Chow tells feds, pay up or we hike taxes to unsustainable level

Three different tax hikes amount to biggest proposed tax hike in city history.

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Toronto taxpayers are sitting in a hostage situation right now as Mayor Olivia Chow puts a gun to our heads, telling the feds to pay up, or she’ll shoot.

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The proposal for a 10.5% tax hike, 16.5% unless the Trudeau government hands over more cash, landed with a boom on Wednesday morning.

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Anyone paying attention to politics in Toronto knew that electing Olivia Chow as mayor would lead to a tax increase. Chow never denied it; she wouldn’t even dispute claims that her tax hike would be 20% or more. All she would say is that she would bring in moderate tax increases.

Asked during a Wednesday afternoon news conference if this proposal was a moderate tax increase, Chow claimed this was a staff budget and not hers. Essentially, she refused to answer and, after several more questions, would not say whether residents could afford such a hike — or if she endorsed it.

Neither a 10.5% nor a 16.5% tax hike is moderate by any stretch. Both are well above the rate of inflation, and when compounded with last year’s hike of 7%, represent a significant boost to residential property tax bills.

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For every $100 of property taxes that you paid in 2022, you paid $107 in 2023. Under Chow’s plan, you will pay $124.65 if the 16.5% hike goes through, and $118.24 if the lower hike is the final number.

Over two years, an increase of 18% to 25% is outrageous and well above anything to do with inflation. This overspending was a major problem under John Tory and is continuing — growing even — under Chow.

The other shocking part of this is that Chow’s proposed tax hikes come after she got her new deal with the province to upload the Gardiner and DVP and, as Budget Chief Shelley Carroll put it, take over $400 million in operating costs.

Councillor Brad Bradford said that between what the province has delivered and what the feds recently put on the table, there has been a massive influx of cash to the city from other levels of government.

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“The first question I would be asking the mayor is ‘What steps have you taken to save the city money? What efficiencies have you tried to find within your service delivery?’” Bradford said.

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He added that given the size of the tax hike, he doesn’t think Chow and her team, or city staff, have done enough to look for savings.

One councillor who has been generally supportive of Mayor Chow since her election says he will be breaking ranks with her over the budget, which will be revised and presented by the mayor on Feb. 1. City council will approve this year’s budget on Feb. 14.

“It will be a Valentine’s Day massacre,” Jon Burnside told The Toronto Sun.

Burnside said that both council’s left and right wing have failed at finding ways to get back to basics instead of sticking with the status quo.

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“We haven’t been willing to step away from issues that we aren’t responsible for,” Burnside said.

He identified refugee shelters and long-term care homes as areas that are the responsibility of other levels of government that the city, and city taxpayers, are bearing. He’d like to see the city focus on getting back to core services, rather than taking on costs that should be borne by the provincial or federal governments.

Chow rejected the idea of looking at a service review or getting back to basics in September during a council meeting on budget priorities. Instead, she encouraged people to come out and take part in budget consultations over the next few weeks; something I’d say should happen as well.

Average citizens, including renters who will be hit by this tax hike, need to step forward and have their voices heard so that it’s not just activists pushing for higher taxes who are being heard.

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