Toronto proposes property tax hike to pay for SmartTrack, other transit, report says

Some Toronto city councillors are blasting Mayor John Tory after a report released Monday revealed the city is ready to raise property taxes to pay for SmartTrack and other transit projects - something Tory pledged he wouldn't do when he ran for mayor.

Some councillors say Mayor John Tory breaking promise not to raise property tax to build SmartTrack

In a statement released Monday, Toronto Mayor John Tory welcomed the agreement between the province and the city to share transit costs. (CBC)

Some Toronto city councillors are blasting Mayor John Tory after a report released Monday revealed the city is ready to raise property taxes by at least 2.1 per cent to pay for SmartTrack and other transit projects — something Tory promised he wouldn't do when he ran for mayor.

In a report released on Monday, the Transit Network Plan Update and Financial Strategy, the city and province have proposed terms for sharing the $7 billion cost for several transit projects in Toronto, with the provincial government pledging to provide $3.7 billion.

The city will pay $2 billion for six new SmartTrack stations and the Eglinton West LRT. The report also includes $1.2 billion in assumed contributions by the federal government, and $470 million in assumed contributions from Mississauga and the Greater Toronto Airports Authority.

The province is on the hook for infrastructure to support SmartTrack, while the city will handle operating and maintenance costs.

The city says it will shoulder some of costs through tax increment financing (TIF), development charges, tax-supported debt financing and other measures.

"A tax increase of 2.1 per cent is projected based on the city's preliminary capital cost obligation and assuming 100 per cent of TIF revenue is allocated for debt payment," the statement read. Assuming 50 per cent of TIF is allocated to debt payment, the rate goes up to 3.9 per cent.

The plan must still be approved by city council and Tory has called an emergency meeting of his executive committee for Tuesday to talk about it.

While running for mayor in 2014, Tory promised that he would not hike property taxes to pay for his signature SmartTrack plan and pay for it with TIF. 

Ward 31 Councillor Janet Davis says 'there is no real financing mechanism' in the report. (Kate McGillivray/CBC)

Ward 14 Coun. Gord Perks slammed Tory, calling the agreement "a real failure" that costs Toronto too much and benefits the city too little.

"We have an administration that says they aren't going to increase taxes, and on the other hand brings us a report that at a minimum is going to increase taxes substantially," he said.

"This is much less at a much higher price," he added. "What Mayor Tory calls SmartTrack is not what we're getting."

Ward 31 Councillor Janet Davis said "there is no real financing mechanism" in the report, which she said is "based on some very high level assumptions about development."

"It is a very shaky financial foundation for us to make a huge commitment like this," she told reporters Monday.

"We need more time. And the people of Toronto need to understand the contributions they and their grandchildren will have to make."

Mayor Tory welcomes agreement with province

Tory welcomed the agreement, calling it a "key step to introducing SmartTrack."

"This agreement means that after years of talk, indecision and delay, we are actually getting on with building the transit Toronto residents so badly need, through a partnership with the province that will mean faster timelines and lower costs," Tory said in a statement.

Under the agreement, the Ontario government will pay $3.7 billion for infrastructure that will support SmartTrack. The infrastructure is called GO Regional Express Rail (GO RER). That amount includes rail and track infrastructure, grade separations, electrification and fleet upgrades.

Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said in a statement that the agreement is a "significant investment" in city transit and light rail transit (LRT).

"The agreement builds on the province's significant investment into Toronto, including $3.7B for GO RER that will be the foundation for SmartTrack," Del Duca said.

"This is on top of the province's investment of more than $10 billion for Toronto transit, including the Toronto LRT projects, Scarborough Subway and the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension."

With files from Kate McGillivray, Chris Glover