A Toronto property-tax hike: Another one of Rob Ford’s broken promises?

Nadine Bells
Daily Brew
June 27, 2012

Once upon a time, a would-be mayor of Toronto promised to "stop the gravy train."

Then Rob Ford was elected. And found very little "gravy."

Then he promised no new taxes to help fund a subway expansion.

And now new the transit plan from the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is proposing a hike in property taxes to help fund its 30-year, $30-billion OneCity Transit Plan.

While Ford told Torontonians to expect a 1.75 percent property-tax increase in 2013, the TTC is asking for a 1.9 percent increase each year for the next four years.

The National Post assumes Ford and his allies will oppose the tax-hike proposition, but his success record as of late doesn't dictate that his voice will have any influence on the final decision.

He's just one vote. Council can make it happen without him. And the plastic-bag lesson says it probably will.

Just last month, Ford tried to ditch the 5-cent plastic bag fee in the city. Council overruled almost spitefully, banning plastic bags altogether. (Ford is now threatening a lawsuit.)

Other incomplete pledges Ford made to the city: hiring 100 new police officers, extending the Bloor-Danforth subway to the Scarborough Town Centre, removing some streetcar routes, synchronizing Toronto's traffic signals, introducing colour-coded curbs to help with parking, investing $400 million in road improvements, and improving customer service from city officials.

Ford hasn't reduced the size of council by half yet, either.

See a simple chart of Ford's pledge-fulfillment here.

To be fair, Ford did follow through on a few of his campaign promises: he eliminated the Vehicle Registration Tax, made the TTC an essential service, published City of Toronto spending online, and reduced the mayor's office budget by 20 per cent.

The Agenda lists Ford's promise of taking homeless people off the streets as another apparent success, as a survey shows a 50 per cent decrease in the number of homeless at night between April 2009 and April 2010. (Ford took office in December 2010.) Still, the improvement is more likely the result of the Streets to Homes project launched in 2005.

In April of this year, National Post columnist Matt Gurney wrote about Ford's campaign promises: "Some he has completed successfully, others he has failed in. Either way, the end result is clear — he's pretty much out of campaign promises that he can actually deliver on."

Gurney suggested that Ford get back on track, salvaging some of his own transit plan, by raising taxes strategically:

"Mayor Ford should create a transit infrastructure fund, supported by new fees, charges and taxes. And he should then offset the new taxes by chopping the same amount of money out of the city's normal operating budget."

So now Ford is faced with a steep new tax to pay for a transit overhaul and expansion. Will he "stop the gravy train" this time around, or let it roar down the tracks?