Ontarians prefer road tolls to higher taxes, more debt to pay for infrastructure: poll

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Jeremy Cohn / Global News / File

After Toronto City Council voted in favour of asking the province to approve tolling two major city-owned highways last month, a new poll suggests more than 60 per cent of Ontario residents support using tolls to help fund the cost of public infrastructure.

The Nanos Research survey, which was commissioned by the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships, found 60.4 per cent of Ontarians surveyed support or somewhat support the use of tolls to fund infrastructure projects as an alternative to raising taxes or adding to public debt.

Nationally, the survey found 64 per cent of Canadians either support or somewhat support the issue, while 34 per cent opposed or somewhat opposed it and two per cent were unsure.

READ MORE: Road tolls on DVP, Gardiner Expressway endorsed by Toronto city council

It also found that about 60 per cent of Canadians and 55 per cent of Ontario residents surveyed are in favour of having the private sector play a bigger role in financing and managing infrastructure projects.

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The poll surveyed 1,000 Canadian adults from Dec. 16 to 19, 2016 online and by telephone, with a margin of error plus or minus three percentage points 19 times out of 20.

Last month, city council voted 32-9 in favour of asking the province to approve tolling the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway, after Tory said in November he was in favour of implementing the user fee to help pay for transit and infrastructure costs. He added that a $2 road toll would raise around $200 million for the city annually.

WATCH: Mammoliti and Tory get into heated exchange about road tolls

Mammoliti and Tory get into heated exchange about road tolls
Mammoliti and Tory get into heated exchange about road tolls

“We can’t wait around for another debate, or another decision, or another government, or a new council here,” Tory said on Dec. 13.

“I believe traffic is at a crisis. We’ve got to fix traffic by building transit – that’s the number one thing we have to do.”

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Should the province sign off on the city’s request, staff have been asked to report back on capping the amount of tolls Toronto residents would have to pay as well as issuing an Expression of Interest to get detailed information on tolling.

Leading up to the vote critics argued road tolls will place another financial burden on commuters and may cause traffic to disperse onto city streets causing further congestion.

READ MORE: Toronto Mayor John Tory advocates for tolls on Gardiner, DVP

The province still needs to rubber stamp the plan, but Premier Kathleen Wynne suggested last month she wouldn’t oppose it.

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown wants the Liberals to reject tolls and said he’d rescind any such provincial approval if the Tories win the 2018 election.

The New Democrats also oppose road tolls and said both the federal and provincial governments must provide a lot more funding for municipal transit systems.

About 228,000 vehicles travel on the Gardiner east of Highway 427 on a daily basis while about 100,000 drive on the DVP north of the Bayview-Bloor exit.

With files from Nick Westoll and David Shum