Toronto councillors lose tax-free TTC passes
Tania Haas, ctvtoronto.ca
Published Saturday, May 1, 2010 1:46PM EDT
Following a Canada Revenue Agency audit of the City of Toronto, the Toronto Transit Commission has asked all city councillors and the mayor to return their tax-free complimentary 2010 Metropasses.
The announcement comes after the CRA concluded earlier this year that free transit rides and other perks count as taxable benefits. Councillors choosing to keep the free Metropass will be required to pay taxes on the $1,188 benefit.
According to a report in The Globe and Mail, councillors were informed of the news in an April 27 letter from Gary Webster, the TTC's chief general manager.
"Can't fight the tax people," Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone told CTV.ca in a telephone interview Saturday morning. "Every employer provides benefits to their employees. However, Revenue Canada has reached a decision. I personally will accept that decision, and I will be purchasing my own Metropass from my own personal account."
The new tax policy has yet to be applied to other freebies councillors currently receive, including rounds of golf at city-owned courses and passes to the Toronto Zoo.
Councillor and mayoral candidate Rob Ford has been pushing to rescind councillor perks for more than 10 years. Ford posted a video on his website denouncing the freebies.
"If you add up the golf passes, free Toronto Board of Trade membership, the free admission to the Ex, the free parking and admission to Casa Loma, free conservation passes, free zoo pass, free parking. If you multiply that by 45 members of council, you are looking at a minimum savings of 20 to 30 million dollars of taxpayers' money," said Ford in his video blog.
Other councillors doubt that cutting free passes will save the city much money.
"I don't think Rob Ford knows how to count," said Pantolone, who is also running for mayor. "If we have to talk about the $11 billion that the city spends every year, between capital and operating, let's talk about real issues and not about these issues that are really insignificant."
The Globe and Mail reported that the CRA agreed not to tax councillors' city hall parking privileges.
That's imbalanced policy making, according to councillor and TTC chairman Adam Giambrone.
"It is an interesting point that parking is not being charged. Probably we should apply an even policy across the board," Giambrone told CTV.ca.
Other mayoral candidates, Giorgio Mammoliti and Sarah Thompson, support the new Metropass tax.
"I think we have to take a look at all the other perks, and make sure what the city is doing is appropriate and legal," Thompson told CTV.ca. "If that's the case, I think that the councillors give back their free passes and perks, or pay for them legally as anyone else would have to."