Mayor John Tory stands firm on low taxes in the face of massive budget shortfall, declining city services, and his own leadership. And the government’s economic performance is inching upward, at least in the short term, with stronger job growth and less job losses from the crash. The government’s net debt is down almost 40 per cent over the past two years, and its budget is out of the red. All this despite the city’s fiscal performance.
This year’s budget was the lowest in Tory’s short tenure, accounting for just 0.1 per cent of the provincial government’s entire surplus. The $8.5-billion deficit is the smallest since 2010, when the previous Liberal government had just been ousted by a Conservative minority. Its tax increases and benefits cuts will cost the city an estimated $200 million in lost revenue next year alone, compared to $300 million next year’s operating budget.
The current Conservative Government has been accused of being a tax-cutter. The province’s share of total tax revenue remains stable. Its net debt, however, is up by one-third since the Conservative Coalition took office.
A survey from the Toronto-Dominion Bank in December found that 80 per cent of Toronto’s taxpayers plan to either pay more or cut their taxes. The Bank’s poll also found that three-quarters of residents in the Greater Toronto Area would consider raising their taxes, while one-third would consider cutting them. The bank believes Tory’s government has turned an election-year campaign promise from 2015 into reality. The survey found that while only six per cent of residents are opposed to tax increases, they would be most likely to vote for a referendum on them.
Tory’s agenda promises the government would end the city’s costly subsidy to Hydro One and that would mean even more people would get utility rates hikes, with the largest increase of all coming on Hydro One — now at six per cent — and a 7-per-cent increase on Hydro One’s parent company, Ontario Power Generation. Tory had pledged to have a balanced budget by the same date as the upcoming provincial election — April 14. Tory will promise to balance the budget in 2021, although it will be on a higher number of taxpayers’ backs for the second straight year.
A lot of money was raised by lower taxes and public