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Canada Kelly McParland: Tory finally admits Toronto has to take care of itself

17:00  10 december  2019
17:00  10 december  2019 Source:   nationalpost.com

Your Toronto tax bill is likely going up, as Mayor John Tory backs city building fund boost

  Your Toronto tax bill is likely going up, as Mayor John Tory backs city building fund boost Toronto property tax bills will be going up in 2020 to help pay for public transit repairs and more affordable housing. Tory is backing a plan, revealed Wednesday, that would continue the property tax levy for six more years starting in 2020. The fund, which currently sits at 0.5 per cent, will also go up to 1.5 per cent in 2020 and 2021.In a news release, Tory's office said this will cost the average Toronto household some $43 a year.City council still has to approve the increase, but it's likely safe to start budgeting for the hike now as Tory usually controls the balance of power on council.

Toronto Mayor John Tory speaks to media at city hall on Nov. 26, 2019, announcing a new funding model for the Toronto Community Housing Corporation.Bryan Without it, “the city will start to strangle itself , on things like congestion, we won’t achieve our environmental objectives and people will not

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John Tory wearing a suit and tie: Toronto Mayor John Tory speaks to media at city hall on Nov. 26, 2019, announcing a new funding model for the Toronto Community Housing Corporation.© Bryan Passifiume/Toronto Sun Toronto Mayor John Tory speaks to media at city hall on Nov. 26, 2019, announcing a new funding model for the Toronto Community Housing Corporation.

John Tory did a sensible thing last week. Sensible and perhaps dishonest, and maybe hypocritical. Where you come down on that depends on how you feel about politicians who say one thing, then do the opposite.

In the Toronto mayor’s case, he was unquestionably reversing course on one of his most oft-repeated pledges, but for pragmatic and defensible reasons. Making the pledge in the first place was the flimflam: a bad promise made for base political gain by a man who is too intelligent not to have appreciated its flaws. Backtracking on it is nothing to applaud from the integrity point of view, but the end result is in the best interests of his city.

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As if to refute the reasonable notion that Toronto has established itself as the looney tune political capital of the country, if not the continent, the city has managed to put forward four credible alternatives to Rob Ford, who is seeking re-election as mayor.

They have outraged any number of constituencies that they needn’t have . They have turned tail on several proposed cuts, leaving the proposed targets no less outraged. Kelly McParland : Tory finally admits Toronto has to take care of itself .

What Tory did was to propose a significant tax increase . After winning office, and retaining it, on a vow to keep property taxes linked strictly to inflation, Tory said he plans to introduce a big hike in a “city-building levy” tied to those same taxes.

The levy is dedicated solely to transit and housing projects. It was to max out at 2.5 per cent in 2012, but under Tory’s new plan it will increase to 10.5 per cent by 2025. The increase will bring in billions of dollars the city needs for a transit system and public housing network that absolutely no one pretends isn’t desperate for cash.

“This funding, I assure you, is absolutely needed,” Tory said in explaining his about-face. Without it, “the city will start to strangle itself, on things like congestion, we won’t achieve our environmental objectives and people will not have (an) adequate, affordable place to live.”

Chris Selley: John Tory's property tax hike is necessary, overdue, and thoroughly disreputable

  Chris Selley: John Tory's property tax hike is necessary, overdue, and thoroughly disreputable On Tuesday, Toronto Mayor John Tory takes the biggest swing of his term in office. City councillors will be asked to approve a one per cent property tax levy in 2020 and 2021, in addition to an existing 0.5 per cent previously approved, and a new 1.5 per cent levy from 2022 to 2025. That’s in addition to regular annual property tax hikes, which under Tory have been kept at or below the rate of inflation — that being a central promise of both his successful election campaigns. The extra money, projected to be $6.6 billion, goes into the so-called City Building Fund, a ring-fenced account created in 2015 to fund transit, housing and other critical infrastructure needs.

