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Doug Ford backs property tax freeze, while mayor says let's see

Councillor Doug Ford speaks during a city council meeting in March at Toronto City Hall.

Michelle Siu/michelle siu The Globe and Mail

Mayor Rob Ford may be wavering in his support of property-tax freezes, but his councillor brother isn't.

Councillor Doug Ford, the vice-chair of Toronto's budget committee, said Tuesday that he is "absolutely, 100 per cent" in favour of holding the line on property-tax rates in the future.

"It's only $26-million, roughly, [for]one per cent," he told reporters. "It's the taxpayers' money. It's not our money. We should give it back to the people that gave it to us."

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A draft copy of the mayor's annual "budget guidance" to the city manager, obtained by The Globe and Mail, calls for property-tax increases of no more than 1.75 per cent in 2013, and zero in 2014 and 2015.

Mayor Rob Ford, who is up for re-election in 2014, inched away from that idea Monday, saying he campaigned on holding tax increases to the rate of inflation, not freezing them.

"I'm not quite sure," he said. "This is just the beginning of the budget process."

In 2011, the first full year of the Ford administration, council froze property taxes. This year the residential rate went up 2.5 per cent, while the non-residential rate rose by one-third that amount.

Like his brother, Councillor Ford said he still wants to see the land-transfer tax eliminated, although he conceded it couldn't be done in one fell swoop.

"We have to look at the upcoming budget. And if there's room to look at a little bit of the land-transfer tax, we'll look at it," the councillor said. "Eventually, [it should be]phased out. I don't think we can afford doing it all in one shot."

The municipal tax on real-estate transactions accounted for more than one-third of the municipal's government $292.7-million 2011 surplus, which was made public Monday.

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The mayor made his comments about property taxes after his weekly weigh-in. For the first time in weeks, the scale offered up good news: The mayor lost two pounds.

The Ford brothers are trying to lose 50 lbs. each in six months as part of their "Cut the Waist Challenge," a public-relations effort that has gone somewhat awry, with the mayor struggling to lose weight and sometimes skipping his appointments with the industrial scale parked outside his office.

His brother, who was away in Orlando supporting his daughter at a cheerleading contest, missed Monday's weigh-in. "I dropped about five [lbs.]in Orlando, believe it or not," he said Tuesday.

Asked whether he would step on the scale this week, the councillor chuckled. "Let's wait 'til Monday. I just wolfed down an egg and cheese on a biscuit."

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