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Chow says Toronto not trying to 'tax the rain'


Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow says she has no plans to tax rain in the city.

The mayor made the comment Wednesday after consultations about changes to stormwater charges last week sparked concern that homeowners could be taxed for the very rain that falls from the sky.

"Despite what they say on Twitter or X, the city isn’t trying to tax the rain," Chow said Wednesday night in a post to X which included a video of her in a raincoat during the latest downpour. "If it was, we'd be making big bucks today."

News surfaced last week that the city was looking to add a stormwater surcharge based on a property's size and paved surface area.

The proposal would have seen stormwater fees removed from the water rate currently charged to homeowners, and a separate tax added to utility bills as a fixed charge, depending on the size of the paved area on the property.

The new charge would have gone directly to fund stormwater infrastructure.

The idea that properties which send more water into the city's storm system would be hit with higher fees led some to opine that the city was contemplating a "rain tax."

Chow said Wednesday that she's asked city staff to take another look at the proposal.

"I've told Toronto Water to come back to City Council with a plan that supports more green infrastructure, prevents flooding, and keeps your water bills low."  

However Chow explained in her video that the idea behind the proposal was to try make sure that businesses with large parking lots contribute more in accordance with the larger volume of water they send into the storm system.

"When we get a big rainstorm, like right now, basements flood, roads flood, sewage overflows and runs into the lake or on our ravines, and that's because storm water slides off paved surfaces instead of absorbing into the ground," Chow said.

"It overwhelms our water infrastructure. It causes damage to your home and the environment. I think we should make it easier for people to do their part by giving them financial incentives to plant a beautiful garden or install permeable pavement to help the rain drain. I don't think it's fair to have a stormwater policy that asks homeowners to pay while letting businesses with massive parking lots off the hook."

A note on the page where there had been information on the consultations now says that they have been put on hold.

"Consultation has been paused to allow City staff to do further work to align the possible implementation of a stormwater charge and water service charge with the City’s broader climate resilience strategy, as well as the commercial parking levy being considered and the City’s long-term financial plan," the note reads.

It adds that more information will be shared "at a future date."

- With files from CTV Toronto Reporter Natalie Johnson Top Stories

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