Monday, June 13, 2011

City can’t afford land transfer tax cut, budget chief says

Toronto’s budget chief says the city cannot afford to cut the land transfer tax in the upcoming budget.

Abolishing the despised tax, which tacks on thousands of dollars to the purchase of a home, was a central promise of Rob Ford’s winning mayoral campaign last year. He pledged to wipe it out by 2012 at the latest. But, faced with a $774-million funding gap, budget chief Mike Del Grande said he does not think the administration should scrap this year a tax that brought in $274-million in 2010

“This is not the year to be looking at the land transfer tax,” he told reporters following the monthly meeting of the budget committee. “You really don’t know what the books will look like until you get in. Although a promise may be made in good faith, it’s a challenge to keep it.”

Adrienne Batra, the Mayor’s press secretary, reiterated that Mayor Ford remains committed to eliminating the land transfer tax during his term, but noted that “the fact that there is a $774-million structural deficit obviously raises some significant challenges.”

One councillor claims that the city’s money woes are not as bad as the Ford administration suggests. “I think we’re in a financial position where with a modest tax increase, and a TTC fare increase, we could make it,” said Councillor Gord Perks (Parkdale-High Park), who accused Mayor Ford of “crying wolf” and scaring residents into cutting services they count on. Mr. Del Grande (Scarborough-Agincourt) lamented that some councillors “don’t get it”.

“We are spending more than we are bringing in. That’s why we are looking at everything under the sun, including the ABCs. It’s not business as usual. We are looking at monetizing assets, labour contracts, user fees. I am doing my best to ensure that the pain is spread evenly,” said Mr. Del Grande.

Source: National Post (Natalie Alcoba With files from Peter Kuitenbrouwer)

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