located in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, and BC). Others might prefer to invest in the rural infrastructure, yet others simply need lower taxes.

    2) The involvement of federal goverment, alongside with the province and the municipality, in the local transit project causes triplication of the evaluation work and wasted time. Two levels of goverment, with appropriate financial resources, can handle those tasks faster and more efficiently. The federal goverment has to play a role in the national and inter-regional transit infrastructure (railroads, airports, water ways) but not in the municipal one.

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  9. Dancing in the streets? That’s the funny thing — I never found the first GST cut really lived up to its hype. Maybe I just don’t shop enough.

    As for reclaiming the tax room via the PST and funnelling it to cities, I’d love to see it happen. But I think the opposition at Queen’s Park would call it raising taxes — and although the Liberals won the last election in spite of the “promise-breaker” label, it’d be political suicide for them to get stuck with it again. Too bad they didn’t anticipate federal tax cuts in their platform.

    I agree local sales taxes add complexity, but it is done elsewhere. E.g. in Seattle, sales tax is 6.5% state + 1.2% transit + 1.1% other local government.

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  10. Although I agree with you Steve, there’s no way Queen’s Park would do this anytime soon. The Liberals just won the election and promised no new or increased taxes during the campaign. Frankly, I find it hard to believe that they would break the same promise in two consecutive terms. Our only hope is that they come around to the idea in time for the next election, but I won’t hold my breath.

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  11. Bear in mind that, following the previous election’s litany of broken promises and tax increases, Pinocchio has specifically said this time that there will be no new taxes, none. Want to bet that he’ll break that promise? Not if he wants to maintain the one shred of credibility he may still have.

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  12. Taxing as close to where money is spent, ie. municipally, is far better than further afield, ie. federally and then transferred locally. The provinces now have more flexibility to tax as they deem fit, perhaps a 1% PST hike, which would be especially simple in GST/PST tax harmonised provinces or perhaps a carbon tax as is likely in British Columbia. Ontario would be at an advantage because a 1% tax raised would be greater than that netted through a transfer program which would likely be distributed based on population. The gas tax, for example, was distributed among communities based on population and not as originally hoped just for urban centres.

    Why does Ontario think that the federal government should be so intimately involved with cities? Cities are children of the provinces and Toronto is best understood by Queens Park, not Ottawa. Really, does one think that mayors of Montreal, Quebec and Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta would be better looking to their provincial governments or federal governments? Broncomier of Calgary aims his talons at the Alberta premier and the GVTA complain to Victoria and look for a solution there. The people in these provinces know that their governments have the power to change their cities and demand they use it. Look at the provincial gas taxes in the GVTA and even in the cities of Alberta. Those taxes go a long way to funding transit in those western cities.

    People calling for more federal programs just do not understand the new dynamics of the confederation. People in Quebec and the three most western provinces do not want more federally funded programs that their provinces can do and are within the provincial mandates. Ontario needs to be ready to act, as it has done by creating the GTTA, and ponder innovative taxes to make the institution work. Maybe a carbon tax should be considered for the GTTA.

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  13. Taxes are now officially defined as toxic, Steve, thanks to 25 years of neocon propaganda eagerly disseminated by corporate news media. Most people react to proposals to increase taxes as they would to a proposal to drink the kool-aid. We saw this in the response to the new taxes in Toronto. The idea behind the propaganda is to hamstring government, and it has worked. “A few easy cuts” now will cut another hamstring.

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  14. Matt said, “although the Liberals won the last election in spite of the “promise-breaker” label, it’d be political suicide for them to get stuck with it again.”

    I highly doubt that, for several reasons. First, like the health tax, it would be early after an election, giving the outrage plenty of time to lose steam.

    Secondly, Ontario has an unofficial tradition of electing “opposite-polarity” governments at Queen’s Park and Ottawa. Only when something gets Ontario voters really riled up, do they flip one, which often results in the other getting flipped in the next election, occasionally with minority governments. There are specific examples of where this is not true, but on average over the last century, this has been true. Giving the Ontario Liberals the first back-to-back majority in 70 years, plus some nice tax cuts from the Tories in Ottawa is a recipe for a Tory majority in the next election, and an even stronger one at the expense of the party who pulls the election switch within six months of the Ontario election. A strong Tory majority in Ottawa only helps McGuinty’s chances next time.

    As much as I wouldn’t want an increase in the PST, I say raise it 1% and give 2% to municipalities. Do it now, and there will be little, if any, political price to pay for it.

