The magic number for city labour negotiations: $240 million
The last time I ran into Bob Kinnear, head of the Amalgamated Transit Union, was last October at city hall, on the occasion of the council meeting to ratify the mayor’s new land-transfer tax. There were lots of union folks in the bleachers that day, including Brian Cochrane of the outside workers’ union and John Cartwright of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council. Now that the city has completed its bargaining with Kinnear and his TTC employees, it can look forward to negotiations with Cochrane and its other unions in the months ahead. One wonders if, after all is said and done, there will be any money left over from the new taxes for anything other than salaries.
The land-transfer tax is estimated to bring in about $155 million this year and $240 million in future years—the magic number, if you will. Today’s Toronto Star is reporting that the transit deal alone will cost $160 million annually. If that number is correct, there goes this year’s windfall, and it’s fair to think that all the new tax money will disappear quickly. This doesn’t mean the money isn’t being well spent; presumably the TTC deal includes salaries for the scores of new employees the TTC will need to keep up with its own expansion plans. Nevertheless, the deal is a handy benchmark of the city’s financial situation, and I will be tracking the total cost of the city’s labour agreements here over the course of the year to come. The land-transfer tax will raise about $1 billion over four years—assuming the real estate market doesn’t implode. We’ll see how far it gets us.