ONTARIO —Toronto, one of Canada's largest cities, is contemplating the implementation of a parking tax as it grapples with significant financial challenges. The city's financial concerns have prompted a search for innovative revenue sources, including the potential introduction of a commercial parking levy. This levy, proposed as one of the policy options outlined in a staff report, would primarily target non-residential parking areas and could feature higher rates in downtown areas.
According to Toronto's financial update, the city's fiscal outlook appears somber, especially concerning investments in public transit. The proposed parking tax is seen as a potential solution to generate substantial annual revenue, projected to reach up to $490 million. This additional income could play a crucial role in addressing the city's pressing financial needs, particularly in the realm of transit funding.
Advocates of the proposed parking levy, such as TTC Riders, are optimistic about its potential benefits for funding public transit initiatives. However, the Toronto Region Board of Trade has expressed opposition to the tax, citing concerns that the costs might be disproportionately transferred to small businesses. Despite this divide, the parking levy aligns with broader environmental and equity goals. The wear and tear caused by vehicles on urban infrastructure underscores the necessity of innovative revenue streams like the parking tax.
Cities like Montreal and Vancouver have already implemented similar parking tax policies, setting a precedent for Toronto's considerations. The city's manager, Paul Johnson, anticipates that the implementation process could take place by 2025, allowing for a 12 to 18-month setup period.
Toronto's financial challenges are substantial, with a budget shortfall of $46.5 billion projected over the next decade. In response to this deficit, Mayor Olivia Chow has been actively seeking new funding agreements from federal and provincial governments. However, such assistance has been previously declined. The financial situation has compelled city officials to explore various revenue-generation options, extending beyond the proposed parking levy.
The comprehensive approach to addressing the financial deficit includes measures like increasing the municipal land transfer tax for luxury homes, raising the Vacant Home Tax, removing on-street parking rate caps, and urging the implementation of a Municipal Sales Tax. While these measures could potentially cover 40% of the budget gap, the remaining 60% necessitates cooperation and financial contributions from higher levels of government.
Mayor Chow's efforts are driven by the recognition that property taxes and intermittent external funding sources are insufficient to meet Toronto's financial demands. She emphasizes the need for collaboration between different tiers of government to effectively tackle the city's ongoing financial challenges. While Toronto's executive committee will review these recommendations, the city's search for sustainable funding solutions remains ongoing. Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland's response to Toronto's funding request did not promise any new federal support, underscoring the need for the city to explore a range of strategies to address its budgetary pressures.