Tory meets with NDP leader, says it may be time for 'rethinking' of City of Toronto Act
Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Thursday, February 9, 2017 5:35PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, February 9, 2017 11:51PM EST
The provincial legislation that affords Toronto special powers of taxation may be due for an update in light of the Ontario government’s unexpected decision to reject a proposal to introduce road tolls on two major city arteries, Mayor John Tory says.
The City of Toronto Act actually identifies road tolls as a potential revenue tool available to the city but it states that the municipality "does not have the power to designate, operate and maintain a highway as a toll highway," unless a regulation is made under the act, something Premier Kathleen Wynne has refused to do in the case of a city proposal to introduce tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway.
“I think there should be a bigger rethinking (of the act) than I may have thought six months ago,” Tory said following a meeting with NDP Leader Andrea Horwath at city hall on Thursday. “This is a big, responsible, accountable elected government that is bigger than many provincial governments in this county and we are far from being treated in that matter.”
The city had hoped to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for transit infrastructure by introducing tolls on the Gardiner and DVP but last month Wynne said she would not allow the tolls to be put in place and would instead double the portion of the provincial gas tax given to municipalities.
That change could result in an estimated $170 million in additional annual revenue for Toronto as of 2021; however City Manager Peter Wallace has said that it will not be a “direct” substitute for the revenue that could have been generated by the tolls.
Speaking with reporters, Tory said the province’s decision to block a council-backed plan to toll the Gardiner and DVP “underscored” for him some of the issues the city faces with regards to its autonomy.
He said one way those issues could be addressed is through a revision of the City of Toronto Act, which was initially passed in 2006.
“The growth and success of Toronto is fundamental to the growth and success of Ontario. It is time to tell the truth about that and bring in some measures that are going to allow Toronto to be more in control of its own destiny,” Tory said. “Quite frankly if I want to bring in road tolls or something than I’ll wear it, I’ll take the responsibility and I’ll answer for it. I was happy to do that but anyway its history. I don't think we should have to be going up there (Queen’s Park) every week to ask for something that should be in our purview.”
The City of Toronto Act is required to be reviewed by the province every five years under the terms of the legislation. The last such review was conducted in 2015.
Asked for her thoughts on the act on Thursday, Horwath said that it may be time to “adjust or amend it” in order “to make it work for the city in a better way.”
Horwath also called on the province to provide the city with funding to cover 50 per cent of the operating costs of the Toronto Transit Commission in order to help replace the revenue that would have been generated by the road tolls.
The city had previously estimated that a $2 toll would have generated $166 million a year while a $3.90 toll would have brought in $272 million.
“I can see why the mayor would be very, very disappointed, particularly when there was no resolution coming forward,” Horwath said of Wynne’s decision to reject road tolls. “Certainly there is the gas tax promise the premier made sometime in the future but it doesn’t even cover off the amount that the 50 per cent operating commitment would be.”
Among other things, the City of Toronto Act provides Toronto with special permission to collect a municipal land transfer tax. In 2015, that tax brought in more than $600 million.