Politics By Antonella Artuso 282 Views

Provincial cuts hitting Toronto hard: Tory

Toronto doesn’t have many taxes and levies it can impose to plug the holes created by provincial funding cuts, Mayor John Tory insists.

The city has received disproportionately deeper cuts in programs like public health, including the just announced reductions in legal aid.

Among the city’s 3 million residents are many refugees, immigrants and lower-income individuals, he said.

“I think the facts would demonstrate that we have more people probably in need of legal aid than anywhere else in the province,” Tory said Wednesday. “And so again it seems very puzzling to me to say the least that we would be faced with cuts that are harsher than in other parts of the province.”

The city’s budget committee will receive an update on its revenue options under the City of Toronto Act when it meets Monday.

Former premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government provided the city with new mayoral powers and revenue-raising tools in acknowledgement of its size and needs.

A 2016 KPMG study that looked at the revenue options considered an alcoholic beverage tax, an entertainment and amusement tax, a motor vehicle registration tax, a parking levy, road tolls and a tobacco tax.

An attempt by Tory to bring in road tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway got parked when former premier Kathleen Wynne publicly nixed the idea, after reportedly agreeing to it in private.

Tory said he also approached the Wynne government about a possible alcoholic beverage tax, adding 25 cents to a bottle of wine or liquor.

The province denied that request, arguing it would make booze more expensive in Toronto compared to the rest of the province.

“And I understood that argument but it basically renders meaningless one of the revenue tools that’s found in the City of Toronto Act,” Tory said. ” And you can go down the list … basically there aren’t many left.

“We really don’t have the option to rely on anything much more than the property tax and the land transfer tax and those are tools that have notorious shortcomings in terms of their ability to raise the kinds of amounts of money to run the city,” he said.

Premier Doug Ford has said that he believes the city can find savings without increasing taxes.