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  15. RE: Spadina Line Extension to York.

    Let’s hope Flaherty skewers this line from going to York Region. Or Anything. I don’t ever want to see a subway line go to a place where it will never see any use.

    Carbon taxes for the GTTA? Possible. That means that any car driving person should be taxed for driving their car. Of course that means me as well as I too have to drive to my work, and I would totally understand this surcharge. Which is why I’m not so upset at the vehicle registration tax as much as I am the Land Transfer Tax (and even with the revised formula does not apply to me, but that’s beside the point).

    One better idea is for the Ministry of transportation tack on a “environment and congestion surcharge” for every vehicle registration then earmark all that money for local transit. And maybe additional charges depending on the environmental friendliness of each vehicle (gas guzzling SUVs, watch out)

    See? Even a right-winger can come up with a relatively harmless way to raise funds for transit. But be warned, there are a lot of obstacles for this, most right-wingers say it is someone’s choice to be driving that gas guzzling SUV and that they shouldn’t be punished for their freedom of choice of automobile (a stance taken long by the Toronto Sun).

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  16. We are becoming more and more like the United States. Why are they cutting taxes when that money is badly needed for health care, transit, and infrastructure?

    We were so progressive back in the 60s/70s, and look at us now. What happened?

    Steve: “Progressive Conservative”, “Reform”, “Conservative”. (I won’t say anything about the “Canadian Reform Alliance Party” whose short-lived name said all that needed to be said.)

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  17. John Ralston Saul spoke at Citizens for Local Democracy about the Harris government – and I paraphrase from memory. (I hope I do him justice.) Neocon governments, according to JRS, cannot weather the storm that would arise if they eviscerated the welfare state by fiat. A neocon government, even with a majority, cannot simply “eliminate” welfare, social housing or socially beneficial education (ESL). However, by ensuring that these programmes do not have enough funding, and progressively less so, they can, over time, achieve their (evil – my word) objectives.

    This is me speaking now. The Harris Governmement did this by downloading onto the municipal property tax base – which JRS pointed out cannot possible sustain these programmes over time. The Harper government simply steadfastly refuses to recognise the necessity of any new or increased socially progressive programme and cuts taxes to prevent future (enlightened) governments from doing so.

    In Ontario we have two opportunities. First, harmonise the PST with the GST. This will increase revenues dramatically, because as other posters have pointed out, the GST has a larger base. Second, increase the new HST back to 15% (so I can work out the tax in my head again) and increase revenue even more. The impact – for an overall tax paid by any individual or family – would be nominal. The increase in revenue would be large enough to tackle the social and transportation issues that remain completely unmet in Ontario today.

    Government revenue is not inherently evil. Apart from the “city infrastructure” needs that are so dear to readers of this web site, there are other unmet needs for Ontarians. Funding to provide a life for autistic children (and no I don’t personally know any – I am not a self interest person) springs to mind. Our less progressive federal government wants to have a war on drugs (put poor people in jail). Our provincial government lacks the funds to properly run drug cessation programmes for addicts who want help. Dowloading (with the exception of removing shared GTA responsibility from the 905) has not been addressed.

    There are many ways (many more than suggested above) that increased provincial revenue can make this a better province and a better society. And near and dear to my personal heart, it could lead to proper transit funding in the GTA – both for infrastructure and maintenance improvements as well as proper operating funding.

    To anyone who wants to call me a “tax and spend liberal” I reply – I care – do you.

    Steve: I too come from the “T&S Liberal” camp, and am proud of it. “Tax” is not a dirty word, and it’s always amazed me how the various corporate handouts from governments are always styled as “investments in the future”. The future is in our cities, and it’s time to invest in them too.

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  18. Stephen Cheung: Here you go again with your hypocrisies and inconsistencies. First you whine and bitch about how you’re against charging for parking at Transit stations, GO or TTC, and now you are in FAVOUR of the concept of a carbon tax or surcharge? To top it off, you don’t take public transportation, and you DRIVE? Get real. Why are you on this board anyway if you are pro-car, and not a public transit user like most of us are? Why does Steve allow your posts to be here in the first place?

    Steve replies: I let Stephen Cheung’s posts through because they offer a different and often well-argued alternative point of view. We don’t always agree, or there may be overlaps in our views, but I don’t want to cut off valid debate.

    The problems of the GTA concern transportation, not just transit. Indeed, if we don’t address the reasons why people like Stephen drive in the first place, all of the talk about transit improvements is just preaching to the converted.

