Another Call to Raise Toronto Property Taxes

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This piece by Lawrence Solomon is very effective at pointing out the contrast between property taxes applied to landlords versus those that are paid by private homeowners.

In Toronto, property taxes for homeowners are disproportionately low, not just compared to local rental costs, but also for property taxes applied across the province and rest of the country.

As a result, there’s no logic to renting a property.  When inhabitants of other world-class cities (New York, Chicago, London, etc) have no hope in hell of owning something, why should the people of Toronto (note how I’m equating Toronto with these other top-tier cities)?

Solomon hints that landlords should pay less, but obviously I lean towards the opposite:  property taxes levied on homeowners need to increase.

The frenzy that’s happening with Toronto real estate will not be solved by Ontario’s ‘Hail Mary’ plea to the federal government to alter capital gains taxes. Don’t get me started on the absurdity of this request.  It’s a massive fail on Wynne’s part.

This is asking the Rest of Canada to pay for Toronto’s insanity.

So, NO.  We won’t accept that.

Instead, here are just a few suggestions about how Toronto can moderate the frothiness of their real estate market without pissing off the Rest of Canada:

  1. Institute a gradual increase in homeowner property taxes over the next 5 years so that Toronto leaders can fund their city based on payments from Torontonians.
  2. Put an end to real estate speculation by enforcing transparency with bidding IMMEDIATELY.  The level of disturbing manipulation that’s taking place must come to an end.
  3. Implement a foreign ownership tax similar to Vancouver.
  4. Cap the borrowing rates, especially for new owners.  If all you can afford is a 600-square-foot apartment, that’s all you can afford.

The message for Toronto is that you have to take care of yourself if you want Canada to come to the table.  And you have to accept that you’re a world-class city, so ownership simply may not be an option.

And if that’s unacceptable?

There are hundreds of cities, towns and villages where you can live affordably in Canada and that would be happy to receive you if you gave them a chance.

Creating rules and regs that affect 100% of us for the benefit of a select few is a recipe for disaster.

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Transit: We’ve Been Here Before

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Transit.

There’s nothing like disrupting everyone’s commute to get everyone in a whipped up, frothing mad, blood-boiling rant about getting around.

I’m going to chip in.

I live in a town where the new ‘monorail’ is bus rapid transit (BRT).  You know:  the system where they chew up all of the roads for many years, create dedicated lanes for buses and then keep their fingers crossed that someone will want to swap privacy and singing out load for an hour wait at the corner for a 20 minute drive.

BRT is the new ‘shovel in the ground’ flavour of the day, just after massive swimming pools that leak everywhere and skateboard parks that get shut down after too many lawsuits against the city that built them.

The people in the town where I live show no inclination towards changing their car-driven habits.  They will not convert.

And the students – who are the majority users where I live – might use the bus more often.

Unfortunately, they’re not the ones footing the bill for this infrastructure extravaganza, nor will they ever see the result of the effort after they pack their books away and head to the big city that has real transit and solid intensification plans.

Finally, there’s an assumption prevalent with BRT proponents that relies heavily on the idea that technological advances will come grinding to a complete halt and things like renewable vehicles, car swapping, HOV efficiencies, efficient planning to ensure buses don’t drive around empty, automated cars and other innovations will never materialize.

Even though they’re already here.

And BRT will come to stand for Big Ridiculous (Transit) Tax that no one wants.

Stepping Back …

Let’s step back for a second.

Waaaay back.  Say, about 100 years.

Back at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries, there were no cars.

In Dark Age Ahead, Jane Jacobs clearly traces the transition from rail transit that existed in nearly EVERY North American city to highway traffic dominated by cars.  Buses became the only option and substitute for the highly efficient rail system.

Why?  Because the bus companies were owned by auto manufacturers like GM and Ford and they were substantially more profitable than cars.

And – the double whammy – getting rid of rail also pushed people into the more private experience of car ownership.

With cars and flexibility with choice of where you could live, sprawl was invented.

Back to the Future …

I’m a fan of the following, ideally in the order presented:

  1. Intensification
  2. Beautification of cities, especially the downtown core (1 & 2 really have to happen at the same time)
  3. Accommodation for other modes of transit (walking, cycling, high occupancy / car pooling)
  4. Tax breaks for businesses that setup shop downtown; taxes on businesses outside the core area.
  5. Public transit – subways
  6. Public transit – light rail
  7. Public transit – buses

Today, I counted 7 – SEVEN – empty buses meandering around the downtown core where I live within a few feet of each other.  Of course, there were many more on other streets, but the distinguishing feature for these 7 buses is that they were all empty or nearly empty.

You’re not going to sell me on ripping up our roads if you can’t sell people on using public transit in the first place.

Some Words of Advice …

Hey, I’m not a public transit expert, nor am I a city planner.

I don’t even ride the bus any more.  I walk everywhere because I live downtown and have everything I need.

