“Property Tax Hike Proposed For $30 Billion Transit Fix”

Toronto Politics

4 minute read

July 4, 2012

I’m kind of late to the party on this one, but I wanted to discuss it before it’s out of people’s minds.

I would GLADLY agree to increase my taxes in order to upgrade Toronto’s public transit system to something remotely respectable…


By: Kelly Grant
The Globe & Mail

In a bold move that could relieve gridlock across Toronto, the chair of the TTC is proposing a significant increase in property taxes to pay for a sweeping, 170-kilometre public-transit expansion that would start with a Scarborough subway.

Councillor Karen Stintz and Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, vice-chair of TTC, will unveil on Wednesday a $30-billion, 30-year proposal that is expected to face stiff opposition from Mayor Rob Ford, igniting a new high-stakes battle for the future of transit in Canada’s largest city.

“No tax is popular,” Mr. De Baeremaeker said. “Our proposition to people is, if you want transit infrastructure built, and you want a subway, you’re going to have to pay for it.”

At the heart of their plan, dubbed OneCity, is a novel approach to publicly funding new subway, light rail transit and bus lines.

It’s called a “current-value assessment uplift” and it would require the province to change the law so that property-tax collection is no longer revenue neutral for the municipal government.

For the average Toronto homeowner, it would mean an extra $180 a year in property taxes once the plan is fully phased-in in 2016, or the equivalent of an automatic 1.9-per-cent rate increase every year.

That’s over and above any traditional annual property-tax hike.

The money raked in through the CVA uplift – $272-million per year, once fully phased in – would go into a dedicated transit-infrastructure purse, Ms. Stintz said.

“We have an opportunity through this process to improve transit through a dedicated funding stream that we believe shows value to the residents of Toronto. It’s dedicated, it’s dependable and it’s debt-free.”

She and Mr. De Baeremaeker and their supporters already have a plan to spend that money on transit projects snaking into every corner of the city, including six new or expanded subway or train lines, 10 new LRT lines and five new bus and streetcar lines.

Their first priority is replacing the dilapidated Scarborough RT with a subway instead of an above-ground LRT, a switch that would cost $484-million more than the province has already committed, but which jibes with the mayor’s campaign promise to build subways in Scarborough.

However, that doesn’t mean the taxes-for-transit proposition has any support from Mr. Ford, who lost control of the TTC earlier this year amidst a fierce fight over whether to run a subway or an LRT on Sheppard Avenue East.

Ms. Stintz, now one of the mayor’s most powerful foes on council, and her allies crafted the OneCity plan without the mayor’s input, only briefing his office last Thursday and again Tuesday.

She never spoke directly to Mr. Ford about the proposal.

George Christopoulos, Mr. Ford’s press secretary, said “the mayor’s office has been made aware that there is a motion, but does not know the specifics.”

He referred questions to Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, a Ford supporter who, along with four others, was booted from the commission in March.

Mr. Minnan-Wong said he was speaking for himself and the mayor when he called the plan a “massive, backdoor tax increase,” that would hurt seniors, young families and the city’s economy.

Mr. Ford’s disapproval isn’t the only hurdle over which Ms. Stintz and her supporters will have to leap.

They’ll have to convince council to vote in favour of studying their plan at the July meeting and implement it at the October meeting.

Ms. Stintz and Mr. De Baeremaeker “absolutely” believe they have the votes. They’ve let key centrist councillors, including Josh Colle, in on their planning and worked with TTC staff on the figures.

Next they’ll need the province to change the law and to agree to fund one-third of their $30-billion plan. They’re looking for another third of the cost from Ottawa.

“It’s easier to get partners on to the dance floor when you’ve actually got money,” Mr. De Baeremaeker said.


This is so amazing and yet so troubling at the same time.

Karen Stintz and Rob Ford are stark opponents, yet they are contradicting themselves as they continue to jockey for political power.

Consider that Karen Stintz said “no” to an $8 Billion transit plan a few months back, but is now proposing a $30 Billion plan.

Also consider that Rob Ford previously stated that he might raise property taxes to pay for the transit expansion (Click HERE), but now says that taxpayers shouldn’t shoulder the burden.

