TORONTO – Mayor Rob Ford promised to keep property taxes “well below” the rate of inflation while building more subways should he be re-elected in October.
It isn’t clear how he intends to do that, especially after voting for a Scarborough subway that will cost Toronto taxpayers at least $1 billion in tax increases over three decades.
During an afternoon press conference Tuesday at his Etobicoke campaign office, Ford pledged his property tax increases will be well below the rate of inflation, which he pegged at approximately 2.5 per cent. (Toronto’s inflation rate has actually been significantly lower over the past couple of years. And annual property tax increases, while much lower than previous mayors’ have been about even with inflation)
“Today I’m committing to keeping your taxes much lower than the rate of inflation like I have for my term in office as mayor,” he said. “My top priority is keeping more money in your pocket where it belongs.”
The mayor cited a Fraser Institute report that claims Canadians are paying more on taxes than basic needs like food, shelter and clothing.
After promising to keep taxes low, he also pledged to build more subways along Sheppard Avenue, where the province has pledged to build a light rail line. He also claimed the downtown relief line is a “done deal.” It isn’t: The city hasn’t even settled on a route, let alone taken any steps toward planning or costing it, although all models floated would cost several billion dollars that presently do not exist.
Ford didn’t say how he’d pay for the promised subways, although he expects the province and the federal government to pitch in.
He added that much of the money the city is spending on infrastructure comes from the (now thoroughly debunked and largely fictional) $1 billion in savings he claims to have found during his term as mayor.
Ford voted to pay nearly $900 million for a three-stop extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway line into Scarborough, funded in part by three consecutive increases of the property tax by 0.5 per cent in 2014 and 2015 as well as 0.6 per cent in 2016. The city will also have to run and maintain the subway and is on the hook for any cancellation costs, which are still unknown: Officially, the original agreement, under which the province would pay the entire capital and operating cost for a seven-stop light rail line, is still in effect.
The mayor has criticized his opponents for supporting “revenue tools” despite his own subway-supporting tax hike.