    Where the debate gets really “vigourous” is in the question of how things should be funded and the degree to which the public or private sectors should play a role.

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  19. Isn’t the current Conserative government taxing and spending at this very moment? The tax cuts to me is the same thing, but with no benefits to the country. I will go on record that Harper’s “Blue Tories” didn’t earn my vote for the simple fact tax cuts should not be implemented while we are on a national deficit of this mangatude. (The amount slips my mind) The 13 billion dollar debt payment resulted in an interest saving of 750 million dollars in which the Conseratives threw into a tax cut, but not recycled into the debt payment. If they were serious about eliminating the debt we would not see reductions in the G.S.T. or any cuts in income tax. The debt could be eliminated quickly and the money saved could be a “wet dream” for the left to the right on the political spectrum as we could throw tax cuts down, and pay for all the goodies the cities and provinces need. But I would not do the tax cuts, I would create a real national transit strategy and other worthwhile programs.

    Since the Feds has their heads in places other then their shoulders, the provinces, I feel, should harmonize the G.S.T. and P.S.T. and make an H.S.T. with the taxing being five percent federal, eight percent proviencial, and two percent muncipal. We could do some serious city building with that money and finace our downloaded programs, while in the same token fund new progams.

    I would like to see a carbon tax implemented on vehicles based on class. Factors would include, Size of car/truck, fuel type, fuel consumed per 100 km, value of vehicle, age of vehicle, and amout of electricty used by vehicle outside of running the car itself. So an electric smartcar, with no add ons would pay say $10 a year, While an SUV with flashing neon lights, awesome sound system, playstations and TVs in the car, NOS, and a fridge (I saw one of these in Richmond Hill a few weeks ago!) would pay $1300 a year. Failure to report these add ons would be a five thousand dollar fine, licence suspension, and impoundment of the vehicle.

    This got off topic a little bit but were never going to get anywhere without the powers to do so. Hey Stephen we should run for the head of the Ontario P.C. party!

    Steve: Somehow, I think that being the head of the Ontario Tories right now is not exactly a position of power.

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  20. Most of us would not care about taxes if the money gathered was spent wisely. As a Conservative, we have very narrow expectations on how the money is to be used. If tax money is to be earmarked for transit, let it be so as long as money is not “wasted”. And as a conservative, we have very wide definitions on how money is “wasted”. When we hear of such things as Councillors giving themselves raises and using Perks, insane increases in union contracts (while seeing some union workers devote less effort to their work as a result), and monies exchanged as a result of corruption, we call that waste. As a member of the taxpaying public and as a conservative, I have an expectation that any monies gained through taxes must be spent wisely. When we hear of these issues of monetary waste, we wonder why we are paying these taxes in the first place.

    Honestly, I don’t have a real problem with new taxes if it is proven that the City has its belt tightened to a size 0 waist. But they haven’t, the “waste” is still out there so that is why we throw up our hands and wonder what the heck is going on and why are we paying more for less.

    This is from the perspective of a fiscal conservative. I know that some of the comments can be derived as “union bashing”, but you have to see the perspective from the other side of the fence.

    Steve: Please see my remarks about the word “reasonable” in a previous comment. Here, the words “wisely” and “waste” occupy a similar position.

    What is “wise” spending depends a lot on your point of view and on the information fed into any underlying analysis. For example, perks (not “Perks” — he is a Councillor) get described in the press by bundling together different types of “spending” including:

    Allowances for office expenses used to support constituency activities. The same sort of allowances exist at Queen’s Park and in Ottawa, and these are essential to a politician’s ability to do their job. The money doesn’t just wind up in their pockets.
    Freebies like transit passes that may have a monetary value to the organization providing them. Take the case of Councillor Perks. He is a regular TTC rider and used to buy Metropasses. Now he gets one free, and that is a net loss of revenue to the TTC. However, Gord Perks is in the minority on Council in this regard as most others don’t use the TTC and their pass does not represent any lost revenue.
    Freebies that probably have no monetary value. The one that comes to mind here is use of municipal golf courses. Unless the courses are stacked up with would-be players, and Council members are costing them revenue by booking tee-off times that could be sold to paying customers, there is no net cost to the City for this privilege.
    Free tickets to events. These are provided by outside agencies at no cost to the City, and acceptance of them gets you into trouble with conflict of interest guidelines. See discussion of “corruption” below.

