Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says he doesn't agree with using taxes to pay for transit expansion, one of several options the city could consider in the years ahead.
"People in this city are up to their eyeballs with taxes and they can barely keep their head above water," Ford told reporters Tuesday.
"I’m not going to implement a new tax or a new user fee."
The city’s executive committee agreed Tuesday morning to hold public consultations on new ways to pay for transit expansion, with possible revenue sources including road tolls, fuel taxes and parking levies.
The motion for public consultations was passed after committee members discussed a report from the city manager that recommended seeking citizen input on various funding options to expand transit.
Investment in Toronto's transit infrastructure is seen as a higher priority issue as the city faces growing congestion on its roads and crowding in its transit system.
The report was expected to get a rough reception at Tuesday’s meeting as Mayor Rob Ford has in the past rejected both tolls and new taxes to pay for transit.
Addressing the committee, Coun. Doug Ford, the mayor's brother, said the worst part of the report was the inclusion of the word "tax."
Both the councillor and the mayor believe public-private partnerships can be used to build transit without new taxes, but city staff disagree.
Furthermore, the mayor said that all three levels of government need to be on the same page to build transit.
"Until the federal and provincial government comes on board and we get the private sector on board, I’m not going to sit around and just put a tax or user fee on the backs of hardworking Torontonians," he said.
Councillor compares tax to poison
Another member of the mayor's inner circle, Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong, asked councillors to consider how any of the funding options might impact average families.
He also asked whether video screens could be set up at gas stations to ask motorists how they would feel about paying road tolls if the funds went towards expanding transit.
One way or another, Minnan-Wong said residents will find the idea of paying more fees for transit expansion tough to swallow.
"That's like asking which poison would you like to drink? Would you like the hemlock, would you like the rat poison, would you like this one?" he said. "We should be asking them, 'Would you like to take that poison?'"
Mayor disagrees with paramedics
The mayor was also asked Tuesday about his opinion on the group of paramedics who have refused to work overtime, in the wake of a growing dispute over staffing issues.
"I don’t think that’s right, I don’t think that’s right at all," Ford said.
"They’ve got a job to do, they should do it."
City paramedics have raised concern in recent days about their workload and their contention that they are understaffed, a scenario they say could be putting their patients at risk.