Doug Ford is promising to roll back the land-transfer tax by 15 per cent annually if elected mayor, saying he will cover the lost revenue by finding savings elsewhere in the city's budget.
Mr. Ford said the initial reduction in the controversial tax – which he pledged to undertake as his first act as mayor – would be offset by contracting out garbage collection east of Yonge Street.
"I will allocate these savings to providing Toronto residents with immediate relief from the land-transfer tax," he told reporters on Wednesday. "I will give councillors a realistic option to reduce 15 per cent of the land-transfer tax without harming services."
The land-transfer tax brings the city about $350-million a year. A reduction of 15 per cent would represent some $52.5-million in lost revenue in the first year of the cuts.
Mr. Ford said he would ensure that cutting the tax had a "net zero" effect on the budget, saying that outsourcing garbage pickup in the east end would save up to $97-million.
He also said he would save the city $50-million to $60-million by consolidating procurement and other operations among city agencies, such as Toronto Police, the TTC and Toronto Hydro.
Mr. Ford said he would reduce the land-transfer tax "incrementally" by cutting it by 15 per cent annually for four years, for a total reduction of 60 per cent in his first term.
"I won't be able to get rid of 100 per cent of it. I'm committing to get rid of 15 per cent every year for four years. And again, that's being conservative," he told reporters.
However, Mr. Ford also said he plans to eventually do away with the tax if elected for a second term. "We will continue on until we eliminate the land-transfer tax."
Mr. Ford, who revealed his plan to cut the land-transfer tax by 15 per cent on Tuesday, provided more details on Wednesday after meeting with the Toronto Real Estate Board.
He cited a recent report suggesting the tax has hurt the city's economy, resulting in a loss of $2.3-billion in economic activity and a loss of 38,000 home transactions.
His brother, Mayor Rob Ford, who pulled out of the race and is being treated for cancer, has long promised to do away with the tax.
John Tory, who said Doug Ford has made several campaign spending promises without spelling out where the funding would come from, said the city needs to find savings or other revenue before it can eliminate the tax.
"I think we're going to have to focus in this campaign on looking at where the money's going to come from to do these things. And I know he has some explanation for that today, but you can only spend this money once," he told reporters.
Olivia Chow, who has pledged to raise the land-transfer tax by one percentage point for homes over $2-million, said the levy is an important source of revenue for the city.
"I believe the land transfer tax is here to stay," she told reporters. "It's $350-million that the city's counting on to continue providing services to the people of Toronto and we can't raise the property tax dramatically and $350-million, if you eliminate that, it means a huge, whopping increase of property tax."
With a report from Elizabeth Church.