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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered


  1. Christopher Hume makes some good points. Toronto taxpayers (as do all) want something for nothing. Missing from this observation is that fact that we have been conditioned to expect it. Promises of zero % or inflation indexed tax increases while spending increases at 6% per year is the norm at city hall. So while the voting public is to blame for unrealistic expectations, they are, nonetheless, the expectations given to them by the Mayor and council. First and foremost they are culpable.

    Secondly, the one person = one vote, so don’t blame the Mayor cry doesn’t fly when the Mayor is the de facto leader of a municipal political party that votes on mass.

  2. A tunnel to the island would be great. But ONLY if it allowed bikes and ONLY if the airport allowed further access to the islands by way of a path around the perimeter of the airport. It can’t be strictly for airport customers and employees. $6.50 is getting a bit pricey for a ferry.

    Oh and it would be cool if it was glass-topped too, even in winter. It’s a good compromise.

  3. Granted Miller has been overly cautious in increasing the tax rate, but it has increased under his watch. Unfortunately, raising taxes is a risky political game. His start as Mayor was of course somewhat hamstrung by his predecessor’s freezing of tax increases which has set the tone for far too long. And of course having the Tories in federal power has boosted general anti-tax messaging into the stratosphere — there are forces much more powerful than City Council working hard to condition the public perception against taxation.

    I guess the defense for increased spending under this scenario is that if you want to justify tax increases, you should be able to point to the things those taxes are paying for. You certainly can’t effectively sell a tax increase if the ratepayers see themselves as getting no more, or even less than they were before.

    p.s. Sorry for mischaracterizing your position on taxes in a previous discussion.

  4. I largely agree with you. The tax freeze was stupid and I agree that it did help set the tone. My contention has been that there is an immediate corollary between spending and taxes. Unlike other levels of government that can run deficits. As such Increases in this, or any years, budget must be covered this year. The last number of years this has been done by begging the province for grants and raiding the reserve, because the city’s own revenues have not kept pace.

    This is where politics bump up against reality. So while for any municipal politician not wanting to pay the political price for raising taxes, they should also have the courage to constrain spending. IMO, or current council has been deceiving taxpayers (the residential class) about the true cost of government.

    I think that Don Drummond (chief Economist at TD) put it best……….

    Chrétien and Martin didn’t just slash government spending out of the blue. They put it in context and brought the public into it. And by the time they did it, the public was actually egging them on to be more aggressive than they had intended to be.”

    Miller and McGuinty, Drummond says, need to tell their constituents that Toronto and Ontario are suffering from structural deficits that must urgently be fixed. By “structural deficit,” he means that, on a regular basis, neither government has enough revenues to pay for its programs. The city is not legally allowed to run an operating deficit, so it balances its budget by drawing on its reserves. Drummond thinks that city hall should cut spending as much as possible, then cover the remaining shortfall (and there will be a shortfall) by raising residential taxes, which are lower here than in comparable jurisdictions. He has great faith in the intelligence of ordinary people, and in their ability to handle the truth about the economy. They’ll back higher residential taxes, he believes, if someone shows them why higher taxes are necessary.

    Most importantly, he says, if Toronto wants a thriving economy, it has to stop driving away business with its high corporate taxes. The city’s commercial and industrial rate is double* the residential rate, which, in Drummond’s view, makes no sense. The rates are also higher than those in the outer suburbs, which is why business headquarters and jobs are moving to places like Markham.

    *The rate is 3-4 times. Not twice.

  5. Don’t you already have a blog of your own? Oh but not one that anybody reads, right?

  6. Separate issue on airport tunnel. You can read my comments attached to the article that there is an option to connect to the Islands by tunnel with both bike and handicapped access but we need to get real fiscal estimates that include saving money by closing Ferry service for 8 months a year. That alone would probably justify the expense. My feeling is it is a non starter because the Islanders would oppose, simply because they don’t want to lose their subsidized ferry service that is like every day taxi service to their doorstep.

  7. Excuse me uh-huh, but I fail to see your point.

  8. Nobody wants to restrict ferry service that much. It’s a big tourist draw for one thing. And it’s quite a hike from the western channel to Ward’s Island where the people live or even Centre Island where the bulk of the day-trippers go. A reduction in frequency might be warranted if passenger numbers fell significantly if a tunnel opened but that’s it.