When Chow was asked if she was prepared to commit to Carroll’s property tax hike plans, Chow responded by saying she needed to consult with and hear from Toronto taxpayers first. Toronto taxpayers need to give Chow exactly what she’s asked for. Photo Credit: Twitter/Olivia Chow.
Toronto taxpayers were barely given time to enjoy the start of a fresh year before being hammered with news that city politicians are scheming to push through the largest property tax hike in Toronto history.
Mayor Olivia Chow’s hand-picked budget chief, Councillor Shelley Carroll, informed Toronto taxpayers last week that she will push for a 10.5 per cent increase in property taxes in 2024.
Carroll wants taxpayers to believe that a massive property tax hike is absolutely necessary.
“We have reached the point where if we’re having to solve our own problems, it means a substantial increase,” Carroll said. “We’re now being honest about what it takes to get the city you want.”
According to Carroll, Toronto’s budget woes mean a property tax hike of $443 million is unavoidable in order for taxpayers to get the city Torontonians want.
Carroll is also warning that her proposed property tax increase will rise to 16.5 per cent, or $696 million, if the Trudeau government doesn’t give the city $250 million to deal with housing for refugees.
But Carroll’s rhetoric is pure nonsense. A massive tax hike doesn’t have to be inevitable.
Carroll’s budget increases city spending by a stunning $884 million.
If Toronto were to scale back the size of Carroll’s proposed spending increase, council could deliver a property tax freeze and avoid going cap-in-hand to the feds asking for more dough.
Even then, there would still be room for a spending increase of about $200 million over last year.
The truth is that council has enough money right now to fix the city’s budget problems. Politicians just need to have the courage to reject extravagant new spending.
Carroll’s plan would devastate the average homeowner.
The average value of a home in Toronto is currently just under $1.1 million. If council were to ratify Carroll’s plan to raise property taxes by 16.5 per cent (assuming the feds don’t deliver on the $250 million cash infusion), the typical homeowner will be looking at a $1,192 tax hike. Even if the feds do pony up the cash, Carroll’s plan would mean a tax hike of $758.
Toronto taxpayers are going through difficult times. More than 400,000 Ontarians work more than one job to make ends meet. Fifty per cent of Canadians say they’re $200 away from not being able to pay their bills. Family food costs have soared by $2,000 over the past two years and are expected to increase by another $700 this year.
Carroll’s answer to all of this is to put forward the largest property tax increase in Toronto’s history.
That’s the bad news.
But there is a silver lining: this budget is not yet law.
According to the province’s strong mayor legislation, Chow has to present her own budget to council on Feb. 1. That gives taxpayers a couple of weeks to talk Chow out of Carroll’s reckless plans.
Carroll’s budget is Chow’s budget. Carroll said she consulted with Chow and used her mayoral platform as inspiration. But all is not lost.
When Chow was asked if she was prepared to commit to Carroll’s property tax hike plans, Chow responded by saying she needed to consult with and hear from Toronto taxpayers first.
Toronto taxpayers need to give Chow exactly what she’s asked for.
Every Torontonian opposed to a massive property tax hike needs to attend a town hall, phone the mayor’s office or send Chow an email.
Toronto taxpayers cannot afford a double-digit tax hike. Taxpayers should seize the moment and make it crystal clear to Chow that now is not the time for a punitive and unaffordable tax hike.
Jay Goldberg is the Ontario Director at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. He previously served as a policy fellow at the Munk School of Public Policy and Global Affairs. Jay holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Toronto.