Taxpayers, car drivers, transit riders, homeowners, business people, workers, shoppers — in short, all of us — are being asked to engage in an adult conversation that we’d rather avoid.
No, it isn’t funeral planning. But the question is almost as grim: How will we, as a society, pay for a $50-billion road and public transit expansion essential to easing gridlock in the Greater Toronto Area?
Ten options are outlined in a report going to Toronto’s executive committee next week. None of them are perfect and no one approach alone will provide all necessary funding. A mix is needed. But what’s the right blend of taxes, tolls and other fees? In an effort to stoke discussion, the committee is being asked to approve a series of public consultations on this issue. It should do so without hesitation.
There’s no point in looking to Mayor Rob Ford for leadership here. He doesn’t support any of the alternatives. His explanation? “I’m not a tax-and-spend type of politician,” Ford told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning on Wednesday.
Whether the mayor likes it or not, this issue needs to be addressed. Metrolinx, the province’s regional transportation authority, has until next June to produce a strategy to pay for its $50-billion plan, dubbed “The Big Move.” And it’s important for Torontonians and residents across the GTA and Hamilton to voice an opinion on the best way forward. After all, they’re mainly the ones who will pay for it.
The Greater Toronto Civic Action Alliance, or CivicAction as it’s now called, is in the middle of a campaign aimed at fostering wide-raging debate on limiting traffic congestion. And, unlike Ford, prominent municipal figures like Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion have called for new “revenue tools” to ease gridlock. In McCallion’s case, she has suggested new taxes.
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