This article originally appeared in the print edition of the East York Observer.
Torontonians can count on two certainties: death and Mayor Tory’s opposition to raising property taxes. Tory’s refrain on real estate taxes often includes a reference to the hardships of first-time homebuyers and senior citizens, whom the kind mayor does not want to burden.
With the city needing a way to balance its recent budget without that lucrative revenue stream, Tory’s executive committee commanded city staff to find ways to reduce funding for all departments by 2.6%.
The mayor’s neoliberal dream of a leaner government meant that public transit, childcare and homeless shelters were amongst the services slated for decreased funding. Ultimately – through no fault of Tory – childcare and TTC survived the budgetary guillotine. Homeless shelters saw a widely-criticized cut while user fees for recreational programs went up.
Meanwhile, poor homeowners on average have to shell out an additional $90 after the council hiked up residential taxes by 3.29%. That’s about $30 more than the annual fare increase for TTC Metropass users, who will have to bear the burden of raising revenue for a chronically-underfunded agency that will barely upgrade its service.
Such patently unfair distribution of costs is apparently logical in the fantastical world inhabited by Tory.
Many transit users are likely to be poorer than the average homeowner, whose mean household income is twice as much as those of renters. The latter are already disadvantaged with 43.5% spending more on rent than is considered manageable, but don’t seem to find currency with the mayor.
Though some homeowners may indeed be living precariously, they are not in the same pool as those who reside in $2 million homes and earn more than the $115,000 average income of a Toronto property-owning household.
There may indeed be senior citizens and first-time buyers who face financial constraints, but there are also people who own multiple properties and make a windfall on AirBnB.
Why then are all homeowners lumped in the same category? Clearly, a more progressive tax regime can be applied to generate more revenue from those who profit off their good fortune.
Unfortunately, such an idea appears to be so inconceivable that it’s hardly ever raised in mainstream discourse, much less by Tory, that purveyor of great ideas.
Perhaps there should be a third thing the neglected citizens of Toronto should add to their list of certainties – Tory’s downfall.