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politics

Executive Committee Defers Debate on New Revenue Tools for Transit

Committee rejects opportunity to give Metrolinx their advice about how the region should raise new money for transit.

Metrolinx is unveiling their strategy for raising $34 billion for new transit on May 27, 2013. They’ve asked for the City’s input. But today at City Hall, council’s executive committee, composed of Rob Ford and many of his closest allies, voted to hold off on deciding what advice to give Metrolinx…until May 28.

For several months momentum has been building towards one specific date: June 1, 2013. That’s the deadline for Metrolinx, the regional agency responsible for transit planning in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, to unveil the strategy it wants to pursue in raising the $34 billion we need to build a major round of transit projects, called The Big Move. (Among the projects on that list: a new major subway line for Toronto.) A few weeks ago Metrolinx announced that they would be making their strategy public a few days earlier, on May 27. They have asked all the municipalities in the GTHA to offer advice: their best thinking on what new revenue tools, what particular mix of taxes and levies, would work best and be fairest for their residents. Today’s vote at City Hall, in effect, was the executive committee declining to participate in that process at all, choosing to give no advice rather than pass this issue along to city council for a full debate, and then passing the results of that debate along to Metrolinx as the City’s official position on the subject.

On the executive committee’s planned agenda for today: a major report on the future of transit funding, written by the City’s top civil servant [PDF]. That report endorses the idea that the region should introduce new revenue tools, to create a dedicated source of money to build major transit projects, and includes a set of recommendations about which of those tools would work best for Toronto. The executive committee could have passed that report along to city council without recommendation, or they could have passed along other recommendations to council; if they’d done either, then council would have debated this issue at their meeting on May 7-8.


Related:

Our Conversation with Kathleen Wynne About Her Plans for Transit


This matter isn’t settled, however: council could still find another way of holding their debate. A councillor could introduce a motion at that May 7-8 council to re-add this issue to their agenda; that is tricky, since it would require a two-third majority. Potentially simpler: if a 50 per cent majority of councillors signs a petition, they can convene a special meeting dedicated to this issue specifically. Even before executive voted, it became clear that there is momentum building in one of these directions, with many councillors convinced we need new revenue tools, and several more who have reservations, but are convinced the City cannot pass up the opportunity to share its thoughts with Metrolinx.

If some councillors do make that move to re-add this to their agenda, they can safely expect Rob Ford will be their staunchest opponent. The full text of his speech at executive today:

I’m moving this deferral for a number of reasons. As we know there’s a provincial budget coming down on May 2, and we don’t even know if we’re going to have the same government in place in a month’s time. If the province wants to move ahead and be heroes and implement new taxes, go right ahead. Guaranteed, hell will freeze over before I support any of these new taxes.

You look, every single day almost, there’s something going on. $275-million scandal at the gas plant; millions—and we still don’t know the number—on Ornge helicopters; the eHealth billions of dollars; in our own backyard here just a few days ago thousands in hand sanitizer. And you’re going to turn around to the working person in the city and say “You know what, we don’t have enough money to spend on transit. We’re going to take the easy way out and implement new taxes.”

Talk about legacies—that’s a complete disaster. That’s not a legacy, folks. Let’s get every level of government in line and efficient and running like a well-oiled machine, and then you can go to the taxpayers and say “You know what, we’ve tightened up every single screw on this car. There’s no more tightening.” Folks, we’re far from that. We’re far from that.

If someone wants to hold a special meeting to implement new taxes, go right ahead. Have a special meeting. But folks, this is not the way you do business. The smart thing to do is see what happens with the budget. And like the Premier said, she’s going to go ahead and implement them no matter what, so I have no idea why we’re trying to be the heroes and say “I want to be the first one in line to implement new taxes on the backs of hardworking people in this great city.”

A study just came out today from the Fraser Institute, says the average family spends more on taxes each year than it does on necessities of life. That’s problematic, folks. People cannot afford the taxes, that’s what it comes down to. You might want the best transit system in the world, but the average person can’t afford it, and I’m sorry, we can’t move ahead. We have to find alternative ways to do this. Implementing new taxes is not that way. We don’t even have a say in all this—that’s a separate issue in itself.

This is completely ass backwards, how we’re doing things.


Votes on the motion:

In favour of deferral: Rob Ford, Norm Kelly, Frank Di Giorgio, Cesar Palacio, Gary Crawford, David Shiner

Opposed to the deferral: Paul Ainslie, Peter Milczyn, Denzil Minnan-Wong, Jaye Robinson

Absent: Michael Thompson, Vincent Cristanti, Doug Holyday


What is a “special meeting” of council?

