Signing the new deal for cities and communities, Prime Minister Paul Martin and Mayor of Oakville, Ann Mulvale, (seated, l-r) Ontario Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister John Gerretsen, Roger Anderson, President of the Association of Ontario Municipalities, Toronto Mayor David Miller and federal Minister of State (Infrastructure and
Communities) John Godfrey.
The New Deal for Cities is the key to the success of almost every other initiative that the Mayor's Office is working on. Securing the New Deal is helping us address such important issues as the affordable housing crisis, the rejuvenation of our waterfront, the maintenance and expansion of the TTC, integration of new Canadians into our culture and economy, and many more.
A brief overview:
The New Deal for Cities comprises a series of agreements between Toronto's government (and those of Canada's other urban centres) and the Governments of Ontario and Canada. When finalized, these agreements will give the city three new things: new money, new power and a new place to sit.
It's not just that Toronto needs new sources of money to maintain services it needs new kinds of revenue. Currently, Toronto doesn't have access to money generated through sales or income tax. This is significant because, when the economy grows, so do the revenues that come from these kinds of taxes. Toronto has access only to property taxes, which stay pretty much the same in good economic times and bad. Revenue streams that grow with the economy allow us to invest in our city with the knowledge that we will see some of the return on that investment during economic upswings.
Toronto has the sixth largest government in the country, but it has the same limitations as the smallest town. For the City to make decisions about a whole raft of urban issues, from installing a speed bump to creating a City Hall lobbyist registry to altering our tax structure to better foster economic growth, we have to get the permission of the province. The City and the province are working together to rewrite the City of Toronto Act so as to remove these outdated limitations.
A seat at the table
This is crucial part of the new deal, and it also happens to be free. A seat at the table means that when the provincial and federal government are creating policies that affect urban issues such as immigration, infrastructure, public health, child care, and so on Toronto has to be a part of the decision-making process. For instance, when it comes to immigration, Toronto not only receives more than a quarter of all of Canada's immigrants, the city also has the expertise and infrastructure to help the other orders of government use their resources in the most efficient way. When we all sit down together, we get better ideas about how to spend for impact.
We are already seeing some of the benefits of the new deal for cities, but there is still a long way to go before Toronto is master of its own house. The good news is that all three orders of government recognize the value of this shift, and we are all working together to make it a reality.
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