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November 22, 2007
Carroll to Flaherty: Cities will continue to seek what is rightfully theirs
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 government.

“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.

Media contact:

Ryan Merkley, Executive Assistant to Councillor Shelley Carroll, 416-392-4037



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