Kelly McParland : Tory finally admits Toronto has to take care of itself . WatchJosephine Mathias: Another bogus study dumbs down 'racism'.

Kelly McParland : Tory finally admits Toronto has to take care of itself . WatchJosephine Mathias: Another bogus study dumbs down 'racism'.

Why it took him five years to figure this out — longer, really, given that Tory has lived his whole life in Toronto, where his family has been a fixture in the firmament of local power-brokers — is a valid question. He won the mayoralty after years in private business, notably as a top executive in the communications empire owned by family friend Ted Rogers, and with extensive experience in Ontario politics going back to his job as a top aide to premier Bill Davis. So it’s not like he’s clueless about finance or the needs of Canada’s biggest city.

In signing on to a low-tax agenda he continued a self-defeating tradition started by Mel Lastman, the showman politician and furniture hawker who became the first mayor following Toronto’s 1998 amalgamation by dangling a property-tax freeze in front of voters. No mayor since has had the nerve to venture far from that path. The result is a city starved for the funds it needs to pay for the services it operates. Toronto has the highest property values in the province, and among the highest in Canada, rivalled only by Vancouver. Yet homeowners pay among the lowest residential rates in the region. With a few minor exceptions, municipalities east, west and north along the lakefront bill more than Toronto does. People who can’t hope to afford Toronto housing prices find themselves able to pay higher property fees for the services they use — sometimes substantially more. Only Torontonians regularly insist they can’t possibly manage, despite demanding a larger array of services, of the sort big cities require.

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Toronto Mayor John Tory and wife Barbara Hackett celebrate his re-election in the Ontario municipal election in Toronto , on Oct. He had taken a lot of heat for refusing a one-on-one debate with the former planner, realizing it would elevate her to a higher status than other opponents and calculating

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To fill the gap, past administrations have resorted to service cutbacks, user fees, accounting tricks, pleas for help from higher levels of government, or innovative sleight-of-hand. Tory tried introducing road tolls, which would have slyly shifted costs to suburbanites commuting to work rather than actual city residents; premier Kathleen Wynne put the kibosh on that when she realized the damage it would do to Liberal prospects in the vote-rich belt around the city. David Miller, Lastman’s left-wing successor, introduced a land-transfer tax and vehicle registration charge, the latter so widely reviled it was swiftly repealed by mayor Rob Ford, in the early days before he went off the rails.

The argument against a straightforward property tax hike cites the presumed hardship on seniors and others who might own a home that has escalated dramatically in value while their income remains static. Sure they could sell for a big profit, but where do you move in a city where everything costs too much? It’s not much of an excuse: other communities manage it; policies can be crafted to allow for special cases; even healthy increases work out to just a few dollars a week; there are ways to monetize home values without having to sell; and studies have shown even a big increase would still leave Torontonians paying less than others.

Toronto has a much-delayed and desperately-needed transit plan to allay some of the ruinous gridlock that plagues its roads, and a separate proposal to expand and repair a community housing stock that is crumbling before its eyes. They’re hugely costly. Tory’s reversal is an acknowledgement it can’t do these things on the cheap, no matter how much fun it is to hobble its own revenue needs every few years with another pledge to keep taxes at unsustainable levels. The city has a legitimate complaint that an “archaic constitutional arrangement” limits its ability to raise revenue, and that it carries the can for a lot of regional needs. But you can’t demand more from others while keeping taxes much lower than theirs.

So kick him in the pants. Call him a liar. Somebody had to do it, and good on him for finally ending the charade.

• Twitter: KellyMcParland

Tory 'not going to change' approach as Toronto enters new decade .
Mayor John Tory's mollifying, middle-of-the-road approach to city-building — polarizing though it may be — led him to a political win to cap off 2019. But will it help him tackle the challenges of the decade ahead? On New Year's Day in 2019, Mayor John Tory made his priorities clear: Tackling the city's transit needs and boosting the supply of affordable housing."Our city is booming," he said in a social media address, "and I'm determined to continue that success.

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