Letter of the Week

Letter of the Week

This letter of the Week comes from: Five things that need to change in Weston / Mount Dennis. Part 5.

Anonymous wrote:

Mr. Murray, out of the goodness of your heart, do you voluntarily make extra property tax payments? I would hope so.

 

This letter came in reaction to an opinion in the article that the poor are suffering thanks to the needless austerity imposed by our low Toronto property taxes; the lowest in the GTA.

The whole point of taxation, especially progressive taxation is to make a collective effort to look after the needs of all citizens. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. said that, “Taxes are the price we pay for civilization.”

Here in Toronto, a voluntary tax payment scheme was set up in 2011 at the height of the Ford mayoralty. No doubt the idea was to deflect pressure for higher taxes by saying, ‘If you’re so keen on higher taxes, pay more yourself’.

Do we really wish to go back to the days of voluntary contributions to pay for services? The days of unpaved streets, private education, private health care and  fire companies who only fight their subscribers’ fires?

We’re all better off when we work as a cohesive society. If I believe that employers should pay a higher minimum wage, as an individual I can’t top up every wage packet but I can cheerfully pay any increased costs.

So, the answer is no, I don’t make voluntary contributions because they would be a drop in the bucket. The whole idea of taxation is that millions have agreed through the democratic process to pay a progressive and reasonable amount to provide services and infrastructure. If we are at the stage of relying on donations from property owners, then the tax structure isn’t working and should be changed so that they pay more.

The measure of a good society is how it treats its poorest citizens. Samuel Johnson put it well when he said,

“Where a great proportion of the people are suffered to languish in helpless misery, that country must be ill policed, and wretchedly governed: a decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization.”

Along the same lines, here’s a quote from Mayor Tory during a recent Inside Toronto interview with David Nickle. The Mayor in spite of regularly punishing the poor and homeless with austerity during his term, now astonishingly claims to be their saviour.

“What you come to realize is that really what you’re here to do … the people who are comfortable don’t need too much help from me,” he said. “It’s the people who are struggling who are most in need of better transit so they can get to a job situation that’s better for them, good housing so they’re not in substandard housing or living in a shelter. That’s when you realize that’s got to be your priority.” Mayor John Tory

Lord knows when this lightning bolt hit Mayor Tory but he seems blind to the fact that he helps the comfortable every day by ensuring that they pay the lowest property taxes in the GTA. He claims that the poor are his priority but his actions and voting record tell another story.

In fact, Canada has some way to go when it comes to public social spending.

From Twitter; @artsifton

Lastly and food for thought; one more quote from Johnson via his biographer:

What signifies, says some one, giving halfpence to beggars? they only lay it out in gin or tobacco. “And why should they be denied such sweeteners of their existence (says Johnson)? it is surely very savage to refuse them every possible avenue to pleasure, reckoned too coarse for our own acceptance. Life is a pill which none of us can bear to swallow without gilding; yet for the poor we delight in stripping it still barer, and are not ashamed to shew even visible displeasure, if ever the bitter taste is taken from their mouths.”

Mayor Tory gets on board

From the mayor’s Twitter account.

Today’s announcement from the mayor (standing behind what looks like a sign recycled from a Rob Ford presser) is to the effect that empty stores should not continue to receive a property tax rebate.

Here at Weston Web, we are grateful that the mayor has obviously been using our search feature and reading back issues. We pointed out the unfairness of this tax situation back in 2013.

Hopefully, hizonner will check through Weston Web for more hints on how to do things better in Toronto. Perhaps that will help boost his dismal 55% popularity rating.

Tory defends the indefensible.

Mayor John Tory and homeowner Dave Bennett. From CP24.
Mayor John Tory and homeowner Dave Bennett. From CP24.

An interesting little charade was taking place yesterday in Weston. The Mayor and Councillor Nunziata were here to extol the virtues of keeping property taxes low. Never mind that Toronto’s budget is facing a $516 million shortfall next year and that Council has a backlog of $33 billion in capital projects with possibly $11 billion still to be added for transportation. Never mind that in our city, the average detached home owner occupies a $1.66 million home.

To support the Mayor and Councillor’s viewpoint,  a press conference was arranged in front of Weston resident Dave Bennett’s lovely home where Dave was quoted as saying that his property tax bill is ‘one of the biggest bills he gets’. Tory chimed in to state that property taxes were good for things like services but shouldn’t go towards capital expenditures (presumably like his completely useless $3 billion one-stop subway in Scarborough that we’re already paying for via a 0.5% property tax levy).

This is the mayor, aided and abetted by our own councillor who would rather cut city services across the board by 2.6% than impose a meaningful property tax increase. When services are cut, it’s the poor who suffer the most. TTC cuts, library cuts, parks cuts, police cuts, social program cuts and public housing budget cuts affect the poor disproportionally. Also look for user fees to be increased in the new year. In the meantime, those of us who own a home, from the most humble of condos in Rexdale to palatial mansions in Rosedale are spared an above-inflation increase in the lowest property taxes in the Province. Coming soon, (and this apparently is a good thing) tolls will be imposed on drivers using the Don Valley and Gardiner routes into town but instead of boosting the TTC budget in anticipation of higher passenger loads, a 2.6% budget reduction will ensure that fares are higher, routes are cut and buses and subways are crowded and even more uncomfortable.

Interestingly, York South Weston’s Ward 11 residents paid only $35 million in property tax last year compared to Toronto Centre-Rosedale whose residents paid $151 million. Most of Weston’s residents would dearly love to be in the fortunate position of directly paying property taxes* and contributing to the City’s budget but unfortunately they can’t afford to buy a home. User fees and transit costs will rise and programs designed to help people better themselves and eventually move onto the property ladder are being gutted by this idiotic strategy.

All this so that John Tory can say he didn’t raise property taxes above inflation and be re-elected in 2018.

Here’s an article and video of yesterday’s event from CP24.

*A whole other article; renters indirectly pay triple the rate that homeowners pay.