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HST increase shot down by all three parties

None of the major three parties, heading into an election year, offered any support for AMOs key proposal to raise the HST by 1 per cent to fund a nearly $5 billion gap in municipal budgets.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne speaks with retired Toronto Star reporter Richard Brennan during Tuesday's AMO Conference.

Kieran Delamont / Metro Order this photo

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne speaks with retired Toronto Star reporter Richard Brennan during Tuesday's AMO Conference.

Premier Kathleen Wynne dismissed, out of hand, AMOs proposal to increase the HST by 1 per cent to fund municipal infrastructure, but was noncommittal when it came to discussing solutions to the growing budgetary crises facing Ontario municipalities.

“Here’s the thing, the proposal that came forward around the HST, that’s about constituents paying more taxes,” said Wynne, in a fireside-chat-style interview with former Queen’s Park reporter Richard Brennan.

Wynne asked the AMO last year to come up with new revenue ideas, but shot down the AMOs centrepiece proposal — a 1 per cent increase dedicated specifically to local infrastructure that they are dubbing “The Local Share” — as a cost-raising measure. “What I said last year, was that there needs to be a discussion among constituents, among councils, so that there’s some buy in that this is the direction that we need to go,” said Wynne, speaking to reporters.

“Right now, we’re trying to take costs off people’s monthly bills,” she said, “raising the provincial HST would fly in the face of that.”

Wynne’s take on the HST was echoed by each of the other major parties, leaving AMO’s proposal, essentially, dead in the water.

“We considered the 1 per cent tax. We know that people out there are struggling,” said NDP leader Andrea Horwath. “Life is getting more and more difficult every day.” That said, the party will not be supporting the tax increase, saying instead that they plan to run on a platform that will see increased uploading of services like transit to the province. Horwath acknowledged that this plan is “going to cost the provincial treasury quite a lot,” but said that it would be able to open up space in municipal budgets to provide other needed services.  

PC leader Patrick Brown also dismissed the AMOs HST increase proposal, but also was scant on details regarding revenue generation for municipalities, saying, “I’m not in favour of tax increases. No to an HST increase.”

He was also opposed to property tax increases, saying that the nearly $5 billion gap in municipal budget could be addressed through identifying cost inefficiencies and through adjusted upload and download arrangements.

“I believe there are areas where the provincial government could upload costs,” he said. “I do believe there are opportunities for us to properly fund our costs.”

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