    I challenge anyone to find even one percent of the $250-million shortfall in the projected budget in this area in real spending by the City or its agencies that could be reduced by elimination of the so-called “perks”.

    Insane increases in union contracts? Let’s see: the most recent reported increase was for the firefighters, and the amounts were annual bumps of 3 to 3.5 percent. A big reason for these increases is to keep them in line with other municipalities in the GTA where those spendthrift Tories and Liberals in the burbs obviously have runaway spending problems.

    Doing less work? The TTC has been required by Provincial legislation to make a number of changes in work rules to limit the hours than an operator can drive without a break and the amount of time they can work in a day. These rules arise from concerns both about worker exploitation with long hours and also for safety in the transportation sector. They were not implemented by City Council.

    Corruption is a nasty word, and it cannot be thrown around as a catch-all excuse to claim that the City is wasting money. The recent scandal in that regard arose under the Lastman regime, that saintly mayor and his cronies on Council and in senior City management positions. Very little was proven, none in a criminal setting, although the smell surrounding many events was quite distasteful. Justice Bellamy’s report made interesting reading. How this applies to the present Council I don’t know.

    I could make an analogy given the current Globe & Mail coverage of a former Tory Prime Minister whose financial dealings are the subject of some concern. Does this make Stephen Harper and his crew a bunch of crooks? Of course not. I would love to see Harper brought down by a corruption scandal given that the Liberal’s inability to keep greed in check brought Harper to power in the first place. However, I’m not going to use Mulroney, whatever his failings, to smear the current government any more than I will let Stephen Cheung get away with using Lastman’s follies to trash David Miller.

    It’s easy, but very sloppy journalism, to publish a list of claims that the City wastes money everywhere, but quite another to substantiate those claims.

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  21. Hi Steve:-

    As I heard about the GST 1% cut, I thought of US cities who have had taxing powers and had a municipal sales tax as well as a State sales tax. Since the City of Toronto now has powers to inflict more taxes, maybe Mayor Miller’s plan could evolve into us collecting here for us. This should be implemented only if surrounding municipalities also worked to collect revenue in the same way and at the same rate, thereby allowing each to not have to worry about fleeing cross border purchasers. Win, win?

    Dennis

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  22. True, but at least being head of the P.C. party I can stick my tongue out at the 407 expansion to hwy. 35/115 and create talk about real solutions. It’s about getting your message out to the media, and being a political celebrity helps a great deal for our cause for great effective transit.

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  23. The articles in the Star about Toronto’s low development charges compared to the rest of the GTA was an eye opener – how many million more would Trump have to pay for his Tower if he was paying even the Oshawa rate?

    This is what I have suspected for some time, that Toronto developers are not paying their share for the additional impact their new residents have on and consequent construction of expansions to roads, sewers, community facilities… and transit. Instead they throw a half million or a million to a park or some other pet cause of the councillor and that’s enough to square variances at the Community Council.

    Here are the articles – unfortunately I can’t find the accompanying graphic comparing charges in various GTA cities:
    http://www.thestar.com/article/271713
    http://www.thestar.com/article/272094

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  24. Oy. This is now getting really personal.

    Eric Chow: Your Comments I find are the most insulting, and a personal attack on myself. But instead of throwing insults back at you, I will deconstruct your argument and attempt to “Clarify” any “Concerns” you may have.

    Eric Chow writes: “First you whine and bitch about how you’re against charging for parking at Transit stations, GO or TTC, and now you are in FAVOUR of the concept of a carbon tax or surcharge?”

    These are not the same thing. Charging for parking at GO or TTC stations only affects those who use this service. Meanwhile, a carbon tax or surcharge (charged at the provincial level) will affect all car drivers, it does not matter if they drive to a GO or TTC station or not.

    The intention here is that the first point penalizes GO and TTC drivers who park at their stations. If they do get penalized for doing what is environmentally correct, then their alternative is to DRIVE to work. The second point affects everyone, in which they have NO alternative. What would you prefer?

    Eric Chow Writes: “To top it off, you don’t take public transportation, and you DRIVE? Get real. Why are you on this board anyway if you are pro-car, and not a public transit user like most of us are? Why does Steve allow your posts to be here in the first place?”

    Allow me to clarify my “situation”. I USED to commute via TTC to my job in downtown Toronto. I left that job for a position located near the Brampton-Vaughan border. Getting to that area is quite inconvenient via TTC, or Mississauga/Brampton Transit. I presently live near Burnhamthorpe and 427. It takes me less than 20 minutes to drive via the 427 (against rush hour traffic) to my job. Likewise, for me to take public transportation, it would take me over an hour and a half. If there was a subway that could take me to my workplace within a reasonable amount of time, I would take it. But the fact remains is that there isn’t and taking my car is the most convenient way for me to get to work.

