Queen’s Park backs slowly away from transit-dedicated tax hikes
The provincial Liberal government has produced two reports (one from a blue-ribbon panel, and one from Metrolinx) that recommend hiking taxes specifically to raise money for public-transit expansion in the GTA. But today, after months of silence on the subject, premier Kathleen Wynne finally said it: nope, no new transit revenue for you.
Or so it seems, at any rate.
At a press conference held, for some reason, in a Toronto family’s kitchen, Wynne told reporters this morning that she won’t be including transit-dedicated hikes to the gas tax or the HST in this year’s provincial budget. Such hikes were among the recommendations in both of those previously mentioned transit reports, and so what Wynne is saying is that she’ll be ignoring the best expert advice Queen’s Park has at its disposal, leaving the future of Metrolinx’s $50 billion “Big Move” plan in doubt. Some of that $50 billion is supposed to pay for Toronto’s downtown relief line, a subway-construction project that’s suddenly popular with all sorts of mayoral candidates.
According to the CBC, Wynne claims she’s doing this out a sense of fairness. “I’m not going to ask the people in North Bay to pay for transit in the GTA,” she reportedly said.
But of course, there’s also the fact that moving ahead with these types of transit-dedicated tax hikes would alienate the provincial NDP, likely triggering a spring election. So, that could have something to do with the decision as well. Which is interesting, because a few months ago Wynne was saying that she’d be willing to face an election over this issue.
According to the CBC, Wynne didn’t rule out the possibility of gathering new revenue for public transit from other sources, but it’s hard to imagine what those sources would be. We’ll find out at budget time.