Who the hell do we believe?

Who do we trust?

Who do we listen to?

I like Karen Stintz’ plan, but I don’t trust that it’s real.  I don’t trust that anything anybody at City Hall says is a realistic, bona-fide option, as I believe that every word out of every city councillor’s mouth is just fodder aimed at setting up for the next election.

I’d love to see “OneCity” come together, but I don’t see it happening.

We can’t even agree on LRT vs. Subways, or how to come up with $8 Billion for a transit system that was shot down by city council, so how the hell are we now going to come up with $30 Billion?

The name itself, “OneCity,” is ironic in that our city is really a chopped up mess of pockets that aren’t connected by mass-transit, like most other world-class cities.

Our public transit system is laughable, in the eyes of the world, and in the last half-decade, nothing has been done to change it.

City Hall is gridlocked, politcally and logistically, and I don’t see OneCity ever getting off the ground.

As for the notion that OneCity could come together at the cost of about $1,000 per home-owner, I say, “Bring it on.”

I’ll gladly hand over $1,000 today, even though I don’t take the TTC and I drive everywhere, in order to bring a world-class transit system to this world-class city.

$2,000?  That’s fine too.

$3,000?  We can talk.

I don’t take the TTC, but I love Toronto.  And we desperately need to upgrade a transit system that should represent a city of 500,000 people, but represents close to ten times that.

Nobody wants their taxes increased, in any walk of life.

But I do want to see OneCity come together, and I would pay for it; today or tomorrow…

Written By David Fleming

David Fleming is the author of Toronto Realty Blog, founded in 2007. He combined his passion for writing and real estate to create a space for honest information and two-way communication in a complex and dynamic market. David is a licensed Broker and the Broker of Record for Bosley – Toronto Realty Group

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  1. Anonymous

    at 8:02 am

    Karen Stint’z master plan:

    1) Do anything to get elected, including aligning herself and gaining the trust of Rob Ford in order to get appointed to a position of power and influence.

    2) Betray Rob Ford, make him look like an idiot by rallying support from the leftards even if it meant going against the taxpayers (subway), and try to get as much press as possible through TV (ie. undercover boss), print media, social media, etc. Basically anything that will get her publicity and fame

    3)Come out and look like the hero by coming up with a “One City” plan which seems like the holy grail, when it really isn’t. All it is is raising taxes and asking government to fund 2/3 of it. Rob Ford contemplated property tax hikes to pay for his own (cheaper) plan but eventually left it alone. It’s also important to note that the government said nothing about funding the project. However, at this point, most people don’t care about these points because they’ve been blinded by her plan from steps 1 and 2.

    Eventually, she’ll run for mayor and somehow spin it in such a way that she is not going back on her word, since she has been preaching all along that she doesn’t want to run. She will most likely say something to the effect of how she is pressured from people around her to run, and that she is acting in the best interests of the public and doing what the people want, or how there are no other good alternatives.

    1. Moonbeam!

      at 9:41 am

      Karen Stintz is the devil… beware.

  2. BillyO

    at 8:05 am

    OneCity will never happen if it requires the Feds and Province to pony up billions of dollars for Toronto. Especially if Hudak gets in (2014) and Harper gets another run (which he probably will be default – the other parties are a mess).

    Even if the tax hike goes through, without the other partners, no dice. However, a few lines (hopefully the DRL – a real one, not this half ass ‘Don Mills Express’) could be built, but not everything pictured above. Add that to the $8.4B assigned to the Eglinton, Sheppard, Finch and Scarb LRTs 2019-2022 completion) all is not lost.

    But 0% chance that OnCity gets moving.

  3. Joe Q.

    at 10:23 am

    Our public transit system is laughable, in the eyes of the world, and in the last half-decade, nothing has been done to change it.

    But not for lack of trying — remember Transit City?

    I’ll gladly hand over $1,000 today, even though I don’t take the TTC and I drive everywhere, in order to bring a world-class transit system to this world-class city.

    Public transit makes life easier for drivers too, by freeing up untold kilometers of road space. If you don’t believe me, do a back-of-the-envelope calculation based on the full capacity of a Toronto subway train at rush hour (about 5,000 passengers) and the length of a typical sedan (4 m long), and train frequency (20+ trains per hour during peak periods).

