Mayor Rob Ford says he needs Toronto realtors to help him reduce the land transfer tax because city councillors are addicted to the money.
Speaking Friday to the Toronto Real Estate Board, the mayor spent much of the approximately 17-minute speech looking back at his administration's fiscal record.
But he also gazed forward, saying he plans to go ahead with an attempt to reduce the "dreaded" land transfer tax by 10 per cent.
"Folks, it's going to be a challenge. I need your help. I need your help to convince these councillors to start eliminating this land transfer tax. Unfortunately, they are addicted to spending that land transfer tax. Absolutely addicted to it," the mayor said. "They want to keep it and they want to keep spending the millions of dollars it brings in."
Mr. Ford said the tax works against the city's long-term economic interests because it makes it more difficult to buy a home. He said Toronto is the only city in Ontario that hits homeowners with a municipal land transfer tax on top of a provincial one.
The mayor closed his speech with a reference to next year's election. He asked those in attendance who they think should lead the city.
"It all comes down to trust," he said. "Ask yourself, 'Who do I trust with my hard-earned tax dollars?'"
The mayor, who for nearly a month has been embroiled in allegations he was caught on video using crack cocaine but has denied he used the drug or is an addict, received a standing ovation at the end of his speech. He did not speak with reporters when he left the event, ducking out through a back entrance and what appeared to be a kitchen or food serving area.
Last year, the city collected $344.5-million in land transfer taxes. Budget chair Frank Di Giorgio said last week that a 10-per-cent cut would be "significant," but he'll do his best to meet the mayor's request.
Councillor Paula Fletcher said Friday that she believes the tax should remain as is.
"Many of the things that the land transfer tax pays for, like our libraries, our community centres, transit, are such important parts of our neighbourhoods, exactly the things that real estate agents talk about when they're trying to sell homes," she said. "The money is used for creating the fabric, terrific neighbourhoods in Toronto. It's one of the reasons why the bottom has not fallen out of our housing market at all."
The real estate board distributed a news release during the mayor's speech that said a new poll shows the public wants to eliminate the tax. The poll, conducted by Ipsos Reid, said nearly two-thirds of Torontonians support plans to get rid of the tax.