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City to seek public input on transit expansion funding

The city’s executive committee has voted to hold public consultations on how to fund public transit expansion, but Mayor Rob Ford says he won’t support any new taxes.

The new proposed revenue sources, outlined in a document by city manager Joe Pennachetti, include a fuel tax, a vehicle tax, a parking levy, and development charges.

“The people of this city are taxed to death and they don’t want any more new taxes,” the mayor stressed Tuesday.

Ford maintains the financial burden shouldn’t be placed solely on Torontonians, but should be largely shouldered by all three levels of government, and the private sector.

Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday added that the consultation process would fail if members of the public were simply asked which tax they would prefer.

“I think the public probably doesn’t have an appetite for more taxes and I think if we go out and ask them what taxes they are going to like that’s probably going to be a waste of time,” Holyday said.

The public consultations, which are expected to begin in early 2013, will be promoted through social and traditional media.

The meetings have not yet been scheduled.

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong said he supports a referendum to see if taxpayers are willing to fork out more cash for transit.
“If you’re going to ask people about revenue tools, you have to be clear and specific about them and you have to ask the people who are actually going to pay for those taxes whether they’re prepared to pay for them,” he said.

Results from the consultations are expected in spring 2013, after which the executive committee would make its recommendations to Metrolinx.

In his report to the executive committee, city manager Joe Pennachetti cited Toronto Board of Trade figures that state traffic congestion represents a $6-billion burden on the local economy, which will grow to $15 billion a year by 2031 without any major transit expansion.

Toronto’s population is expected to grow by 2.8 million people in the next 25 years, another city report states.

The province is currently funding an $8.4-billion light-rail transit expansion across the city with lines on Eglinton, Finch Avenue West, Sheppard and the Scarborough RT conversion.

Work is also underway on the Spadina subway extension from Downsview station to Vaughan Centre and on an air-rail link between Pearson International airport and Union station.

Pennachetti’s report outlines various revenue streams, including:

  • One per cent personal income tax increase
  • One per cent sales tax
  • One per cent property tax hike
  • One per cent payroll tax
  • Highway tolls (10 cents/km)
  • 10-cent fuel tax
  • $100 vehicle tax
  • Parking levy
  • One per cent land transfer tax hike
  • Development charge ($5,000 per unit) for developers

Read the report

“No single option is perfect – even sales taxes, for example, can impact consumer and therefore business investment decisions, particularly near the taxation boundary. But it appears that a modest application of at least a few of these options would be sufficient to generate the funds required by Metrolinx, and any negative impacts would be more than offset by the benefits from additional transportation investment,” deputy city manager Cam Weldon said in his report in September on the funding issue.

Pennachetti said there will be a push for “wide scope” public involvement in the transit funding debate. He wants to see consultations to happen later this year and early next year and then report back to the executive committee in the spring.

He wants Toronto to nail down its transit funding future before the provincial transit agency Metrolinx reports to the province and municipalities on its $50-billion Big Move regional expansion plan in June.

With files from 680News.