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Index for my Toronto Budget 2004 project
No Deal for Cities, Yet
05/04/2004

Royson James has a very good column in today's Toronto Star that updates our progress towards a new deal since the "3Ms" came into power Here are some notes, based on his and other articles:

  • The City's operating budget has nearly been balanced for this year, but only a small part of this has been acheived through the sorts of adjustments that will recur annually. In other words, we'll be back at it again next year.
  • The TTC capital budget hype of last week has deteriorated to the point where the new capital funding is nearly being written off. The money -- much less than the media made it sound like -- is heavily weighted towards the end of the 5 year term, and a significant portion is mandated for projects the TTC doesn't even want. TTC commissioner, budget committee vice-chair, and councillor Joe Mihevc says "[O]n Monday and Tuesday we were happy, but on Wednesday when we saw the details, it felt like a bad hangover."
  • Our Toronto MPs and MPPs continue to play the role of scolds, who have the job of telling us that we should be so lucky to have them in government. From the Saturday Star:
    • A spokesperson for Liberal MP Joe Volpe, the minister responsible for the GTA, said Toronto agreed to the deal, pointing out the city could have refused.
    • Liberal MPP Brad Duguid said the province has gone out of its way to help Toronto.
  • On the positive side, I have been happy to read the rumours in both the Globe and the Star that McGuinty is expected to come through with at least some of his gas-tax promise in this year's Ontario budget. That's what's allowing us to call the City budget almost done. But I also take it as a sign that the Ontario Liberals are getting their act together and are finding ways to fulfill more promises.

Anyway, other than that last positive note, we're not getting a lot closer to the sort of reform that Toronto needs. Namely:

  • Uploading of income-redistributing social services to a level of government that collect income tax
  • A reliable source of income for the City that grows with the economy -- either through our own taxation powers, or a contract to hand money down from higher levels of government
  • Reliable infrastructure funding for urban projects on a scale that fairly balances what is directed to suburban or rural projects
  • Elimination of special rules that tax Toronto differently
  • Elimination of provincial reliance on property taxes set by current value assessment -- i.e., the province should either fund education entirely through income tax, or send local property tax income directly to local school boards, or use a non-market-value based method for computing property tax

If merely some of these things came to pass, the transformation would be dramatic.

CORRECTION, April 6: Amended above to correct the Toronto Star's misattribution of the hangover remark to TTC boss Rick Ducharme


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