Opinion

NDP Transport Critic on Funding The Big Move

The public will not tolerate a Liberal transit funding plan that exempts corporations. The province cannot afford to start our search for transit funding $1.3 billion in the hole.

By Rosario Marchese
Published April 19, 2013

If Adrian Duyzer can detect an actual transit funding plan within Kathleen Wynne's "courageous talk," he is a better detective than I am. Let's be clear: so far the Liberals have announced exactly zero revenue tools to pay for transit and have so far committed exactly zero dollars.

Meanwhile, the NDP has identified $1.3 billion worth of corporate tax cuts that the Liberals plan on giving away starting in 2015. That's $1.3 billion a year that will no longer be available for priorities such as transit.

While $1.3 billion will not pay for all of The Big Move, it will certainly pay for a lot of it. So why would the Liberals give this money away, while asking everybody else to pay more?

The province cannot afford to start our search for transit funding $1.3 billion in the hole. Most importantly, the public will not tolerate a Liberal transit funding plan that exempts corporations. We think it is fair for corporations to share the burden, and we believe the public thinks so too.

While the NDP have put $1.3 billion a year on the table, Kathleen Wynne has offered only "courageous talk." You decide what will actually pay the bills.

Question: who decided that progressive income taxes and corporate taxes were now out of bounds? These are the taxes that have historically paid for the vast majority of our public infrastructure.

But beginning in 1995, the provincial government began to radically cut these taxes, costing the treasury $17 billion a year in foregone revenue. This is why we cannot afford to build transit, not the lack of road tolls.

The bottom line is that the NDP supports public transit. We want to see The Big Move built. We know it will cost the province at least $2 billion a year, and we will need new, dedicated and reliable revenue tools to pay for it.

But we reject the premise that our province must abandon the principles of progressive taxation and corporate contribution, and we reject the Liberals' insistence that the only way to pay for transit is through user fees and regressive taxes that place a disproportionate burden on Ontarians who are already struggling.

And we believe the public will reject this as well.

Rosario Marchese is the MPP for Trinity-Spadina and the Ontario NDP Critic for Urban Transportation. You can follow him on Twitter @RMarcheseMPP.

21 Comments

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By adrian (registered) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 14:20:03

I believe that Wynne's conversation about transit funding is courageous for two reasons: first, because it is necessary and second, because it is unpopular. For a politician, that is pretty extraordinary.

What I didn't mention in my article is that I've been voting NDP since I was old enough to vote. I've had orange signs on my lawn every election. But on this subject, the NDP has lost me.

I'm fine with corporations helping to pay for our infrastructure. As you pointed out, they've been helping to pay for our infrastructure for decades, and they continue to pay for that infrastructure. So do all of us taxpayers, myself included. But I don't see any compelling reason why road users should not also directly contribute to the infrastructure that they depend on. This is hardly revolutionary: if I want to take the bus, I have to pay for it. If I want to take the train, I have to pay for it.

Moreover, these types of charges have an immediate positive impact - they cause people to reconsider trips that they either don't need to make, or can make at different times of the day. You could also argue that charging 5 cents for a plastic bag at the grocery store also "hurts everyday families" who are just trying to buy food for their kids, but as we've seen, this practice has greatly reduced the number of plastic bags that are used, with widespread benefits.

Charging user fees (such as congestion charges and tolls) for road use is a system that is working in many other places across the globe, especially in places that most closely share the progressive values that are at the bedrock of the NDP. There's no reason it can't work here. And when it comes to working families, Wynne's comment that, "I think what doesn’t make sense is to ask the working mom to commute for three hours from Scarborough to downtown to her job, or to drop off her child at day care, and not have a decent way of getting to her workplace and getting home," is bang on.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 25, 2013 at 21:22:29 in reply to Comment 87986

I believe that Wynne's conversation about transit funding is courageous for two reasons: first, because it is necessary and second, because it is unpopular. For a politician, that is pretty extraordinary.

There is plenty of money to pay for many things we need, none of it is readily available from the middle-class anymore, you may call it "extraordinary and courageous" to continue to attempt to draw from this well, you're wrong on both accounts.

Considering most people are using transit to go to their corporate jobs and corporations have been the main beneficiary of our sprawl infrastructure, corporations funding transit makes a lot of sense.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 17:56:24 in reply to Comment 87986

I agree and disagree, I agree, users should be taxes for infrastructure use, but I would much rather see the gas tax and income tax go up instead of tolling roads. It's universally effective and it does not result in effective double taxation and far easier and is far less costly to enforce.

