Mayor Miller pressing hard for support on taxes

Mayor Miller pressing hard for support on taxes

Just days before Toronto city councillors vote on two controversial new taxes, Mayor David Miller is trying to muster support by stressing the importance of the proposed levies.

“We don’t have the money to support our programs, we don’t have the money to invest in a 21st century city — that is what we are trying to achieve,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “I’m speaking to a number of members of council every day,”

Miller says the proposed land transfer tax and vehicle registration will help the cash-strapped city, which is facing a $575 million budget shortfall next year.

The mayor says the taxes, which he calls “revenue tools,” could raise $356 million a year.

He reportedly has the support of nearly half the council, among them Councillor Howard Moscoe.

“If we don’t approve this land transfer tax, we are going to have major cuts in services, and nobody in the city is going to tolerate that,” Moscoe said.

Miller is reportedly working on softening the impact of the land transfer tax to get the vote to pass on Monday. Examples include reducing the percentage a buyer would be taxed and grandfathering purchase agreements for condominium buyers.

“That’s tinkering with the tax, which may or may not be important,” said Councillor Peter Milczyn. “But we still have to reduce our costs, otherwise all that money that gets collected will disappear in two or three years anyway.”

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.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation, who on Wednesday issued a report card on councillors and the mayor, says council needs to reduce spending and cut out perks to solve the financial woes.

“(They) want to ask us for more money, but (they) won’t give up a $5,000 pass,” said Kevin Gaudet, the organization’s Ontario director. “It demonstrates they don’t seem to get it.”

Miller, meanwhile, is expected to announce on Friday an independent panel of business and community leaders who will examine the city’s books. Their report and recommendations should be known by the spring.

With a report from CTV’s John Musselman