Provincial election, municipal concerns
By Chad Ingram
Published May 31, 2018
While we often refer to and perhaps think of the three levels of government as distinct and separate, they are inextricably interconnected. What happens at one level can, and does, have implications at another.
In the case of the provincial government and municipal ones, the latter are creatures of the former. Provincial policy has enormous implications for local governments, and their taxpayers.
As we approach the June 7 provincial election, certainly many people I’ve spoken to personally remain unsure as to how they’re going to vote.
So, if you’re still having trouble deciding how you’re going to cast your ballot in a week’s time, perhaps consider this; what will the provincial parties’ policy promises mean for your municipal property tax bill?
It might seem a bizarre question at first, but think about it.
Former Premier Mike Harris cut provincial spending, but did so, in part, by downloading certain responsibilities to municipal governments in Ontario. Social housing, for example. A number of roads that were once maintained by the province are now maintained by local governments, including a number of them in Haliburton County.
In 2017, when the City of Toronto tried to institute tolls on the city-owned Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway to generate more money for transit projects, it was shut down by Premier Kathleen Wynne for transparently political reasons.
Provincial governments have the ability to deny municipalities revenue-generating tools, while at the same time, creating policies that cost municipal governments more and more money. Mandated asset management plans, new firefighter training requirements, all kinds of reports and paperwork that must be filled out by municipal employees, or done by hired consultants, and submitted to the province.
As the Association of Municipalities of Ontario will tell you, while municipal governments in the province own almost two thirds of all infrastructure, they collect only nine cents per every dollar of taxation; the feds take 47 cents, the province 44.
What is sometimes referred to as infrastructure gap – the amount of money required annually to just maintain existing infrastructure – is about $5 billion.
The AMO recently requested the province add one per cent to the HST, which would generate about $2.5 billion a year, to be directed to infrastructure projects.
It was denied because, well, adding one per cent to the HST is a politically risky move. However, that infrastructure has to be maintained, and that money has to come from somewhere.
Since municipal governments have limited means of generating revenue, that money is most likely going to come from your property taxes.
As a number of local politicians like to say, there’s only one taxpayer
Each of the parties have made a number promises that will, on some level, impact costs for municipalities. It’s something worth researching, if you’re still trying to figure out how to vote.