Here's the other thing, cyclists use our roads too, and it certainly costs money (albiet far less) to install bike lanes, maintain trails and have traffic enforcement for them as well. Are you for taxing them as well?

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2013-04-19 17:56:57

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 19:49:09 in reply to Comment 87999

Believe it or not, cyclists also pay taxes.

I don't agree that gas tax and income tax are the only way we should charge - these measures affect all people including those who don't experience congestion and don't need or use the roadways that are most affected by congestion. What you are suggesting means that people in e.g. Fergus ON are going to be paying more for gas even though they are not at all affected by the congestion problems that we have in the GTA, and would not experience any benefits from having those problems alleviated. That doesn't seem fair to me - let the people who rely on the infrastructure contribute more. Remember, they are already contributing taxes that help fund what we currently have.

Furthermore, tolls on heavily used roads can be a good thing even if we don't need the revenue to fund other projects.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 19:51:33 in reply to Comment 88014

I agree, cyclists do pay taxes but are you ok with them also paying congestion taxes? We still have to maintain their bike lanes.

I also would say yes, the people in Fergus can bear a share of the totality of provinicial infastructure the same as everyone else in the province, even if some of it is paticulairly large in Toronto. That is, unless you are also ok with Torotonians not having to pay taxes on say...environmental protection of the grand river, or farm subsidies, or hospitals outside of Toronto.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2013-04-19 20:01:30

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted April 25, 2013 at 22:03:34 in reply to Comment 88015

Why would we charge congestion taxes on bikers? What bike lane do you know of is congested?

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By RobF (registered) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 18:20:46 in reply to Comment 87999

The gas tax and income tax solution deals with financing cost, but it is a blunt instrument. You still need to include a pricing mechanism to encourage efficient use of existing road space, otherwise you won't get the full benefit of the transit improvements. Our current approach to highway usage is a kin to downtown Toronto with free parking on a first-come, first serve basis.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 19:48:14 in reply to Comment 88002

So....you won't fully appreciate the transist improvements we've made until we've started effectively fineing you for not using them?

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By RobF (registered) | Posted April 20, 2013 at 02:03:15 in reply to Comment 88013

No, that's not my point. We have traditionally viewed roads and highways as a public good and haven't charged users the full costs for the mobility they provide. To do so suddenly and in a punitive way would cause undue hardship for many households who have little control over where employment is located and whether it can reasonably be accessed via transit, etc. Still if you just build more and better transit without pricing highway usage directly in any form, people who can use and see a benefit in using the new transit will make the switch, but the reduced congestion will fairly quickly encourage new highway users to take their place.

It's a basic axiom in transportation studies: reduced congestion, operates like new capacity, and induces demand where there are users who would use the highway but don't because of the congestion.

If you don't have a pricing mechanism to dissuade optional highway use or new development that takes advantage of the hidden subsides associated with highway accessibility then you get new congestion and the urban structure probably won't reorient much toward transit-oriented development.

Comment edited by RobF on 2013-04-20 02:03:35

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 15:52:17

Well at least it's nice to know that both the NDP and Liberals support the Big Move.

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By shmoo (anonymous) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 21:01:39

The commercial parking levy IS a tax on corporations. This is the Metrolinx idea which has the most public support, and at $1 per space per day is estimated to amount to $1.6 bln per year.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 21:13:17 in reply to Comment 88024

I could get behind a parking levy. It's a corporate tax for one and I feel that corporate taxes aren't high enough. We all agree surface parking is a blight upon a city, so I have no problem seeing in taxing it for that reason as well and it's incredibly easy to enforce and requires no new cameras/infrastructure be created.

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By J (registered) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 21:31:40

Mr Marchese, I deplore you to see the bigger picture here. To you it is a very big deal the type of tax that will be used to pay for the Big Move. The difference between a corporate, a regressive, or a progressive tax are indeed important. But the alternative is a Hudak reality of not just tax cuts but massive corporate handouts.

There has been no time when the NDP and liberals were closer together. Compared to the conservatives you are aunt Rose and Sharon who finish each others' sentences. The only thing standing in the way of achieving the shared reality of 60% of Ontarians is the, frankly and with respect, egotistical pettiness of party politicians.

