07/06/2007

We want to share with you the following Letter to the Editor of The Toronto Star.
As yet another step in our $3 billion gap campaign, an OP ED piece that has similar messages will be sent to other print media with the hope that they will publish it. There is a lot of awareness building underway locally and AMO will continue its own efforts. If municipal governments are to have strong vibrant communities, we must have the fiscal capacity. This is our number one priority.



Lift fiscal burden from city budget - Toronto Star Editorial, June 30

I want to echo the call by Toronto Mayor David Miller and the Toronto Star for the uploading of provincial costs from municipal budgets. During the 1990s, more and more of the Ontario government's programs and service costs were downloaded to municipalities. 

Today, the full range of services that property taxes support would shock most property taxpayers. It includes the obvious, such as roads and transit, water and waste-water treatment, fire and policing, and parks and recreation. However, it includes many more services that some might not be aware of, such as welfare benefits, long-term care for seniors, public health, child care and social housing.

Almost half of all property taxes go to provincial programs and responsibilities, such as education and disability benefits. We pay $237 per person more in property taxes every year than other Canadians, while the province spends $258 less per person than the rest of Canada on health and social-service programs. As a result, municipalities struggle to fund core responsibilities, such as infrastructure investment, environmental protection and economic development.

If Ontario spent as much per capita as other provinces on health and social services, downloaded municipal costs for these provincial programs would be reduced by about $3 billion a year.

While the Toronto media regularly report on their local budget squeeze, it is important to recognize that the same basic funding relationships that tie Toronto's hands apply to all Ontario municipalities, and they often have devastating results when applied to each municipality's unique circumstances.

Downloading did more than just balance the budgets of the federal and provincial governments by dumping huge costs onto Toronto and other cities. It downloaded unsustainable costs onto the property-tax base of every municipality, large and small, and every property taxpayer in Ontario.

Downloaded provincial costs are undermining the strength of Ontario's municipalities and the hundreds of communities we serve. The answer is to reduce the unsustainable and unwise fiscal burden that provincial policy has placed on them, by uploading health and social-service costs over a manageable period of time.

Doug Reycraft, President
Association of Municipalities of Ontario, Toronto