Speaking up on taxes

Cross-posted from Eye Daily.

Eight prominent developers — the kind of professionals who worry about how the land transfer tax (LLT) will affect their industry — wrote a letter to Mayor David Miller expressing support for the “revenue tool,” which was recently modified to address the concerns of those still on the fence as to whether or not to vote for it. If you missed it, Miller’s compromise on the LLT includes:

-a full rebate on the city’s LLT for all first-time home buyers for homes $400,000 or less.
-for home purchases made by non-first-time home buyers, a 0.05% tax on properties less than $55,000; 1% on properties between $55,000 and $400,000; and 2% on homes priced over $400,000 (amounts adjusted for inflation).

“The letter should help Miller convince reluctant councillors to endorse his plan at Monday’s council meeting,” writes Jim Byers of the Toronto Star. “Even Miller’s most vocal opponents now say it appears the mayor has the votes to get council to approve both a land transfer tax and a vehicle registry tax at Monday’s session.”

Phew! I’ve got to say, I was really happy to read this (without the new taxes, I believe we’re in for drastic cutbacks that will affect the community services that our vulnerable citizens depend on the most, not to mention the city’s climate change initiatives, which are needed now more than ever).

But then I read this:

“As the clock ticks closer to next week’s vote at city hall, the [real estate] board is feverishly calling and meeting with councillors in a bid to block passage of the tax,” say Donovan Vincent and Tony Wong in a different Star article. “They’re especially targeting the undecided councillors. And many appear to be listening.”

One of the things I worry about is whether the anti-tax councillors will push for another deferral. In a recent press-release, one representative of the real estate board said that council should wait until the independent panel charged with investigating the city’s books comes out with its report in February. The board pointed out that the municipal-provincial review should be ready around then too.

But deferring the taxes yet again would mean that we wouldn’t receive new revenues fast enough to help make up for the multi-million dollar gap the city faces in the 2008 budget, which means more cutbacks, and we all know how well those went over the first time around.

Cutbacks to libraries, community centres, or environmental initiatives be damned, the real estate board isn’t holding back, encouraging the nearly 250 agents that attended their annual general meeting to continue lobbying the councillors who remain undecided on whether or not to support the new taxes. They include (according to Councillor Case Ootes): Suzan Hall, Mark Grimes, Maria Augimeri, Anthony Perruzza, John Filion and Bill Saundercook.

“Those are the swing councillors that are going to make the difference,” said Ootes in a speech to the realtors (as quoted in the Globe and Mail). “Call them whenever you can. Have your clients call them. And also if you can make it to city hall on Monday, pack that council chamber.”

To those of you who recognize the importance of brining in the new taxes, I would say the same. A rally in support of the desperately needed funds will be held Monday morning from 8:30 to 9:30 in Nathan Philips Square. The council meeting will start at 9:30am. Come and show your support. As Ootes says, “It makes a difference.”

CORRECTION

In my column this week, I wrote that Toronto will get a scant $83 million next year thanks to the Liberal’s promise to upload a couple social programs. In fact, we will only be getting $38 million as a result of the uploading. Sorry to be a downer, but the situation is actually worse than I led you to believe. I apologize for the error.

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photo by Bouke Salverda