Toronto Mayor Rob Ford won’t say how the city will fund transit expansion, rejecting out of hand many of the revenue-raising options proposed by a senior bureaucrat.
In a radio interview Wednesday morning, the mayor, who ran on a platform of fiscal conservatism, was asked about options presented this week by City Manager Joe Pennachetti. He specifically dismissed road tolls or increases to income, sales, property or fuel taxes.
“I don’t support any of them right now, I’m not a tax and spend kind of politician,” he told CBC’s Metro Morning.
Mr. Ford insisted that all three levels of government had to sit down to find ways to fund transit but, when pushed, declined to say how Toronto would come up with its share.
“I cannot sit here today and tell you we’re going to implement this tax, that tax,” he said. “I don’t have the information in front of me. There is a report coming to the executive, I think in the next two months ... right now I don’t have that information. It’s premature to say I’m going to support any tax or any user fee subsidizing transit.”
His interview with the CBC, which host Matt Galloway suggested was a rare occasion for the public broadcaster, came two days after Mr. Pennachetti presented a report listing 10 different methods to raise the extra $2-billion per year needed to pay for more transit lines across the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton.
The options include highway tolls, a one-per-cent hike in income, sales or property taxes, a new payroll tax, commercial parking levies and even a revival of the vehicle-registration fee that Mr. Ford eliminated after taking office. Mr. Ford had rejected new revenue tools earlier this year during a high-profile fight over building light-rail or subways.
On Wednesday, the Mayor dismissed conflict of interest allegations against him that had roiled council as merely political noise and said he would spend the rest of his term focusing on jobs, ensuring that the city was open for business.
“No one’s going to come if you have a filthy city, no one’s going to come if it’s not a safe city,” he said. “So if you put these tools in place and you clean it up and you come to a safe city people are going to feel, you know, that they can do business here. And our crime rate’s down, we have a cleaner city, we just have to get our taxes down...and we have to find efficiencies in government.”