WiTOPoli Weekly: Friday, December 4

A roundup of some of the latest news in women, Toronto, and/or politics this week. What stories did you read this week? Tell us in the comments.

  • Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau nominally rejected the Toronto island airport expansion in November. The Liberal government, Minister Garneau included, remains firmly against the expansion of the Toronto island airport.
  • A Toronto doctor is making the financial case for opening five supervised injection sites in Ontario – two in Ottawa and three in Toronto. Dr. Ahmed Bayoumi claims that these sites will save money and decrease the number of cases of HIV and hepatitis C. Ontario’s Health Minister Eric Hoskins says that requests for such sites must come from municipalities.
  • Municipal Affairs Minister Ted McMeekin confirms that Toronto is the only city in Ontario that is allowed to charge a land transfer tax and there is no planned legislation that would allow other cities and towns to bring in their own tax.
  • Many Syrian refugees who have been offered the opportunity to come to Canada are not prepared to move by the end of the year, but the government is still committed to their goal to resettle a total 25,000 refugees. It has been confirmed that, of the 3318 privately-sponsored refugees to settle in Ontario, 80 percent of them will reside in Toronto.
  • According to a Toronto Star Investigation, drivers seeking their A licence, which is required to drive a truck, have a better chance of passing the road test at rural DriveTest Centres. Following the publication of this information, Transportation Minister Steven DelDuca expressed his commitment to ensuring that all DriveTest Centres are held to the same testing standards.
  • The 2015 Ontario Association of Food Banks Report found that nearly 360,000 adults and children are using food banks across Ontario monthly. Precarious employment, low wages and lack of affordable housing are some of the identified factors that contribute to food insecurity.
  • The Quebec government is proposing a legislation that would require that all firearms in Quebec be registered. Bill 64, the Firearms Registration Act, would impose a fine ranging from $500 to $5000 for failing to register a gun.
  • Three Toronto taxi drivers began a hunger strike at city hall in protest against Uber, which will be covered under city by-laws.
  • As the criminal trial against Constable James Forcillo continues, Desmond Cole argues we need to disarm the police.

WiTOPoli Weekly: Friday, September 5

A roundup of some of the latest news in women, Toronto, and/or politics this week. What stories did you read this week? Tell us in the comments.

  • Polls are showing that Olivia Chow has fallen to third place in the Toronto mayoral race, behind John Tory and Rob Ford. The Toronto Star argues that this may be due to the falling popularity of the NDP and the rise in Liberal support in Toronto. Although Chow has tried to make her campaign “free of party politics,” she will be hoping for a large NDP turnout on election day.
  • Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says she has not heard from or spoken with PM Harper since March, even with her re-election more than two months ago. She admits that she has not “specifically asked for a conversation,” but that she hopes to create a good working relationship between the provincial and federal government. Premier Wynne also stated that she will be supporting Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau, during the upcoming federal election.
  • Olivia Chow has announced that, if elected as Toronto mayor, she would raise the land-transfer tax on high-end homes. Chow argues that raising the land-transfer fees by one per cent on homes worth more than $2-million would create an extra $20-million to fund school nutrition programs, as well as engineering studies to improve the TTC.
  • This week, Ontario students returned to school and full-day kindergarten programs are already facing difficulties. Educators and parents have already filed many complaints with the Ministry of Education about the large class sizes. While Ontario daycares must limit sizes to only eight children per one educator, and primary school classes can only have 23 students, there is currently no set limit for students in kindergarten classes.
  • After being treated for tongue and throat cancers which doctors say were caused by HPV, Conservative MP Peter Kent is now speaking out in favour of funding HPV vaccines for boys. Some provinces already vaccinate girls for free, but there is no funding at the moment to vaccinate boys. Kent says that he will speak to Health Minister Rona Ambrose about this idea, and will continued to do what he can to raise awareness of HPV and its links to cancer amongst men and women.
  • On Thursdaythe top four mayoral candidates met for a lunch debate organized by the Toronto Region Board of Trade and the Globe and Mail. Gathered in front of a sold-out crowd of business leaders, candidates used the opportunity to challenge each other on their respective funding proposals for transit, while also discussing youth unemployment and affordable housing.

Ask Your Candidate: Taxes

By: Seb FoxAllen

In elections, candidates use taxes as an easy way to position themselves as opponents or defenders of the size of government. Lowering taxes costs residents less, but the lost revenue also means that existing services need to be cut (or supported by a user fee) in order to balance the books. Raising taxes can equip the city with more revenue to provide services, but some residents wonder whether that money is being used effectively in ways that matter to them. The City of Toronto earns tax revenue through two main streams: Property taxes (39.4% of total city revenues) and the Municipal Land Transfer Tax (3.6% of total city revenues).

1. Can Toronto afford to maintain property tax rates lower than the regional average?

One of the central municipal revenue tools is property taxes. In 2014, the average Toronto resident will pay roughly 25% less in property taxes than those in nearby municipalities like Mississauga and Richmond Hill.

Property taxes are not only paid by homeowners; they are also factored into monthly unit rental prices. If a candidate refers to Torontonians as “over-taxed” or struggling under an unfair tax burden, ask them why Toronto does not require the same revenue levels as other cities.

2. Would you consider increasing taxes over the inflationary rate?

Taxes are raised by a small amount each year to adjust for inflation. When candidates talk about cutting taxes, they are often proposing an increase smaller than inflation.

Recently, City Manager Joe Pennachetti told City Council that “[i]nflationary rates aren’t going to maintain services into the future,” arguing that even keeping taxes at current levels will require cuts to programs and services. Pennachetti also stressed that the types of small internal “efficiencies” often used to cut costs have been exhausted.

Ask your candidate whether they would support collecting larger revenues from property taxes and, if not, what new revenue streams (user fees for services, privatization) or cuts to programs they would use to counter the lost income.

3. How can the City make it easier for renters to understand their property tax contribution?

Many renters are not aware that they pay property taxes as part of their rent. In many cases, renters pay even more in property taxes than other types of tenants. Ask your candidate whether they have ideas (like expanding the Rent Reduction Program) on how to better inform renters of their property tax contributions.

4. Do you support maintaining the Municipal Land Transfer Tax (MLTT)?

The MLTT is paid when purchasing new land or a new home. Ask your candidate whether they support maintaining it, and if not, how the City would offset the $340 million the MLTT generates.