Thank goodness there’s a strong group looking at new sources of tax revenue for Toronto.
Yes, I know it’s hard to smile when taxes increase, but a government with enough money to deliver good programs is about the best thing that can happen in a society. The period from 1950 to the mid-1980s was good at creating jobs, economic opportunity and prosperity because governments ran strong programs addressing social welfare issues, health, education, and public infrastructure.
During the past 30 years, the economy has flattened out and wages have stagnated -- primarily because politicians said we should cut taxes and government programs. We’ve paid a heavy price for those decisions.
Toronto used to build a lot of affordable housing that supported low-income households, created jobs, and built good neighbourhoods like St. Lawrence. Our city had an excellent school system, and university tuition was affordable. There were lots of recreation programs and supports for kids and youth.
But financial transfers from the federal government to cities have been reduced to a trickle. Provincial transfers aren’t as large as they used to be either. Toronto has cut programs and is virtually bankrupt.
So it’s good news to see that a small group led by John Tory will look into and report on what a good new tax base to fund new transit for Toronto might look like.
Tory is an interesting guy: He was a senior executive at Rogers, heavily involved in United Way, ran a losing campaign for mayor, headed the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, and is now chair of the Toronto City Summit Alliance and a commentator on radio station CFRB. That’s a great resumé for a person who thinks we need to look for new tax revenues for the city.
His committee will be examining things like road tolls and a city sales tax. These will be taxes set and controlled by the city government to meet its own financial needs. It’s a great start to achieving better city government.
John Sewell is a former mayor of Toronto; firstname.lastname@example.org.