John Tory has outlined the City of Ontario’s budget demands in an open letter to Ontario Minister of Finance Charles Sousa.
Along with a budget outline, Toronto’s Mayor wrote about time-sensitive priorities for the city, which included funds for housing, transit and transportation infrastructure, along with the implementation of a tax on short-term accommodations.
“The City needs the Province to become a full partner in cost-sharing of major infrastructure investments going forward,” wrote Tory. “Without real tri-lateral partnership, the prosperity and competitiveness of our city – and our region – is at real risk. Toronto must remain affordable to people of all income levels and our transit and transportation systems must be expanded to meet the rising demands of a growing region.”
In order to maintain Toronto’s economic and social vibrancy, Tory says that the critical priorities in terms of infrastructure include the expansion of the transit network (which includes the Eglinton East LRT, Waterfront Transit, and the Relief Line) and helping maintain the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway as key regional transportation corridors.
This, of course, after Kathleen Wynne openly rejected the toll proposal by the city – a point which is noted in Tory’s letter.
Tory is requesting the province to provide one third of total construction costs and support of the Gardiner Expressway development as a priority for federal funding, with a total amount of $820M.
As for the TTC, the City is asking for 50/50 cost sharing of the TTC’s operating costs by 2020, along with one-third of the unfunded TTC capital project list, outlined at $890M.
Beyond transit and infrastructure, Tory requests provincial budget allocation for child care, affordable housing, and social programs.
But his urgent request was for the “power to levy a tax on lodging,” asking the province to give the City “clear legislative authority to levy hotel and short-term accommodation rental taxes, while maintaining funding to Tourism Toronto.”
“Putting this authority in the Budget Bill will allow us to implement City Council’s direction to levy a tax on both hotels and short-term accommodations beginning in 2017, as outlined in the City of Toronto’s approved 2017 Operating and Capital Budget,” Tory writes.
The detailed budget request states that timing is critical for the City to achieve this for its revenue budget in 2017.
“I would appreciate your full consideration of these in light of our shared interest in the continued vibrancy, competitiveness and livability of the City of Toronto, and our long-standing and productive history working together,” writes Tory in closing. “They reflect the needs of nearly 3 million Ontario residents as well as the well-established public financing principle that social programs and large-scale infrastructure projects that benefit an entire region should not be funded from the local property tax base alone.”