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Toronto council has spent nearly eight hours questioning how to pay for the $ 33 billion of unfunded transit and infrastructure projects, with councillors divided over the contentious idea of road tolls.
While pricing is far from being set, a $ 2 per-trip toll on those two highways would bring in about $ 200 million to city coffers each year, according to a staff report. That projection factors in estimated one-time start-up costs of $ 100 million to $ 150 million — and estimated annual operating costs of up to $ 70 million.
Tory told council that he had three choices when it comes to finding the money needed to pay for the unfunded projects in the city: a “massive” property tax increase, selling city assets, or putting in road tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway.
He said he’s convinced the road tolls are the best of those options.
“How are you going to pay for the transit? It’s not free,” Tory said.
The Ward 7, York West councillor said that if the mayor felt this strongly about the tolls, Tory should have campaigned on the idea. But since he did not, Mammoliti argued that city council should let the province make a decision about tolls.
“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,” Horwath wrote in the later, dated Tuesday. “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. I know that by working together, we can find better funding options.”
Horwath called on the provincial government to restore funding for operating costs for municipal transit.
Premier Kathleen Wynne, speaking to reporters after a speech on Tuesday morning, said she hadn’t received a formal request from the city for permission to impose tolls. But, she said, “I’m very much looking forward to having that conversation with the mayor once he’s had it at council.”
On Monday, Mammoliti unfurled a banner on the Dufferin Street Bridge over the Gardiner to express his displeasure. His sign, “Honk for No Tory Tolls,” is part of his campaign to fight the tolls, which he has vowed to do since Tory endorsed them.
“What he is neglecting is his responsibility to find efficiencies in this city, and some of us have to remind him that he was elected on the promise not to bring tolls into this city,” Mammoliti said.
On Monday, Tory said that councillors who disagree with the idea of tolls should suggest other options for raising revenue.
“I say to those who have expressed opposition, I respect your right to take a position against road tolls. But leadership also requires you to spell out in detail where the funds would come from to build transit and fix the traffic.”
Coun. Joe Mihevic asked what the earliest possible date would be for implementing tolls on the busy highways. Transportation staff said that while the current report suggests it wouldn’t be until 2024, the earliest possible date would be 2019.
During Tuesday’s debate, councillors also asked how much money would be raised by other proposed revenue tools, including reinstating a personal vehicle tax (about $ 100 million annually), and bringing in a hotel tax (about $ 10 million per year for every 1 per cent levied).