Downloading the reason for high rates: City
Even if Mayor Larry O’Brien somehow got his wish and froze Ottawa’s property taxes, they would still be the third highest in Canada, according to a new national ranking of municipalities.
The average property tax bill for a single detached home in Ottawa last year was $3,532. Only Toronto ($3,912) and Brampton ($3,826) placed ahead of the capital in a national ranking of 24 cities, prepared by the City of Edmonton.
Kevin Gaudet, Ontario director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, yesterday called the property tax report an indication that council here is spending money “like a bunch of drunken sailors” considering that Ottawa’s average tax bill was more than $1,000 higher than western cities with similar populations, like Winnipeg ($2,140) Calgary ($2,201) and Edmonton ($2,224).
The report should be impetus for council to get behind O’Brien’s call for a tax freeze, he said.
“We like the mayor’s message, but we haven’t seen anything put together yet.”
But the fact that five of Canada’s six most highly taxed cities are in Ontario points to the need for the province to revamp its funding formula, city officials said in defence.
City treasurer Marian Simulik said the comparison is skewed, because cities in Ontario pay for social housing, welfare and public health from residential taxes, while the provinces pay for those programs elsewhere in Canada.
“We feel it’s more appropriate coming from income tax which is based on your ability to pay.”
Coun. Clive Doucet (Capital) said higher levels of government should be reviewing the way they fund cities, since they are running huge surpluses while cities are raising taxes.
“If one per cent GST would have been sent to the cities, Ottawa’s share would have been $140 million, which is the same as a 14 per cent increase in property taxes,” he said.
Although Gaudet placed much of the blame on the municipalities, he agrees Ontario should revamp its funding formula and send 100 per cent of gas tax revenues to the cities – a potential $117-million windfall for Ottawa.