Fate of city councillor questioned over tax vote

Fate of city councillor questioned over tax vote

Scarborough Councillor Brian Ashton’s seat on Toronto Mayor David Miller’s powerful executive council could be in jeopardy.

On Monday, Ashton voted in favour of deferring the vote on a set of controversial new taxes for the city until after Ontario’s provincial election in October.

The motion, presented by Councillor Suzan Hall, was narrowly passed in a 23-22 decision.

“The mayor has chosen that taxes are the approach and that he needed to implement that and there is a lot of value to that particular decision,” Ashton told CTV News from city hall on Tuesday.

“I don’t think you can implement a tax that has that type of opposition to it and secure the necessary public support to move you ahead with the province of Ontario.”

During a news conference on Monday night, the mayor said he has yet to decide on the fate of Ashton.

Other members of the executive committee were disappointed with Ashton’s decision to vote against the mayor.

“I am disappointed because Councillor Ashton has been around for a long time and there’s no question that he understands the fiscal crisis that we’re in and it has been building for some time,” Councillor and budget chief Shelley Carroll told CTV News on Tuesday.

Councillors deferred the vote because some believe a new provincial administration could be more sympathetic to Toronto’s financial woes.

The 45-member council was supposed to vote Monday on the proposed land transfer tax and vehicle registration fee, “revenue tools” Miller says would raise $356 million a year for cash-strapped Toronto.

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, who has opposed the new taxes from the start, said Ashton made the right decision.

“I think that Councillor Ashton really did do the right thing for his constituents and he was true to his word to the mayor that this wasn’t part of the platform,” Minnan-Wong told CTV News on Tuesday.

The taxes, if implemented, would see homebuyers pay about $4,200 more on an average Toronto home, while an annual vehicle registration tax would cost car owners $60 and motorcycle owners $30.

It was standing room only as concerned citizens lined the council chamber on Monday to listen to Miller make an impassioned plea for council to approve the proposed taxes.

“Members of council, we have a very important, a very difficult but essential question to answer today and it’s a clear question,” Miller said.

“The question is will this city government have the ability to invest in this city of Toronto to ensure our success in the twenty-first century.”

A poll released Thursday showed almost 70 per cent of Toronto residents believe taxes should not be implemented until they are debated during the 2010 municipal election.

With a report from CTV’s Desmond Brown