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Index for my Toronto Budget 2004 project
The Province Makes Its Offer
31/03/2004

The media is reporting that Dalton McGuinty has come up with new money for the TTC. He has promised $90-million for operating expenses which TTC Chair Howard Moscoe says should be enough to prevent a fare increase.

This might be good news -- but I'm not entirely sure, for reasons that I'll explain in a moment -- but it also leaves me wondering about Dalton's political smarts here. Yesterday, some elements of the media were allowed to portray the funding announcements as "$1-billion from Paul Martin", which couldn't be futher from the truth. By following along so closely with another annoucement, I'm afraid poor Dalton's cash may not be noticed by the average voter.

In any case, it is good news that the province has handed over this money -- $70-million in cash and $20-million in a loan deferral.

But here's what worries me. Ever since amalgamation and downloading crippled this City's finances, we have had to rely on the province for annual bail-outs. Last year Ernie Eves was too embarrased to admit what he had done to Toronto, so instead of calling the cash infusion a "partial payback for the damage we've caused" it was reported as "money for the TTC." In other words, TTC money has been code for direct financial aid to the City. And, given that the City was hoping for "$20-million in a loan deferral" in its annual aid package, I am starting to suspect that this may be the package from the province for this year... just not yet identified as such.

In the City's budget launch on January 30, we had a $344-million shortfall. This number has moved around by a couple dozen million as City Council has cut and added features, but essentially our hole is that big.

The plan at that time was to close the $344-million hole by:

  • Making a further $40-million in department cuts and cost control
  • Cash in $78-million of what Toronto Hydro owes the City
  • Get $20-million in loan forgiveness or deferral from the Province
  • Get a $120-million provincial subsidy
  • Raise residential property taxes 3% to get $33-million
  • Win permission from the province to raise commercial property taxes 3% to get $53-million

The province only gave permission to raise business property taxes by 1.5%, so that leaves us $26-million short. And, if today's announcement is the final one from McGuinty, that's another $50-million hole ($70M instead of $120M). Total gap: $76-million.

The help that wasn't counted in the City's budget plan was Paul Martin's GST rebate. That could be as high as $50-million. So, we're within spitting distance of patching something together.


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