Council meetings are planned and scheduled on an annual basis; the rules state that council must meet at least 10 times each year, and that the schedule must respect religious holidays. Special meetings are ones that are called outside of this regular schedule.

There are three circumstances under which a special meeting can be called:

  • At the request of the mayor, who can call for a special meeting at any time and for any reason; he or she must give 24 hours notice.
  • In case of emergency, in which case the mayor can call a meeting without 24 hours notice, so long as all members of council are individually informed about the meeting and a majority of those councillors agree to it.
  • At the direct request of councillors, by way of a petition signed by a majority of councillors. The petition must include “a clear statement of the meeting’s purpose” and the meeting must be held within 48 hours of filing the petition with the city clerk.

If council were to hold a special meeting about this issue, it would be of this last type. If this sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because we’ve seen it before: it’s what happened in February, 2012, when councillors led by TTC Chair Karen Stintz called a special meeting to debate the future of several planned new LRT lines in Toronto.

The alternative: if a two-thirds majority of councillors agree, they could re-add this item back to the agenda of their next regularly scheduled meeting, on May 7-8.

Comments

  • rich1299

    Ford would’ve been very happy for this to go to council if he thought he’d get his way there but knows he’s totally irrelevant outside the executive committee. Its not the least surprising he thinks a news release from him can replace city council’s debate on the issue, after all its all about himself and the actual needs of our city aren’t even on his radar. A city council debate might distract from his re-election campaign.

    Its pathetic he’s already back to election campaigning after giving up trying to actually be mayor a long time ago, he’s got to be hammering home his message and not let city council do its job of running the city to avoid any distractions from it. Why he’s even running again is beyond me considering how little he actually seems to enjoy his job, I’m sure its all about getting his name in the news as often as possible instead of actually doing anything to help the city.

    • Lee Zamparo

      Already back to campaigning? He hasn’t *stopped* campaigning since he realized that he didn’t have the political mettle to advance his agenda at council, right around the time of the reversal on Transit City. He’s been fighting a battle where his best outcome is to stall and somehow position himself as the outsider / underdog for 2014. It’s really tiresome. What’s more, I don’t know what he expects is going to change exactly. Historically, most councillors get re-elected, and so the roster on council is likely to be very similar for the next term. What does Ford expect is going to be so different the next time around?

      • Testu

        Remember his constant appeals to the public on his radio show, to contact him with questions about the political process or regarding people they think would be a good fit for a city council position?

        He thinks he’s going to “stack the deck” by having Ford nation vetted candidates running everywhere. He believes that the current centre-left leaning council is an aberration so he’s going to fix it by getting Ford Nation to elect the “right kind” of people (pun intended).

      • Testu

        It just occurred to me that his own, hand-picked, executive committee was split six to four with three of them skipping the vote entirely. Between this and the recent vote on the casino recommendations it’s starting to look like the mayor can’t even consistently wring support from his closest allies.

        This would be both sad and funny if it didn’t involve Rob Ford flailing away at public policy that will have a lasting effect on the city.

  • Testu

    So Mayor Ford’s cunning plan is to ensure that he has no input on the process at all rather than at least being able to guide the city’s involvement. Absolutely brilliant.

    I especially love how he’s decided that going “LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU” when faced with the subject is a reasonable response because, after all, who know who will be in charge of the province in a couple months. As if that will have any bearing on transit congestion or infrastructure needs.

    No, Rob Ford is going to fix the government. Once he done that, removed every trace of fat and waste and inefficiency, at the municipal and provincial levels. Then and only then can he focus on fixing the already critical issue of a massively overcapacity transit system.

    I have to say, I find this somewhat upsetting.

    • dsmithhfx

      Mark Towhey was claiming on CBC radio this morning that Metrolinx & Wynn have already made up their minds on funding tools which are not a casino, magic beans or “efficiencies”, so therefore Rob Ford’s only possible role is as a spoiler (though he didn’t quite phrase it that way).

      • vampchick21

        It’s cute how Mark Towhey thinks Rob Ford still has some relevance.

      • Testu

        Even if that were true it doesn’t make any sense. He’s basically stating that Rob Ford’s only motivation is to be a contrarian.

        Admittedly this would pretty accurately sum up his entire history on city council.

  • Lee Zamparo

    I wonder if Hudak’s speech writer will pursue plagiarism charges against Ford?

  • MT Not Future Mayoral Material

    Michael Thompson tries to sound reasonable and tries to toe the line at the same time. Why just the other day he was quoted in the papers as saying this is something that should be discussed and when it’s time to put his name on the dotted line he is absent. This goes way back to Miller’s term when he was doing the exact same thing.

    Quit being a waffler and show some leadership instead of just talking about it!

    • dsmithhfx

      The chances of Michael Thompson being anything but a pathetic bootlicker are slim to none.

