North Bay City Council has referred a motion asking the Premier of Ontario to grant municipalities the same powers the City of Toronto has when it comes to imposing and collecting a Municipal Land Transfer Tax (MLTT) back to the committee level.
Deputy Mayor Tanya Vrebosch, who serves as the City's budget chief, suggested and received full support for the move so "more fulsome discussions," on the subject can take place in the imminent 2022 budget meetings.
Coun. Mac Bain had tabled the motion seeking revenue tools for municipalities in line with those enjoyed by the City of Toronto in a bid to mitigate a province-wide $6-billion infrastructure deficit. The motion was seconded by Coun. Bill Vrebosch, who said the motion addresses "equalization" between municipalities whether those markets decide to use those revenue tools or not.
"Municipalities can no longer generate and address that deficit through property tax alone. We can't generate enough to address North Bay's infrastructure deficit just by growing the city. We need new and other revenue tools," declared Bain, and the autonomy to decide "if we want to use them after discussions with the community."
He acknowledged a more accurate title for the resolution would have included the phrase "municipal revenue tools," but did not want the MLTT aspect to be buried, wanting it "to be front and centre."
Bain noted he had fielded several calls from the other members on the motion. "Whenever a municipality talks about new taxes or revenue tools, I understand that some people will be upset and anxious about it — especially those whose businesses are impacted."
The City of Toronto collects the MLTT from its local property sales, raising $800 million in 2020 — 15 per cent of its revenue — while exempting first-time home buyers. The City of Toronto collects the tax in parallel with Ontario on all property sales.
Bain advised if the motion passes and the province did not support it, he would like to see a share of the provincial land transfer tax go to the other 443 municipalities. Bain said a half-point share from the HST to municipalities from the province and feds would work, as well.
"Over the past 16 years, I've sat through countless capital budget meetings and one of the challenges we all have discussed is how to fund our growing infrastructure deficit," Bain continued. He said for the City of Toronto, those broader municipal revenue tools granted in 2006 gave it an advantage over the other municipalities in the province.
"They used those revenues to garner and keep property taxes low while addressing some of their infrastructure deficit. I don't think it's fair that one municipality has these revenue tools — and uses them — and the balance of the municipalities in the province don't have the right to decide if they want to use those tools."
Bain advised the added revenue from the MLTT could contribute approximately $2.68 billion toward the growing $6-billion infrastructure deficit of the municipalities.
"I would like municipalities in the province to have all the same revenue tools as the City of Toronto," Bain observed. "If the province did give these tools to all the other municipalities, each council would have to pass a resolution in open council, with complete discussion publicly.
"I don't know if this Council would support a Municipal Land Transfer Tax but it would be great to have that option, just like we have a hotel-stay tax and some development charges," he summed up. "