A counter proposal to the Metrolinx revenue tools plan

  • Posted on: 28 May 2013
  • By: Allen Small
Press Release

 

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The Greater Toronto-Hamilton Region (GTHA) is one of the fastest growing regions in North America. Currently, Toronto is building more skyscrapers than any other city in the West. Along with this unprecedented construction is immigration, making the GTHA one of the most diverse regions in the world. That growth has created congestion during parts of the workday so that the average commute time in the region is 82 minutes per day, one of the worst in North America.

That is the backdrop of the recent announcement by Metrolinx (an agency of the Ontario government) to proposed revenue tools that will fund a 25-year $50 billion plan to fix congestion in the GTHA.

After years of planning, millions of dollars already spent, and thousands of people working on this plan, it is remarkably unimaginative. There is not a single novel suggestion on how to raise the $2 billion annual cost of the plan. Every idea is a fee or a tax on the already overtaxed citizens of Ontario. For example, the plan calls for raising the HST by 1%, increasing the fuel tax by 5 cents per litre, and raising parking fees and business property taxes.

This begs the question, if transportation and transit infrastructure are regional and provincial government responsibilities, where have they been until now? Why weren’t your tax dollars and transit fares used to fund the expected growth in the GTHA? Isn’t that how a responsible government should operate? 

There is no guarantee and no evidence that this $50 billion government plan will reduce congestion in 25 years. Congestion may actually get worse in this region as urban sprawl continues, aided by the new transit infrastructure. One might ask why similar projections weren’t made 25 years ago? We can only assume that government plans back then were wrong, or worse, ignored.

Furthermore, commercial traffic does not use public transit, and the Metrolinx Plan concentrates only on commuters and not the movement of goods. All consumer goods reach their retail destinations by roadway, and the proposed 5-cent per litre fuel tax will increase the prices of all goods and hurt those most vulnerable and least able to afford price increases.

Many commentators in the media have said it’s time to grow up, we are all residents of the same province and we must face the facts; if we want effective and accessible transit in the region, we'll have to pay for it. We, in the Ontario Libertarian Party agree. But in any household when a family wants a new priority it often cuts back in other expense areas to save for the new priority. Taxpayers do not have infinite ability to pay more and more. Ontario Libertarians recommend that the government cut back on its grants and corporate welfare handouts. All it would take is a 1.6% reduction in the current $127 billion budget to generate this year’s $2 billion for Metrolinx. If transit is a priority, find the savings.

Libertarians also prefer user pay. A provincial re-evaluation of road tolls should be made and any revenue generated should be dedicated to maintaining and building new roads while reducing overall taxes.

Finally, the idea that municipal and regional transit should be the sole responsibility of government should be abandoned entirely. It’s high time that this monopoly be turned over to private competitive industry, so that consumers can choose affordable options for themselves, and taxpayers can be released from the obligation of paying for services they don’t use.    

The Ontario Libertarian Party has been a registered political party since 1975. We advocate free markets, property rights, limited government, and voluntary interactions within communities between individuals and groups. Contact: info@libertarian.on.ca

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