TORONTO, Nov. 22 /CNW/ - Toronto Budget Chair Shelley Carroll issued the
following statement today on behalf of the people of Toronto.
"This country is in the midst of unprecedented growth. The Canadian
dollar is hitting record highs, unemployment is lower than it has ever been,
and the federal government is enjoying a $14- billion surplus.
"Canadians need to ask themselves some very simple questions: why do
cities continually need to raise taxes to meet basic service needs when Ottawa
has an enormous surplus? Why did Toronto have to impose a land transfer tax
and vehicle ownership tax when Ottawa has an enormous surplus? Why are bridges
crumbling in Montreal when Ottawa has an enormous surplus?
"And why did the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) recently
issue a report stating the infrastructure deficit in Canadian municipalities
is $123 billion? Surely the FCM and all those municipalities across Canada
can't be wrong. Surely Ottawa is not second-guessing sound research and data
collection from a respected body like the FCM.
"Cities and towns do not have access to revenues that grow when the
economy grows - unlike Ottawa. The surplus Ottawa is enjoying is, indeed,
financed by cities. And that is why Canadian municipalities are asking for the
equivalent of one cent of the GST.
"The federal finance minister says cities are 'whining.' Is it 'whining'
to demand that public funds be spent judiciously? Ottawa is clearly out of
touch with the rest of Canada if that is the prevailing attitude.
"Mr. Flaherty has repeatedly talked about the Building Canada Fund. Yes,
it's a start, but certainly not a panacea. The program offers some help for
public transit, but falls far short of what Canadian cities need to remain
vibrant, liveable, and economically sound in the 21st century.
"Mr. Flaherty lectures that cities need to build reserves to fund
deficits. Public transit and maintaining infrastructure requires enormous
investments - in the billions of dollars. The property tax base cannot fund
reserves of the magnitude needed today. Property taxes pay for services like
police, fire, EMS, recreation, garbage collection, water - basic services
Canadians depend on everyday.
"It's also important to remember that Mr. Flaherty was part of the Mike
Harris government that forced Ontario municipalities to start drawing from
reserves to pay for the cost of downloading.
"The surplus Ottawa enjoys is the people's money. It is not Stephen
Harper's or Jim Flaherty's to play politics with. Canadians know that and it's
time the prime minister and finance minister recognized it, too.
"Toronto is the fifth largest city in North America. It's vibrant and
exciting, but is suffering because of inaction by Ottawa.
"In October the Toronto Government stepped up its aggressive program to
reduce business taxes to ensure the Canadian economy continues to thrive.
Ottawa's Treasury will be a prime beneficiary. The time is now for Ottawa to
set aside its ideological bent and do the right thing by representing all
Canadians - urban and rural.
"This matter is too serious and has gone on for too long. Ottawa owes
cities - the people - a great deal; it's time it started start living up to
its commitment to public service by serving the public and practicing good
"The legitimate needs of cities will not go away and Canada's municipal
leadership remains united in its campaign to protect communities."
Toronto is Canada's largest city and sixth largest government, and home
to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people. It is the economic engine
of Canada and one of the greenest and most creative cities in North America.
In the past three years, Toronto has won more than 70 awards for quality,
innovation and efficiency in delivering public services. Toronto's government
is dedicated to prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents.
For further information:
For further information: Media contact: Ryan Merkley, Executive
Assistant to Councillor Shelley Carroll, (416) 392-4037