Provincial civil servants have drawn up a list of new fees and levies to help raise money for cash-strapped Queen’s Park, including bringing back photo radar, making prison inmates pay rent during their incarceration and adding a 75-cent surcharge to monthly phone bills.
Finance Minister Charles Sousa rejected the photo radar plan out of hand, but would not rule out any of the other money-making ideas.
The list is contained in an internal Treasury Board memorandum on fees that could be included in the current budget. Out of the proposals, only three – related to the Drive Clean program – were immediately approved. The others were deferred for further study.
These include new charges for people using in-person Service Ontario counters, parking in government lots and getting fish and wildlife licenses. The list also suggests hiking existing fees on vehicle licensing and permitting.
The photo radar idea, an expansion of red light cameras and the extra phone bill charge are slated to come back to the Treasury Board this summer or early fall, the document says.
But Mr. Sousa hastily quashed the photo radar plan.
“I can tell you unequivocally we will not bring in photo radar,” he said.
The other ideas appear to still be on the table, but Mr. Sousa tried to downplay them.
“These are just recommendations that are brought forward – on an ongoing basis, I may add – and it is prudent for the officials to make recommendations,” he said.
But Progressive Conservative Finance Critic Peter Shurman pointed out that it was the government that asked bureaucrats to suggest fees in the first place.
“This isn’t some happenstance,” he said. “This was ministries being asked to develop ways to essentially tax people, in addition to what they’ve already paid, to pay for the sins their hard-earned money has already been wasted on.”
New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath also slammed the proposals: “Everyday families can’t afford more user fees, they can’t afford more taxes, they can’t afford tolls and they’re the ones who keep getting called on to pony up the money,” she said.
The document also notes that some ministries want to index current fees to inflation.
Since last year, the government has been on a hunt for ways to balance the budget by fiscal year 2017-18. Besides reining in spending, it has also considered more user fees.
The PCs made the list public after finding it in a pile of documents released to a legislative committee probing the cancellations of two gas-fired power plants. The documents contained piles of information unrelated to the plants, including the memo.