October 15, 2018


Jennifer Keesmaat Campaign
Fiscal Challenges in Toronto
October 10, 2018

The fiscal environment:

The City of Toronto in its current form is fiscally challenged, by design. Mike Harris' Conservative Government imposed amalgamation on Toronto municipalities over the objections of most citizens, and then downloaded provincial responsibilities onto the new city without introducing any new revenue sources. As a result, the Toronto property tax base must fund transit, social housing, and other responsibilities that are normally funded by senior levels of government. This is very unusual for a large metropolitan area in the industrialized world. By design, taxpayers in the City of Toronto contribute billions more to the Government of Ontario than they receive in public services.

Cost of living for average families:

Meanwhile, poor decisions by the City of Toronto under its current and previous mayors have created an affordability crisis in Toronto. In particular, both rental and owned housing are increasingly priced beyond the reach of average families, and other charges and fees have been downloaded onto users of city services. The City of Toronto has resorted to a series of desperate fiscal expedients to attempt to manage a fiscal vice it was placed into by design, and working families have been forced into that unfortunate reality.

Jennifer Keesmaat’s Fiscal Approach

In light of these facts, Jennifer Keesmaat has proposed a three-point fiscal strategy.

1. In the immediate:

The City of Toronto needs to address its biggest challenges in ways that don’t make the affordability crisis worse for average families. This requires new and creative thinking, and that's exactly what a number of Jennifer's key proposals feature. Her proposal to address housing prices by increasing supply puts city-owned land to work — without major cash outlays by the city.

Her proposal to end the back-of-the-napkin era of transit planning under Mr. Tory and to return to a coherent, integrated and data-driven expansion plan of Toronto's transit network positions Toronto to partner effectively with senior levels of government who have access to a much more robust tax base.

Her safe streets proposal is made possible through a reallocation of existing budgets -- using existing revenue in a smarter way.

An important part of the city's broader fiscal picture is spending money more wisely. Keesmaat will rectify fiscal blunders made by Mr. Tory that are further fiscally burdening the City.

Gardiner Expressway: Mr. Tory has pledged to rebuild the eastern section of the Gardiner from Jarvis to the DVP, at a cost of over $1 billion. The grand boulevard option Jennifer Keesmaat has proposed will cost half that, saving up to $500 million, while opening up land on the eastern waterfront for economic development potential, and environmental and social prosperity. Keesmaat's proposal offers better outcomes for less money and would build the complete streets the neighbourhood deserves.

Transform Yonge redesign: The section of Yonge street between Sheppard and Finch is at the end of its lifecycle and must be rebuilt. City Staff came forward with a “complete streets” approach, which would improve the area for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers, as well as made landscaping and green infrastructure improvements to beautify the area and make it more attractive for businesses, residents, and visitors. Tory sent staff back to design a more expensive option that offers less in the way of safety for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers; provides less support for mainstreet retail businesses; and includes a longer and more disruptive construction timeline. Tory’s plan results in no significant difference in projected traffic flow. Keesmaat's proposal offers better outcomes for less money and would build the complete streets the neighbourhood deserves.

SmartTrack: John Tory promised to build a new 56km, 22-station London-style surface transit line at no cost to taxpayers. Four years later, he has locked the city into building 6 stations on the GO line at a cost of $1.4 billion to Toronto taxpayers, to be operated by Metrolinx. 

Jennifer Keesmaat’s transit network includes five GO RER stations where ridership data projections warrant their creation, reducing the price tag by approximately $200 million. As Mayor, Keesmaat would return to the table with Metrolinx to negotiate a better deal for Toronto taxpayers on the rest of the cost.

2. In the medium-term:
Jennifer Keesmaat has proposed that the property tax system be made more progressive by instituting a new luxury home property tax surtax paid by those who have done the best from Toronto's housing boom, which would fund a Rent-to-Own home ownership program to provide a path to home ownership for people who can’t currently access the housing market.

3. In the long-term: 
After eight years of silence, Toronto needs to resume its leadership role as both Ontario and Canada's economic engine and help drive a fiscal rebalancing between the federal, provincial, and municipal levels of government, to ensure that Canadian cities are set up for success in the 21st century.