  4. Joe Q.

    at 10:53 am

    As far as the actual OneCity plan goes — while I think it is probably more fiscally realistic than the Mayor’s plan (which relies on private-sector support that doesn’t seem to be forthcoming) I’m not convinced that the lines themselves, as drawn, make sense. It smacks too much of appeasing particular councillors. Steve Munro has a good write-up on his website — including examples of the Sheppard West subway extension (projected to have very low ridership), the Jane LRT (in many places, Jane isn’t wide enough for an LRT) and the St Clair West streetcar extension (also not wide enough, west of Keele).

  5. MM3

    at 11:44 am

    I love the idea of better transit too, and would be willing to pay a lot for it. Unfortunately the numbers as presented don’t add up. For a plan costing $30B in today’s dollars, they’ve identified 30 years of property tax increases that will SUM to less than $8B. The present value of those tax increases would be much less: about $4B, if discounted at 5% rate.

  6. Rick

    at 4:35 pm

    What about the idea that Stintz has been planning this for months?
    Should we assume that she did NOT come up with this overnight?
    And that she did NOT block Ford’s move because she had this in her back pocket?
    It’s obvious that she has been lobbying behind her colleagues’ backs for some time now.
    She’s no better (and no worse) than Ford.

    1. David Fleming

      at 11:14 pm

      @ Joe Q.

      I’ve been saying this for years, so it’s nothing new to me.

      I wish this were on the front cover of the Globe & Mail – then maybe it would get some real traction.

      My only question in the case study in the article: why did the agent and buyers offer $90K over asking with no rival bids? If they “expected a late night,” then they are at fault for not knowing exactly how many offers were registered before they presented. One phone call to the listing agent could have solved this. If they were LIED TO, then that is a whole other story, and if they were told there were 5-6 bids when there weren’t, then that listing agent should be barred by RECO. The only problem is – I don’t think that was the case. I think this article shows that the buyer/agent submitted an offer of $90K over asking when there were zero competing bids, and this situation could have been entirely avoided. Stern says, she “thought there were three other bidders.” You can call the listing brokerage and ask, “How many registered offers are there?” They keep track, and they have to tell you. This offer NEVER should have been submitted until the listing agent emailed Stern to say “there are three registered offers.” Get it in writing. I always email cooperating agents and tell them how many offers there are.

      1. Joe Q.

        at 9:34 am

        My initial read of the article is that she was led to believe by the LA that there were three other bids.

        1. JC

          at 11:16 am

          Believe me, I have very little patience for the unprofessionalism in the “industry”.
          Like agents that show up early when told to go between certain times ONLY, or misplace keys, don’t return phone calls about misplaced keys, or go on a tour of a building with 3 lockboxes worth of keys, well past their appointed time.. leaving others waiting outside to try getting in and missing THEIR appointed times.

          But, I always confirm with the listing agent how many offers there are. (And I count salespeople and if theres any missing I ask about so-called “faxed” offers. I was once rushed by a listing agent to present and I said “hang on there… I want to confirm…how many offers are there?”. Turns out it had decreased by 1 from what I was told earlier. I told her I’d be back in 5.

          Lack of transparency is no excuse for sloppy work.

          1. JC

            at 11:17 am

            or rather… you can’t blame lack of transparency for sloppy work.

          2. David Fleming

            at 12:50 pm

            I just did an interview with Global TV about this topic – it’ll be on tonight between 5:30 – 6pm.

          3. jeff316

            at 1:04 pm

            Exactly. She’s doubly full of it considering how many bidding wars she’s orchestrated over the years.

            Karma is a beast.

  7. Scott

    at 4:54 pm

    I don’t believe their plan, and am not interested in any property tax hikes to fund it. I’m so tired of a tax hike being the fix-it-all solution to whatever the latest issue is.

    I say offer the rights to these lines by receiving bids from private developers, who can then get the money to build from investors. Tokyo’s subway lines are privately owned and they have one of the best subway systems in the world. Maybe council should visit other cites like Tokyo and see examples of transit systems that work and don’t hemorrhage cash like the TTC does.

