Expect to pay more tolls, higher property taxes to fund infrastructure, warns David Dodge

A former Bank of Canada governor says Canadians, especially those living in Ontario, need to get used to paying more to prop up needed infrastructure spending, and the Liberal government needs to do a better job of getting that message out there.

Former Bank of Canada governor not concerned about predicted decades of deficits

Former Bank of Canada governor David Dodge says Canadians will have to pay more in the short term to fund future infrastructure projects. (The Canadian Press)

A former governor of the Bank of Canada says Canadians, especially Ontarians, need to get used to paying more to fund critical infrastructure, and the Liberal government needs to do a better job of getting that message out there.

"If we want good infrastructure, we're going to have to pay for it," David Dodge told CBC Radio's The House. "We're going to have to pay for it either in tolls or we're going to have to pay for it in water rates or we're going to have to pay for it in additional property taxes — in some way or another," he said.

"The government can't go on investing in infrastructure, borrowing money to invest infrastructure, unless there's a future revenue stream which is going to service that."

Finance Minister Bill Morneau has previously hinted that measures like tolls are a possibility.

"People should expect, on an ongoing basis, that we're going to find the most cost-effective way to build infrastructure in this country," he told host Chris Hall on The House back in November.

Tolls shot down in Toronto

Toronto Mayor John Tory started to drive down that road when he requested tolls for two well-used highways in his city — the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway — but Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne shot down the request.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne rejected the idea of tolls on Toronto's busy Gardiner Expressway, seen here late at night. Toronto Mayor John Tory called the move 'short-sighted' and 'not right.' (Michael Charles Cole/CBC)

The mayor of Mississauga, just west of Toronto, applauded Wynne's move because many of her constituents use the Gardiner to get to and from school and work. She's argued that tolls miss the point and that cities need more autonomy over infrastructure.

"We want them to give us the money so we can decide based on our priorities," Mayor Bonnie Crombie told Hall. "We have to go cap in hand and go to the premier or prime minister to ask for funding."

Decades of deficits 

A report published by the federal Department of Finance, and quietly posted online two days before Christmas, forecasts that without any policy changes, the federal government won't amass a surplus until the year 2055.

As the department prepares to put out its 2018 budget, Dodge said he's not too worried about the predicted decades of deficits.

"When you're projecting that far out, you're in Never-Never Land. It's not something you can really project," he said. "Let's think much more about the next five years — and I think [Morneau] is going to run deficits for the next five years of relatively small amounts. He doesn't have a lot of manoeuvring room."

Chris Hall talks to Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie about her city's infrastructure needs. (Bonnie Crombie/Twitter)

This week, CBC Radio's The House is touring Ontario to hear what people want in the upcoming federal budget. 

You can hear the full program Saturday at 9 a.m., 9:30 NT.