      • MT Not Future Mayoral Material

        I was only repeating the whispers that can be seen from time to time in the local media that put forth the notion of his future potential.

    • selonmoi

      He’s a total two-face. You should have heard him at the Feeling Congested panel discussion.

  • http://www.facebook.com/paddy221666 Patrick Smyth

    “Councillor Gord Perks suggested the Board of Trade’s proposals will unfairly target the poor.” Toronto Star.

    Gimme a break! Councillor Perks voted to kill a supply of free affordable housing units in my community. Does he think the 153,000 needy Toronto residents should just wait until he works through his two-faced agenda? Toronto voters need to pay attention. If these guys were as wonderful as they make themselves out to be we wouldn’t be in such a mess.

    • vampchick21

      Since Perks is my councillor, could you please give me a bit of direction as to this vote? I’d like to see what exactly it was. Thanks!

    • Winkee

      You know what already unfairly targets the poor, unnecessarily high fare rates Gord! How are commuter taxes, sales taxes or income taxes going to be any worse than making the system entirely inaccessible to the people who need it the most.

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    I would love to see this Fraser study that says people pay more in tax than they spend on food and shelter and clothing.

    • vampchick21

      It’s on the Fraser Insititute website actually….reading it now to get a sense of what it’s saying.

      • vampchick21

        in short, as our collective incomes have gone up since 1961, so have our taxes, and it means all types of taxes, income, sales, property, EI contribution, CPP contribution, etc. Which makes sense.

        • Winkee

          Have incomes gone up since the 70′s though? There is plenty of evidence that median incomes have completely stagnated since the 80′s so I’m not sure what time frame or level that stat is citing.

          • vampchick21

            I only read the little press release on the Fraser Insititute website and not the actual report (it’s there, free download), but based on that, the time frame seems to be 1961-2012, and income did rise by 1,382 percent in that time frame, if there is a level it would be in the report. Apparently taxes rose by 1,787 percent in the same time period (all types of taxes). One would also have to look at what government programs (since that’s what taxes pay for) were implimented and/or expanded in that period, what needed updating, etc, etc. It’s one thing to say that taxes went up over a 51 year period, but we also need to understand all the factors that caused that. Rob Ford’s use of the report as a basis for his arguement is being done to cater to his dwindling base and trying to fearmonger.

          • tyrannosaurus_rek

            In other words, Ford (or his writer) doesn’t understand what the study actually says.

          • vampchick21

            Bingo. :) He went straight to “We’re paying more taxes!” without bothering to examine the whys and wherefores. He also doesn’t seem to grasp that government programs are paid for via taxes. Anything public is paid with and maintained by tax dollars because its for us all, rich or poor.

  • JohnnyD

    “Let’s get every level of government in line and efficient and running like a well-oiled machine, and then you can go to the taxpayers and say ‘You know what, we’ve tightened up every single screw on this car. There’s no more tightening.’”

    I’ve decided to apply Mr. Ford’s wisdom to my personal life–no more spending (and I’m refusing all raises) until I have expunged all waste.
    I paid $8 for toilet paper at No Frills last week, but it was on sale for $7.50 at Freshco–I’m not going to make my car payment until I get that $0.50 back. And I’m definitely not paying rent until I’ve got the extra quarter I paid for low sodium soy sauce out of the red.

    Oh wait… That makes no sense at all.

  • http://twitter.com/FutureMatt FutureMatt

    The complaint is the province mis-spent money on gas plants and helicopters. The whole idea of “dedicated revenue” is to ensure that any money collected is spent specifically on transit, and can’t be spent on gas plant cancellations or helicopters or robo-calls or anything else.

    So what exactly was his point?

    • JohnnyD

      I disliked the late cancellation of the gas plant, but the scandal there is that party staffers called the shots, not the cost of the cancellation itself.
      Both the Tories and NDP had the cancellation of the plant in their election platforms, so they don’t get to complain about that as waste.

      • Hashtag Fail

        Actually, as much as I dislike the guy and his policies, I have to give credit to Tim Hudak. He played that card well — if he had won, he would have been the hero, saving us from Liberal mismanagement/corruption. Because he lost, he is looked at as someone watching out for your dollar, holding the Liberal to account. In either case he still is a hypocrite, forgetting easily what his caucus did in the Harris days — cancel the Eglinton subway, and fill in the hole, leaving us with a stubway to a mall. Meanwhile, the NDP, while promising a similar thing in their election platform, are faced with a choice — milk the Liberals for what they’re worth until the next election, or flush and hope it doesn’t clog the toilet.

        Can’t wait to ride on the Finch West LRT when it finally opens…whenever that will be.