WINDSOR, Ont. - Premier Kathleen Wynne is daring municipal officials to risk the wrath of voters by publicly raising the need for new tax powers.
And Wynne says the leaders of Ontario’s 444 cash-strapped municipalities need to figure out what, if any, new taxes they'll need to keep up with the rising cost of doing business. When they do, the provincial government can start granting those revenue tool wishes, she said.
The premier and her government have been reviewing the Municipal Act and consulting municipalities about what revenue tools they require to pay for services and fund infrastructure projects.
Wynne, speaking Monday morning at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario’s annual conference in Windsor, acknowledged cities are leaning heavily on property taxes to cover their costs. She also said she was hearing a variety of opinions on revenue tools, noting “there is not one solution that fits all.”
“To do your jobs most effectively, you have said that municipalities need to be able to raise more revenue themselves and from streams more diverse than property taxes,” Wynne said.
But, before the province gives municipalities more revenue tools, the premier said they need to reach something close to a consensus — and to let the public know what they’re doing.
After taking heat from the Progressive Conservatives and the real estate lobby, the Liberal government has already ruled out letting municipalities other than Toronto charge a land-transfer tax. The door is still open to a proliferation of vehicle registration fees or other revenue tools, but Wynne said municipal officials need to take their needs public.
While Wynne acknowledged there was not likely to be 100-per-cent consensus on revenue tools, she said there still needs to be a “public component” and “political discussion."
“I don’t think that the general public has had the opportunity to have this conversation,” Wynne told reporters. “It’s not something that’s on their radar.”