But what I do is pay taxes.  And I don’t want my taxes going to the latest flash in the pan, must-have municipal boondoggle that everyone else is throwing billions at.

Buses are not the answer.  Not now, not before and not moving forward.

BUT … if you want to sell me on public transit, that’s easy.  I’m a supporter of the idea, but let’s get the country’s municipalities and planners together and agree on these steps when it comes to investing in transit:

  1. Show us your strategy to LIMIT sprawl.  For example, no apartment towers outside a certain radius of town.
  2. Show us your plan for each of the growth stages below and how you’ve already started to expropriate land and negotiate easements.
  3. Approved plans for intensification will get ‘seed’ rounds of funding when they reach specific population sizes.  Examples:  100,000 people = x number of buses.  500,000 = Light rail transit investment with a set range of coverage.  1,000,000 = investment in subway, again for specific corridors of population.

No plans = no money from the province or feds.

Again, my ideas and thoughts may not be perfect, but let’s not sacrifice our downtown areas at the altar of shitty tech and shiny budgets.

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Republicans: Do They Have a Future?

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This article from Robert Reich outlining the 4 (maybe 5) reasons why Donald Trump should be impeached spurs many thoughts.

First, here’s a summary of the 4 (maybe 5) reasons for impeachment:

  1. Trump is “‘unfaithfully’ executing his duties” by accusing former President Barack Obama of “undertaking an illegal and impeachable act” (without evidence).
  2. The Consitution of the US forbids government officials from taking things of value from foreign governments, but in at least one case (China), Trump is receiving economic benefits in the form of permission to implement the Trump brand in China.
  3. The travel ban – being based on religion – is in violation of the 1st Amendment of the Constitution which bans any law “respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
  4. Labeling the press as ‘enemy of the people’ and giving privileged access to organizations that will give favourable cover of his office is a violation of the 1st Amendment Freedom of the Press.
  5. Treason.  With evidence mounting that Trump colluded with a foreign government (Russia) to interfere with the 2016 general election, Trump could be impeached for reasons of treason.

Treason.

Now, to the point of this article.  My long view is that the Republicans are toast.

Donald Trump will destroy the Presidency for the Republicans.

Of course, he won’t be impeached because the Presidency, the Senate and the Congress are ALL controlled by the Republicans, so there is no political will for leaders to take action against their own party.

That said, my prediction is that the 2018 Senate and House of Representatives elections will bring about a Democrat majority for both institutions.

We’ll not only have the political will to impeach Donald Trump, but the path will be paved for the complete ruin of the Republican party, given the array of mishaps, mis-truths and abuse of government we can expect to see from the Trump circus over the next 18 months.

That said, the Democrats have to get their act together now and understand how pissed Americans are about the global economy and other non-issue issues like ‘terrorism’, ‘racism’ and other ‘-isms’.

They’ll need to gut their party and start running on a platform of austerity and accountability.  They’ll need to get out of the pockets of ‘big business’ and the revolving door.

In other words, they’re poised to lose a splendid opportunity.

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Ontario Liberals Attack on Public Education

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It looks like Wynne’s Ontario Liberals will put up to 300 public schools on the chopping block within the next 12 months.

Like most taxpayers and citizens, I hate hearing this kind of news because it sounds like an echo of defeat.  My interpretation on this is similar to my response to Wynne’s cynical plan to reduce Ontario Hydro bills.

Everything she does, she does at the expense of people that can’t vote for her.

Children are bearing the brunt of Wynne’s hopeless and hapless management of Ontario.

Schools ultimately get closed for two reasons in this province:

  1. Sprawl
  2. Excessive administrative / management costs

Sprawl is Earth’s cancer.  As we build ‘new communities’, we pull away from existing ones.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen a new, gleaming Catholic school located on a massive field in the middle of a soon-to-be-built suburb.

The suburbs act as a giant centrifuge, pulling bodies, money, commuters and other resources away from what we’ve tried to build in central areas.

And even if it’s a new public school, it draws potential homeowners away from urban areas into the burbs.  It threatens the very core of what we city planners are supposed to strive for:  intensification, integration and socialization.

Sprawl is the epitome of design and intellectual laziness when it comes to municipal planning.

Administrative costs with schools have skyrocketed.  There are now several layers of management for every school, driving up the cost of keeping any institution.  Of course, the same goes for hospitals, universities and even once-public organizations like Ontario Hydro, where administration / management costs now account for about a third of all budgets.

Instead of removing some of the bloat from the public ranks, Wynne would rather sacrifice the future of children and our urban centres.

What a shame.

 

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Some Good News: Ontario Cottagers Will Not Get Hydro Rebate

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The entire Ontario Hydro portfolio is a disaster.

Kathleen Wynne has admitted it.

The opposition leaders know it.

Thankfully, the rural rebate will not be applied to temporary residents known as cottagers.

Seasonal owners will not get a rebate from Ontario Hydro and will stay be forced to pay the delivery charge.

If you don’t like the situation, sell your cottage.

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