    Why am I still here? I’ve lived in Toronto for a good portion of my adult life, most of it without a car. Back then, the TTC was an important aspect of my life. Yes, it has a given me a decent impression of getting around in this big city, and thus, I will always have a place for it. This is why I have a vested interest in seeing the transit network work for the future. I may have different opinions than most people, but we all have a common goal. Can a car driver like myself express an interest in the TTC? If you say no, then I will leave. I will not allow such personal attacks on my character. Plain and simple.

    James Bow: I will say that the article does provide some good points, and admittedly, I offered up mention of the article to see if anyone can counter it. I won’t debate the points offered up in the article here as this is for another venue and is outside this debate. Also, my position on city spending is known on this board. Look up my previous posts.

    Steve Munro: Three points,

    1) I don’t know why Eric Chow’s comment was published with his level of negativity in its tone, especially since he appears to target only myself. Again, I appreciate the defence.

    2) I was using “Corruption” as a general word to identify a form of monetary waste in government, mostly payouts to parties within a conflict of interest scenario. I was never implying that Miller’s regime was corrupt, only that their spending needs to be checked. I have to ask though, why is Rob Ford being lambasted in Toronto Council for NOT using any cent of his office expenses budget? If anything, concil should be following his lead instead of alienating him (some councillors have used language suggesting Mr. Ford is corrupt instead).

    3) “Doing Less Work” and “Insane Union contract increases”. Again, this was not targeted at the TTC, but at other unions, specifically the outside workers union (anyone remember the strike before the Pope was to come to Toronto?). I have had bad experiences with these people which I will not get into here. As for the firefighters contract, the concern is that the contract was not debated in council at a public forum, only voted on behind closed doors with little or no public input.

    Now, it seems that my presence here appears to attract a lot of anger from people on this site, especially from Mr. Chow. If you feel that a right-wing opinion is contrary to the spirit of this board, then say so and I will leave. I came here for a debate and to express my views from the other side of the political fence, I did not come here to be wilfully insulted in front of everyone.

    Steve: Please note that this will be the end of this discussion. I published Eric Chow’s comment because I wanted to rebut it rather than just having it disappear, but that’s the end of it.

    With respect to “corruption”: This is a very sensitive word, and although people may throw it around cavalierly, it has a specific meaning imputing illegal behaviour. If someone says a Councillor is “corrupt”, this is a serious, actionable allegation.

    The situation with Councillor Ford, as I understand it, is that he portrays himself as a low/no-spender when he has access, through personnal channels, to services that are not available to other Councillors. This is not corruption. The amount he chooses to spend, either of City money or his own, on constituency matters is his own business. However, the fact that he spends so little is not necessarily an indication of the level of service people in other parts of the city want or deserve. You may think him a paragon, I don’t, and we will just disagree on that.

    I have heard stories myself about the Outside Workers that are none too savoury, and they need attention by the City. However, there are many other workers in the municipal sector, broadly speaking, and they should not all be tarred with whatever problems may exist with one local.

    All contract settlements are discussed in private because they are personnel matters and they are not subject to public deputations. I would hate to imagine the grandstanding that would occur if this were a public debate both by the politicians and by the audience. This is a matter of Provincial legislation and I woudn’t expect to see any changes here.

    We elect Councils to manage City affairs on our behalf. We may not like their decisions, but we have to live with them including those affecting taxation and spending.

    Strangely, nobody seems to be suggesting that the 905 municipalities, with their tax levels and rates of increase much higher than Toronto, are doing a bad job of managing their affairs. The bias against Toronto is strongly coloured by the political and social views of those now in power who provide an embarrassing contrast to other jurisdictions. It was the same in the old City of Toronto, always a thorn in Queen’s Park’s side, and for their troubles, they were amalgamated out of existence.

    I, too, am “conservative” in the sense I believe that money should be spent wisely, to use an earlier word from Stephen Cheung, because money that’s wasted isn’t available to fund the sort of projects and programs I believe we need in Toronto. However, when I make proposals, people expect me to establish my financial claims in detail, not to make wild claims about the hundreds of millions there for the taking if only people would see the light.

    I am now going to close this item and will only deal with comments still in the pipeline.

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