Councillors vote in favour of tolls on Gardiner, DVP
Chris Fox, CTV Toronto
Published Tuesday, December 13, 2016 9:36AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, December 14, 2016 7:55AM EST
City council has voted 32-9 in favour of asking the province for the right to introduce road tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway as well as a tax on hotels and short-term accommodations.
The decisive vote on Tuesday night came following an exhaustive 12-hour debate at city hall.
City staff have estimated that a $2 toll on both the Gardiner and the DVP would generate $166 million annually while a $3.90 toll would generate $272 million. The hotel tax would net a further $20 million.
The money from the new revenue tools would go towards paying for $33 billion in approved but unfunded capital projects. On Tuesday, city council also voted in favour of requesting a staff report on the "legal, policy and regulatory" measure that could be taken to ensure the money is used "exclusively for transit."
Speaking with reporters following the vote, Mayor John Tory called the decision a vote for a “fair (and) effective” way to pay for transit.
“Make no mistake – today demonstrates overwhelming support for a real plan to build a real transit network with a real answer on how we will pay for it,” he said.
“I have been honest with the people of Toronto about what we need to build, and how we’re going to do it. I believe that Toronto residents want to see real decisions and leaders who are willing to do what is right for this city, and its residents. I am proud of my council colleagues and the leadership they have shown today.”
Prior to Tuesday night’s vote, Tory said that he would be at peace if his position on road tolls ultimately resulted in him not being re-elected in 2018.
“You never go wrong in doing the right thing,” he said during Tuesday’s debate.
“Decades of inaction are costing people jobs in this city, decades of inaction are causing the quality of life in this city to be at risk. We cannot continue on the path we have been on.”
Several other motions
In addition to the road tolls motion, several members of city council also moved motions to revive revenue tools that have been recommended by city staff but not backed by Tory’s executive committee on Tuesday.
Most of those motions, including a plan to revive the vehicle registration tax and petition the province for the ability to implement a personal income tax, were defeated by council.
Council did, however, vote in favour of Josh Matlow’s motion to ask the province for a share of the HST or, failing that, the right to introduce a municipal sales tax.
Council also voted in favour of a motion from Jim Karygiannis to ask the province for the right to introduce a five per cent land transfer tax on the sale of homes to foreign residents.
Opposition to road tolls
Mayor Tory has pushed for the road tolls and hotel tax as a way to pay for the $33 billion in approved but unfunded infrastructure projects currently on the table, including SmartTrack and the Downtown Relief Line.
Some councillors, however, objected to the introduction of any new taxes and argued that Toronto has more of a spending problem than a revenue problem.
On Tuesday, Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti moved to refer the road toll proposal back to staff for further consideration, effectively killing it, but council voted 29-5 against his motion.
Mammoliti then moved another motion to significantly cut back on spending instead of asking taxpayers for money. The motion, among other things, suggested that the city “transition out of child care services,” merge Toronto Fire Services and Toronto Paramedic Services and scrap plans for Rail Deck Park and the $1.1 billion Finch LRT. The motion also says that the city should ask Metrolinx to assume responsibility for the Toronto Transit Commission, which would result in annual savings of $600 million.
“Any politician today that votes in favour of these cash grabs should have the decency to resign,” Mammoliti said.
Though a number of councillors, including Mammoliti and Michael Ford, have vowed to fight the introduction of road tolls, others have been more supportive.
Earlier on Tuesday, City Manager Peter Wallace said that the introduction of road tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway aren’t entirely different than the fares that TTC riders are already required to pay.
Wallace made the comment during a brief presentation at the outset of today’s city council meeting.
“This is a user fee and I should note that we are already very comfortable with user fees,” Wallace said of the road tolls on Tuesday. “We have a $3.25 user fee for access to the Toronto Transit Commission and that (the system itself) has been fully paid for as well.”
Matter needs to go to province
In order to actually introduce road tolls, the city will first have to receive the backing of the provincial government as an amendment will have to be made to the City of Toronto act. The provincial legislation currently states that the city "does not have the power to designate, operate and maintain a highway as a toll highway," unless a regulation is made under the act.
Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca was asked on Thursday whether his government would support road tolls in Toronto but said it’s too early to say.
Progressive Conservative party leader Patrick Brown, however, told CP24 that he "certainly wouldn't support" the introduction of road tolls on the DVP and Gardiner.
"I think Ontario is becoming less and less affordable and this would make it worse. I hope Kathleen Wynne has not given the City of Toronto secret permission to go out and do this," he said.
Tories and NDP have expressed concerns
Both the Tories and the NDP have expressed concerns about allowing tolled roads in Toronto.
Ahead of today’s meeting NDP Leader Andrea Horwath penned a letter to Tory in which she suggested that the province reinstate support for municipal transit operating costs as an alternative, something she estimated would result in an additional $330 million in annual revenue for the city.
“The city’s need for revenue is real and I respect the right of municipal governments to determine the most appropriate way to raise revenues. However, I am concerned that an increasing dependence on flat and regressive fees – such as road tolls and transit fares – can have a disproportionate and unfair impact on struggling residents and marginalized communities,” she wrote.
In addition to Tory’s road toll plan, council is also expected to vote on the budget for 2017 during this week’s meeting.
That budget includes a two per cent property tax hike.