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Toronto Region Board of Trade proposes new taxes to fund expanded transit

Toronto Region Board of Trade president Carol Wilding speaks with reporters about the board's recommendations to raise money to pay for transit expansion in the Greater Toronto Area on Monday, March 18, 2013

TORONTO, Ont. – The Toronto Region Board of Trade is proposing four revenue tools — including a regional sales tax and a regional fuel tax — to pay for plans for expanded transit in the Greater Toronto Area.

The TBOT is recommending a one per cent regional sales tax, a $1 per space per day parking space levy, a 10-cents/litre regional fuel tax and high-occupancy toll lanes, under which single drivers would be charged 30 cents per kilometre.

According to its estimates, the TBOT said a regional sales tax could generate between $1-billion and $1.6-billion annually and a regional fuel tax could rake in between $640-million and $840-million each year.

The recommended parking space levy could generate between $1.2-million and 1.6-billion every year and the high-occupancy toll lanes are estimated to bring in between $25-million and $45-million.

The exact dollar amount or percentage for each proposed tool would be negotiated by the province, the municipalities and other stakeholders, according to the board.

TBOT president Carol Wilding said this is not solely Toronto’s problem.

“To succeed all of us will have to contribute. All levels of government, the public and the private sector,” she said.

She said the GTA’s economy cannot afford to wait.

“I think the figure of losing $6-billion annually — not once — annually in the Toronto region is just a staggering number,” she said.

“If we don’t act, we’re going to fall behind even further.”

“The public is ready for it. We know the cost to our economy. Everybody’s willing to contribute,” Wilding said.

“We’re all going to benefit so people want us to act. Importantly, they want the government to act.”

Metrolinx president Bruce McCuaig welcomes the input but is not ready to commit just yet.

“We also have to hear from municipalities. We have to hear from the public. We also have to hear from stakeholders,” he said.

“We have a process that we’ve been doing over the past few months and we’ll be continuing that engagement over the next few months.”

TTC Chair Karen Stintz is not completely on board with the board’s proposals.

She likes the idea of single drivers paying a fee to use high-occupancy toll lanes but she is a little leery of a fuel tax and parking levy.

“We want to make sure we understand what the full impacts are and how widely that tax will be implemented,” she said.

“With respect to the fuel tax and the parking [levy], I think we need to proceed with those with a bit more caution and get a better sense from the business community about what their thoughts are on those.”

Coun. Doug Ford said the private sector should be tapped first before adding any new taxes.

“The private sector in Toronto is booming compared to other regions throughout the world and in North America,” he said.

“Let’s take advantage of the private sector and see what the market will bear.”

Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday said new taxes in Toronto are not the answer.

Dubbed the “Big Move,” the Metrolinx plan proposes transit expansion across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, which will see $50-billion invested in the area over the next 25 years.

Metrolinx must present its strategy to fund its regional transportation plan to the province by June 1.