TORONTO – John Tory is promising not to raise property taxes in order to pay for his SmartTrack transit plan.
The mayoral candidate made the promise Wednesday morning during an interview on CBC’s Metro Morning.
“We’re going to finance SmartTrack without increasing property taxes,” Tory told reporters before a noon debate Wednesday.
“That has been my position and that will be my position going forward because I believe that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
Tory’s plan includes utilizing provincially-owned GO Transit rail lines to build 22 new stations over seven years stretching from Mississauga to Markham.
The city is using three consecutive hikes to the property tax rate, along with an increase to development charges and help from provincial and federal governments to build the $3.5 billion, three-stop extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway line into Scarborough.
Tory is hoping to use Tax Increment Financing – a scheme that relies on increased tax revenue from development along the transit line – to pay for the plan.
However critics, including Olivia Chow, have called into question whether the financing plan can generate the needed revenue.
Tory would also have to convince the province building 22 new stations along the rail line is a good idea – suggesting there would be “hell to pay” if those governments didn’t go along with the plan.
He clarified the statement when speaking to reporters Wednesday saying he would utilize his relationships with provincial authorities to build his transit line.
“They’re going to have to deal with me, because I can tell you this much, I do have very good relationships with them and I will use those to the maximum extent possible to advance the interests of the GTA on transit,” he said. “But if they don’t come to the table, I will also be standing up for Toronto and saying that’s not good enough.”
But Chow criticized him, suggesting it wasn’t a good idea to start negotiations with a threat.
“If you start right off with a threat to whichever person you’re negotiating with, I don’t think that’s the right way to step forward. I think you should say ‘hey let’s do this together because we need transit for our city.’”