    1. jeff316

      at 6:13 pm

      Maybe you mean a different city? Both Tokyo subway lines are operated by companies that are government owned.

      1. MM3

        at 10:45 pm

        I think you’re technically right in that of the two “subway” lines in Tokyo, Toei line is run directly by Tokyo metro gov’t, and Tokyo metro is indirectly gov’t owned. But of the 30 operators running 121 passenger rail lines in greater Tokyo, the majority are privately owned.

        I’m not a train geek, but did live in Tokyo for a while. The distinction between subway and rail is one that was not obvious to me at the time.

        I expect one reason why it works in Tokyo would be population: 35 million people live in greater Tokyo, compared to 5 million in greater Toronto.

        It’s also crazily expensive to drive in Tokyo. Therefore much greater incentive for people to take public transit.

        Increase the population density of Toronto, and remove the subsidies to cars&roads, and you might start getting interest from private investors.

        1. jeff316

          at 9:32 am

          I don’t disagree but we’re not talking about demand for 121 rail lines and we’re not talking about increasing population density, removing car subsidies and taxing road usage in Toronto in any serious way.

          I don’t oppose private transport or private anything really but it needs to be discussed honestly – not in the context of Tokyo, Brussels, Melbourne or Singapore or whatever – but in the context of Toronto.

          We need to know that private public transportation has played a large role in transport in Japan, right from the start since the early 1900s – when we were still figuring out how to provide clean water to residents.

          And we need to know that the three largest rail providers in Tokyo have their roots in public ownership. The largest rail co. in Japan is indeed private – you bet – but inherited the operations/ownership from the government, without inheirting the total debt – that’s still in on the public pocketbook in the form of an transit-building agency. And we need to know who is responsible, ultimately, for the debt incurred by the two subway systems – something like $25 billion dollars, almost equivalent to the debt of the maritime provinces – again, on the public’s balance-sheet. And we need to think about how bust-boom real estate cycles affect long-term service provision and fares – like how two of the other private Tokyo lines were built at the height of the asset bubble resulting in permanently expensive costs to commuters.

          Obviously the scale won’t be so large in Toronto but when people like Scott throw out random factoids there needs to be some context or else they’re worse than useless. Because we dont’ have wide swaths of land for corporations to buy. We don’t have public appetite or expropriations and construction. We have limited resources. We’re not starting from scratch here.

    2. Joe Q.

      at 9:08 am

      Agreed. I would like to see an example of a privately built and operated mass transit system, anywhere in North America or Europe, that is running well.

      The only example I can think of is the London (UK) bus system, which is privately operated, but vehicle type, routes, fares, and policies are all dictated by the government.

  8. Jeff

    at 7:31 pm

    Toronto Realty Blog:
    The funny photos say “let’s do lunch,” but the political posts say “you’re paying.”

    I’ve never agreed with any of your political posts but I do wholeheartedly agree with this statement.

    “I’ll gladly hand over $1,000 today, even though I don’t take the TTC and I drive everywhere, in order to bring a world-class transit system to this world-class city.”

    Anybody who truly loves this city would agree as well.

    1. ScottRP

      at 9:42 am

      Jeff, I’m confused. Why do David’s political posts equate to the reader paying for lunch?

      I disagree with much of David’s politics as well, but so be it. I don’t have to read his political posts if I don’t want to.

      Freedom of choice can be a beautiful thing. Critics of this free blog should try it sometime.

      1. David Fleming

        at 1:22 pm

        @ ScottRP

        The best was when you and I met at that BBQ, and I was going off on a political rant, and you said, “Look at you – in your goddam Lacoste t-shirt and boat-shoes, spewing this rhetoric!”

        Or something like that…

  9. Groperty

    at 9:47 am

    Investing in the city of Toronto might not be all bad (to play the role of the devil’s advocate). Toronto is receiving 10 000 new inhabitants annually – the TTC is already running over capacity. A massive transit upgrade will help the congestion more than we think.

    1. ScottRP

      at 9:44 am

      Devil’s advocate to whom, Groperty? Sounds like you agree with both David and the majority of the commenters in this thread.

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