Councillor's call for return of Toronto's car tax voted down by city council
Council voted 18-8 against Coun. Mike Layton's motion to bring back vehicle registration tax
A Toronto councillor's motion to bring back the polarizing $60 vehicle registration fee scrapped under former mayor Rob Ford, failed to get majority support Thursday at city council.
Coun. Mike Layton filed the motion during council's budget debate to re-establish the annual fee council axed back in 2010. Councillors voted 18-8 against it.
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In the motion, Layton requested that city council direct staff to report to the executive committee by the second quarter of 2019 on the feasibility of implementing a personal vehicle tax with three parameters:
- The personal vehicle tax has the same administrative design and rate structure as described in Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 765 Taxation . . . which was terminated effective Jan. 1, 2011.
- The standard rate be set at $60 per passenger car per year, equal to half of the current provincial personal vehicle registration fee.
- The estimated net proceeds of $55 million per year go into a reserve fund specifically for Toronto Transit commission and transportation purposes.
The City of Toronto has been streaming the day-long budget debate on YouTube:
Layton had called reinstating the fee the "logical" thing to do, adding it's a better funding source than the planned 10-cent TTC fare hike, which he said has a particularly negative impact on low-income riders.
Bringing back the $60 fee, he added, could provide revenue for two key areas: One half for transit, the other half going to road safety and maintenance projects, including the city's snow clearing efforts.
"We've been through some really tough weather weeks ... These are some really basic services we need to build a functioning city," said Devika Shah, executive director of the advocacy organization Social Planning Toronto, who backs a return to the fee.
"It's very, very clear that the city does have a major revenue problem and we need to look at not just small property tax increases on those of us that can afford it, but a number of other creative revenue tools to build a city that works."
Mayor against 'slapping' car tax on residents
Layton noted the reinstated fee, if approved by council, would be on top of the registration fees car owners currently pay to the province.
He said he'll only put forward the motion if certain councillors' efforts to raise property tax rates fail on Thursday — which is the likely outcome, given Mayor John Tory's pledge to keep those rates tied to inflation.
Right now, a residential property tax increase of 2.55 per cent has already been given the stamp of approval by both the budget committee and Tory's executive committee, despite criticism that inflation-based rates stifle the city's ability to fund crucial services.
In a statement, Tory's spokesperson Don Peat stressed the mayor's commitment to making life affordable for Toronto residents, and questioned the move to impose a "surprise revenue tool" this late in the budget process without any public consultation.
"Mayor Tory is absolutely against slapping a vehicle registration tax on Toronto residents at the last minute of the 2019 budget debate," Peat wrote.
Coun. Stephen Holyday, who represents Ward 2, Etobicoke Centre, said he wouldn't support a return to the fee either, calling it a way to "hide" another tax stream.
"Vehicle registration is a tax on cars that people pay tax to buy, with money they earned at their jobs that they paid tax at, fuelled by gas they pay tax on, and driving on roads they pay property tax to maintain," he said.