Making somebody else pay
What is the easiest tax to sell to an electorate? A tax that benefits them, but is paid by somebody else.
In a phrase, that is why Toronto Mayor John Tory wants to tax 905 residents, and visitors to Toronto, with road tolls and a hotel tax. It is a bad idea, and I do not support it.
There is nothing wrong with the objective of building better transit. However, the people who benefit from riding transit must bear the bulk of the burden of paying for infrastructure renewal. That means Toronto residents. Were Toronto residents to pay property taxes at rates similar to what we in the 905 Belt pay (i.e. higher than Toronto), it is likely that Toronto’s housing market would not be as overheated as it is.
The City of Toronto, through the City of Toronto Act, has the ‘revenue tools,’ a euphemistic phrase which means the ability to levy taxes and fees, to do its job in raising revenue. To attempt to tax out-of-town residents is taxation without representation. You may hear some in Toronto say something like, “Yeah but you people from out-of-town come into Toronto and consume city services without paying for them, and then go home to your bedroom communities.”
The money that residents from outside Toronto spends on parking, lunch, shopping and entertainment in Toronto, while working in Toronto contributes to the upkeep, expansion and maintenence of Toronto infrastructure, from which residents from places like Mississauga will never benefit. As well, Mississauga is a ‘net-importer’ of labour. Some 50,000 more people per day now commute into Mississauga, largely from Toronto, than commute out of Mississauga. The consumption argument just doesn’t wash, because as many, or more, Toronto people cross the Etobicoke Creek to work in Mississauga than take the train to Union Station or stew in QEW and Gardiner traffic.
A Mississauga resident commuting to Toronto to work five days per week, fifty weeks per year would, if this measure is adopted, face as much as $1,000 in additional taxes to Toronto in return for no extra service.
Currently, the City of Toronto Act does not give Toronto the power to implement tolls on its roads. A regulation must be made by the Lieutenant Governor in Council under the City of Toronto Act. Additionally, the Act doesn’t currently permit the City to implement a hotel tax. Toronto is, therefore, asking another level of government to do its financial heavy lifting for it, through taxation without representation..
I oppose road tolls in general, with one proviso: show us the very improved transit that such tolls are purported to be paying for, and I am willing to talk. The City of Toronto has not proposed any way that residents of Peel, Halton, York and Durham Regions, or those coming from further out-of-town can realistically leave their cars at the edge of the city, and get where they are going in a rapid, efficient and effective public transportation network. We have to think of public transportation as a regional issue, and consider giving Metrolinx the regulatory authority to act region-wide. Until we can see and ride the transit that any proposed road tolls are supposed to pay for, I will speak against road tolls, and for the people of Mississauga, at Queen’s Park.
Where is the status of the road toll proposal?
- The initiative on road tolls rested with Toronto City Council. Toronto City Council made a decision, and a request to the Province to implement road tolls;
- Ontario rejected the concept of road tolls for the reasons above. In return, the Province doubled the amount of the gas tax on fuel sales that flows to cities, thus benefiting all cities. For example, in Mississauga, the current $16.6 million per year from the Ontario gas tax will double to more than $32 million in stages between 2017 and 2021.