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By Dogberry (anonymous) | Posted April 20, 2013 at 01:58:20

I also deplore you to see the big picture. As for Tim Hudak's Conservatives: Marry, sir, they have committed false report; moreover, they have spoken untruths; secondarily, they are slanders; sixth and lastly, they have belied a lady; thirdly, they have verified unjust things; and, to conclude, they are lying knaves.

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By DrAwesomesauce (registered) | Posted April 20, 2013 at 04:03:40

^IMPLORE please and thank you.

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted April 20, 2013 at 13:25:15

See also

http://spacing.ca/toronto/2013/03/25/lorinc-andrea-horwath-and-ndp-miss-the-bus-again/
http://spacing.ca/toronto/2013/03/25/lorinc-andrea-horwath-and-ndp-miss-the-bus-again/#comment-523178

or

http://www.thespec.com/opinion/columns/article/908711--cohn-horwath-channels-rob-ford-on-transit

and, eerily,

http://www.torontosun.com/videos/featured/featured-tor/1213592864001/horwath-and-ford-discuss-transit/1137853239001

As far as "$1.3 billion worth of corporate tax cuts that the Liberals plan on giving away starting in 2015. That's $1.3 billion a year that will no longer be available for priorities such as transit," there is a modicum of truth there. But it should also be noted that the NDP has linked this savings with all manner of potential gains (health care, home care, education, social assistance) across the board. They have not indicated what proportion of the $1.3 billion they would dedicate to transit, or even if any proportion of it would be dedicated to transit. It is obviously not a panacea for transit, and it is hardly a panacea for general revenues. Consider that full-day kindergarten was said to cost $1.5 billion a year. But attendant costs have proved harder to quantify.

http://www.thestar.com/yourtoronto/education/2013/02/21/school_boards_urged_to_find_lowcost_options_for_fullday_kindergarten.html

Furthermore, corporate tax seems like a volatile and unreliable revenue stream. It's not as if corporations don't have creative accounting departments stacked with tax code wonks, it's not as if corporations don't go bankrupt or move to more lucrative jurisdictions (viz Ontario 1990-1995) and it's not as if they don't go bankrupt or face market downturns. As reliable and sustainable revenue streams go, this seems less than ideal.

On top of all that, unlike a surtax on those whose income is $500K+, it's not as if all incorporated businesses that maintain a permanent establishment in Ontario -- big and small -- aren't liable for Ontario corporate taxes. It's possible that, on balance, the anticipated $1.3 billion doesn't quite materialize as expected.

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By ViennaCafe (registered) | Posted April 20, 2013 at 21:24:54

Great discussion.

The corporate tax cuts also go to the casino debate. The Liberals, first under McGuinty and now under Wynne, have a revenue problem and yet they lack the political courage and political maturity to have an adult discussion with Ontarians. Taxes are necessary in a modern, functioning society.

Liberals and Conservatives should be demanded to show the benefit of corporate tax cuts. As it stands, the cuts are no-strings-attached for corporations currently sitting on a pile of a half-trillion dollars (http://s.shr.lc/11pJwSe) and earning record profits while cutting jobs and hiring foreign temps to replace Canadian workers.

However, the NDP has it all wrong on this file. It has become the party of the Hummer driver and McMansion owner. The NDP ought to be championing retrofitting homes for energy efficiency and encouraging public transportation. I live in an NDP riding and many of the NDPs biggest supporters are on the bus. Of those who don't ride the bus, many already drive fuel efficient vehicles. The NDP need to understand that helping people cope with higher energy prices, which is a given, through permanently reducing energy consumption is a far more useful policy than promises that likely can't be kept beyond a single election cycle, anyway. Like it or not, energy prices will continue to rise over the longer term.

And finally, both the Liberals and the NDP (the Conservatives are just fruit loops) are ignoring the elephant in the room: climate change. It is not going away and it can't be wished away and ignoring it is both stupid and counter-productive. A price on carbon can fund the Big Move and produce revenues for additional innovations such as, for one example, adding solar panels to new residential homes and buildings and developing a more cost effective super insulation.

We really are past the time when our thinking can remain firmly within the confines of the box.

Comment edited by ViennaCafe on 2013-04-20 21:31:14

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 25, 2013 at 21:42:56 in reply to Comment 88059

I thought the elephant in the room when talking taxation was the obscene amount of money being hoarded by the few?

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By Tom West (anonymous) | Posted April 22, 2013 at 22:31:24

Simple question: will the NDP *raise* corporate tax rates above their current rates to pay for improved transit?

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