For the past six months a collection of self-proclaimed members of the Transit In Crowd have been trying to get us to buy into their schemes to raise much-needed cash to fund new transit.
Like used car salesmen (and women) with a lot full of clunkers on their hands, the A-listers have — with a particular zeal — shopped around a long list of taxes and user fees creatively dressed in the guise of revenue tools.
Toronto Board of Trade CEO Carol Wilding was one of the first to jump on the bandwagon with an announcement in March that her members felt regional sales and fuel taxes, a special levy on downtown parking spaces and high-occupancy toll lanes were their revenue tools of choice.
At an April forum, Scarborough-Guildwood MPP Mitzie Hunter — in her former role as CEO of the Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance — was peddling to all who would listen, 11 dedicated revenue tools. She even pushed attendees to sign a pledge of support for these taxes.
Hunter conveniently forgot her pledge while she vyed for her provincial seat. Perhaps she’s dusting it off now.
In May, following Toronto chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat’s three-month $372,000 revenue tools dog-and-pony show, council’s tools voted to reject 14 of the taxes recommended.
Then along came Metrolinx, the agency the Liberals created — with 2,727 employees, 262 of which made more than $100,000 last year — to handle a 25-year transportation plan for the GTA and how to fund it.
After five, I’m not kidding, FIVE years of consultation, Metrolinx’s highly overpaid genuises came up with four revenue tools of their own — the most galling being a 1% hike in the HST — which would cost each household in the GTA an average of $477 extra per year.
An ordinary person would think this issue has been studied, pitched, spun and regurgitated to death — and perhaps raising new taxes might be political suicide for a government that has blown the bundle on cozy teacher deals, eHealth, Ornge, the gas plants and so many bloated ministry bureaucracies.
But not our Premier Kathleen Wynne and her tired Liberals.
Realizing that those used clunkers aren’t moving out of the lot so quickly, she named a $105,000-plus panel Wednesday to do what those overpaid geniuses at Metrolinx and the Transit In Crowd could not do — sell the revenue tools scheme to Ontario voters, or at least try to indoctrinate Ontarians into submission.
Of course Wynne was portraying it as a way to have a “broad discussion,” make the “fairest choices possible” and build on the work of Metrolinx, yada, yada, before she supposedly makes the “hard decisions” in the spring to tax people more.
But given the cast of characters named to the panel — other than a few exceptions all donors to the Liberal party or beyond-their-best-before-date Lib-left policy has-beens — I have no doubt Wynne’s mind is already made up and they are there to put their stamp of approval on a new stream of funding for the Liberal spendaholics and to twist Ontarians’ arms to buy this tax scheme.
You have to look no further than the panel’s chair, Anne Golden and vice-chairman Paul Bedford.
Golden, who will make $900 a day and up to $90,000 for three months work (not shabby), was the author of a $600,000(!) 1999 300-page city report on homelessness which suggested the problem could only be cured if $345 million a year was thrown at it.
The Lib-left policy wonk, who once opined that an amalgamated Toronto and more recently a casino would destroy the city’s urban fabric, is no stranger to making money on the public teat and proposing that more public money be thrown at a problem.
Bedford, an unabashed leftist and Toronto’s former chief planner who will make $250 a day to a maximum of $15,000, has been the go-to guy on revenue tools file for forever. He made it patently obvious while at Toronto City Hall that his agenda does not include cars.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said they are dead set against picking the pockets of “everyday folks” to pay for transit.
“Pretty much everybody who is anybody has weighed in on this issue,” Horwath said. “She (the premier) is using this panel as a way to put things off.”
PC MPP and finance critic Vic Fedeli said it was revealed during the gas plant hearings that the Liberals are planning to put in place some 50 taxes, including the revenue tools for transit and this panel is all just window dressing.
“What we’ve seen from all of these ready, fire, aim strategies of the Liberal party … they announce what they’re up to,” he said. “Then like every other thing after the fact (they decide) we’d better have the charade of consultation.”
THE REVENUE TOOL BOX
- Name of new task force: Transit Investment Strategy Advisory Panel
- No. of members: 13
- Duration: Three months
- Fees to be paid to chairman Anne Golden: $900 a day or $90,000 max
- No. of panel members from associations that donated to Lib party in 2011 election: Four
- No. of employees at Metrolinx: 2,727
- No. making over $100,000 in 2012: 262
- Revenue tools proposed by Metrolinx: 1% increase in HST; 5-cents regional gas tax; business parking levy, increased development charges.