Sunday, June 9, 2013

Correction: It’s not $2 billion in new taxes – it’s twice that

After releasing their plan to increase taxes in Ontario by $2 billion dollars a year, Metrolinx had to issue some clarifications. Contrary to the impression given by the media release, they don’t want people all over the province to pay for subways in Toronto.

Their plan is to create $2 billion in new taxes raised just in the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton to pay for new transit in the GTHA.

The difficulty is that most of that cash – $1.3 billion a year – is supposed to come from a 1% rise in the HST.  But, as Metrolinx notes, the federal government might not agree to allow different HST rates in different parts of the province.

Actually, there’s no “might” about it. The federal government quickly said that if Ontario wants to raise the HST, it has to do so throughout the province.

Foreseeing this, the Metrolinx report suggests that’s no problem.  A 1% rise in HST throughout Ontario will give the government an extra $3 billion – that’s $1.3 billion for Toronto subways, plus a $1.7 billion bonus.

Metrolinx feels confidant the Liberal government can find some way to spend it. Doesn’t the hinterland need better bridges or something?

Their thinking disturbs me: Because Metrolinx wants $1.3 billion from the HST, they propose the government grab $3 billion.

So instead of hitting their target of a total in $2 billion in new taxes (from a rise in the HST, gas taxes, parking taxes and development charges), the government will actually take in an extra $3.7 billion – nearly twice as much.

This is a scheme only the Liberals could love.

To her credit, Premier Wynne is not dancing in the streets. Even she realizes that “Give me more!” is not a great campaign slogan.

On the other hand, it has never occurred to her to try to find even a nickel in her existing budget. Premier Wynne already spends $127.6 billion a year of our money. Is it possible that not every cent is well spent? Surely some programs could get along with a little less. Maybe some programs could be cut altogether.

How about those windmills, for example…?

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