John Tory says Toronto could sell assets to pay for new transit projects

Toronto Mayor John Tory says the city could pay for transit projects, including SmartTrack, by selling off some of its assets.

Toronto mayor says if he gets his way, the city won't raise property taxes to pay for transit

Toronto Mayor John Tory says he is opposed to property tax increases to pay for transit projects. The city will look at selling off some of its assets instead, he told Metro Morning on Wednesday. (CBC)

Toronto Mayor John Tory says the city could pay for transit projects by selling off some of its assets, including Toronto Hydro.

"I just don't believe that property taxes are the best way to do that," Tory told CBC's Metro Morning on Wednesday. "I have simply said we are going to look at other measures and we are going to do that in two weeks."

Those measures include what he calls "asset monetization."

Tory said those assets could include Toronto Hydro, the Toronto Parking Authority and other real estate. When asked if the city is going to sell Toronto Hydro to pay for transit, he said: "I don't know."

But he said that city staff are preparing a report, requested by council, that will look at how feasible it is for the city to sell off some of its assets, including the public utility.

"We are having a report come back, which the city council itself requested, looking at the Toronto Parking Authority, the Toronto Hydro and real estate assets, and saying what would you advise us to do, in order to see if we could take some  of the value in those assets and free that up for some other purpose," he said.

"Have we made any decisions yet with regard to any of these assets and using them? The answer is no, one way or the other. There have been no decisions made."

Tory said he is opposed to significant property tax increases because many city residents, including seniors and first-time homebuyers, are on a budget and have carefully calculated how much money they need to hold onto their property.

"You are going to get a lot of new stations without increasing property taxes if I get my way," he said.

A report by the city suggested a 2.1 per cent property tax, but Tory has said the city should look at other potential revenue streams.

Tory said the city has been "hurt by" leaders who announced transit projects without addressing how to cover costs. "As a result, it never got built and we are thirty years behind," he said.

"Transit is not free."

When Tory ran for mayor, he pledged not to raise property taxes to pay for his SmartTrack plan.

On Tuesday, Tory has said he believes a funding deal worked out between the city and province to cover the costs of transit projects will likely be passed by city council.

Tory's executive committee approved the funding deal on Tuesday. Under the deal, the city and province would share the $7 billion cost of new transit lines in Toronto.

City council is expected to vote on the plan on Nov. 8. 

The deal would have the city pay for six new SmartTrack stations and the Eglinton West LRT to Mississauga.

Tory had called an emergency meeting of his executive committee a day after the city issued a report that proposed terms for how the two levels of government could share the cost of several transit projects in Toronto.

With files from CBC's Metro Morning