WINDSOR, Ont. – Premier Kathleen Wynne is advising Ontario municipalities to consult constituents before they ask the province for increased taxation powers, but suggests such a request would be approved.
Wynne told local politicians attending the annual meeting of the Association of Ontario Municipalities in Windsor that they also need to decide among themselves exactly what types of “revenue tools” they would want to introduce.
“I’m not saying that there would be 100 per cent consensus, but I don’t think that the general public has had the opportunity to have this conversation,” she said. “It’s not something that’s on people’s radar, and I think that’s what municipalities now need to do, is have that political discussion.”
Most Ontario municipalities are limited to property taxes as their primary source of revenue, but some have talked about other options such as a tax on hotel rooms, which would be paid primarily by tourists, not local residents.
Toronto is the only one of the 444 municipalities in the province with the authority to raise revenue by imposing levies such as a land transfer tax or a vehicle registration tax, but it cannot introduce sales or income taxes.
Wynne said the discussion so far has been about giving other municipalities the same powers as Toronto, and indicated she’s open to whatever ideas they come up with.
“When our government hears what that near consensus is on the specific ways you want to raise additional revenues for your community, we’ll work for you in a transparent and open way to make those additional tools available,” she said.
“I don’t know whether there are municipalities that are talking about revenue tools beyond the City of Toronto Act tools.”
The premier said smaller communities tell her they don’t want new taxes, so she wants all municipalities to discuss what revenue tools they may want to introduce and to get their constituents involved in a transparent process.
“Very small municipalities say it’s not what they need, so we need to have more of a discussion,” she said.
Municipal Affairs Minister Bill Mauro said some municipalities look at new revenue tools as one way to get to long-term financial stability, but others are not.
“We are trying to find some mechanism, some means _ and we hope they will provide that for us _ that will show a path forward that is really going to help more of them and not just some of them,” he said. “There really does seem to be a very clear concern that some of the tools would not provide any significant benefit to a number of municipalities, especially the smaller ones.”
The public knew the previous Progressive Conservative government downloaded the cost of welfare and other programs onto municipalities, and are aware that the Liberals have spent years uploading billions of dollars in costs to give towns and cities some financial relief, added Wynne.
“I don’t think there’s that same understanding on revenue tools, and there needs to be a discussion on that,” she said. “There does need to be a public component to this.”
Written by Keith Leslie in Toronto
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