Sep 29, 2007 04:30 AM
Queen's Park Bureau Chief
Premier Dalton McGuinty has sent a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper demanding that one percentage point of the GST be given to Toronto and other Ontario cities faced with massive budget problems, the Star has learned.
In the wake of Harper's Thursday announcement of a $13.8 billion federal budget surplus, McGuinty wrote a three-page letter to the Prime Minister urging Ottawa to help Ontario's cash-strapped municipalities with new funding for infrastructure and public transit.
"By providing the equivalent of one cent of the Goods and Services Tax, the federal government would add more than $1.9 billion per year to the financial foundations of municipalities large and small across Ontario," the premier wrote.
"The City of Toronto would receive an additional $400 million a year from this initiative, helping them address major transit funding pressures that the Toronto Transit Commission is currently facing," McGuinty continued.
Toronto Mayor David Miller has been pushing for a one cent share of the GST ever since he was re-elected last November.
McGuinty wrote, "Communities large and small are asking the federal government for this support, including Toronto, Ottawa, Fort Erie, North Bay, Oshawa and many others."
His letter comes as two public opinion polls were released, one showing a tight race and another showing a Liberal majority after the election on Oct. 10.
An Environics poll gave the Liberals 39 per cent of the decided vote, compared with 34 per cent for the Tories, 20 per cent for the NDP, 7 per cent for the Green party, and 21 per cent undecided.
An Ipsos-Reid poll released last night projected a Liberal majority, giving the party 43 per cent of the decided vote, the Tories 33 per cent, the NDP 17 per cent and the Greens 6 per cent.
The Liberals now have 67 of the 103 seats in the Legislature, the Tories 25, and the NDP 10. There is one vacancy. Four additional seats are up for grabs on Oct. 10.
McGuinty also used his pitch to Harper to request federal money for major transit projects already proposed by the province and municipalities, but yet to be fully funded.
"We would also like to urge the federal government to move immediately to release the funds needed to begin building the Spadina subway extension and the Mississauga Transitway and Brampton AcceleRide projects," wrote McGuinty.
"And we would like the federal government to commit to your one-third share of our historic $17.5 billion MoveOntario 2020 plan – $6 billion," he added, noting that by 2011, Queen's Park will have increased annual funding to municipalities by $2.8 billion compared to 2003.
Although Harper and federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty reduced the GST from 7 per cent to 6 per cent – and promise to eventually slash it to 5 per cent – they have resisted calls from Miller and others for a share of the tax.
On Thursday, the prime minister and Flaherty, in Toronto to announce a surplus $4 billion greater than forecast, insisted Ottawa is already doing enough for the GTA.
Last June in Calgary, federal Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion said he opposed Miller's "One Cent Now" campaign for the same reason as he was against Harper's GST cut.
Dion told reporters at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities meeting that Ottawa needs the money to reduce poverty.
"The Prime Minister is committed to decrease the GST by one additional point – that's $5.5 billion. I will use it to fight poverty, and I will work with municipalities on that," he said at the time.
McGuinty reminded Harper in his letter that "a strong Ontario is fundamental to a strong Canada."
"Working together, we have made progress on behalf of Ontario families, specifically on the funding of supports for newcomers to Ontario, and per capita funding for health care," wrote the premier.
"But there is much more to be done – not just in the area of federal-provincial relations, but in federal-municipal relations," the letter continues.
"Just as Ontario is the economic engine of our country, our cities are the economic engine of our province. Our municipalities face tremendous pressures and that, in turn, is placing pressure on property taxpayers."
Irritating twits: Dalton McGuinty et. al.
The federal government has no legal means to give money to municipalities. In addition, the federal government reduced the GST by one percentage point last year, giving provinces the clear opportunity to raise their provincial sales taxes. None did.
If the federal government gave one sixth of national GST revenue (on percentage of the 6% GST) to provinces on a per capital basis (how else could they), then Ontarians would loose money!
Moncton, New Brunswick.
From today's Toronto Star:
Canada (204) Internet (124) TV (104) iPhone (103) World (99) Liberal Party (65) New Brunswick (44) OUI (43) Ipod touch (33) Media (33) haha (29) Bus (26) Environment (16) StreetView (16) La politique (15) Twitter (15) Travel (12) wmtc (12) Books (11) iPad (11) Gadgets (10) Cancer (7) Monde (6) tetesaclaques (6) HOC (5) Shoshana (4) Games (2) Index (1) tac (1)