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Index for my Toronto Budget 2004 project
Last Night's Public Forum on Revitalizing Toronto
26/02/2004

Last night I attended a Public Forum on Revitalizing Toronto. It was held in a relatively small room at Innis College and featured an all-star list of advocates for a New Deal for Toronto, and cities in general.

The panel, moderated by Toronto Star publisher John Honderich, included University of Toronto president Robert Birgeneau, Toronto Board of Trade president Elyse Allan, Toronto and York Region Labour Council president John Cartwright, and our mayor, David Miller.

There was about 75 minutes of remarks and 45 minutes of good question-and-answer with the audience.

The Toronto Star has already written a pretty good summary of the event, so you might as well go and read that.

Attending the meeting I heard a lot of good discussion of things I'm familiar with, but some new thinking was also triggered. When I have time, I hope to address these...

  • Elyse Allan talked about the rates for commercial property tax. She defended Bill 140 by claiming that Toronto's commerical tax rates are the 2nd highest in North America after New York City. She also claimed that residential tax payers had the lowest mill rate in the country and it is still too low. As far as I can tell, she's comparing apples and oranges, but I'm going to do a bit more research on this.
  • A city income tax was mentioned. I think that the long-term results of such a policy are not at all what people expect. I've written about this before, but hope to do a better job of it sometime.
  • John Honderich seemed like a good guy. But he offered support for two bad ideas. One of them was the Front Street Extension. He offered up a pretty lame excuse for that one. The other bad idea is GTA transit integration, which can only translate into less money for transit that actually works.
  • Very solid support for the notion that quality of life is a major factor in attracting and maintaining a talented workforce was provided by both U of T prez Birgeneau (who frequently is involved in trying to recruit top talent) and BOT's Allan. Could be relevant if I ever get around to extending on my arguments in a debate I was involved in at City Comforts Blog.

Anyway, while I feel it is great that business, labour, education and the City are working together to ask for a new deal, they still are very weak when it comes to applying pressure on Ottawa and Queen's Park. The "19 Liberal MPPs and 22 MPs" were mentioned, but no one has figured out how to make these people remember who elected them. I wish we had a way to put the fear of the local electorate back into 'em.


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