Toronto should look at road tolls on the Gardiner and Don Valley Parkway before hitting the gas on $100 million in cuts, Councillor Josh Matlow says.
City manager Joe Pennachetti sent a laundry list of cuts to Mayor Rob Ford and the rest of the executive committee on Monday. The cuts range from eliminating free garbage tags, selling off Riverdale Farm, cancelling the city’s Christmas bureau and dumping the Toronto Zoo.
In a letter to his constituents sent Tuesday, Matlow decried the majority of the cuts and argued the city should look at other revenue sourcesincluding road tolls before slashing services.
“Tolls would be collected from those in the 905 who commute to our city each day via the Gardiner and DVP, which have been wholly paid for and maintained by Toronto residents’ tax base since being downloaded by the Harris government,” Matlow wrote. “This new revenue should directly offset the burden our public transit system has on the overall operating budget.”
Along with tolls, Matlow said the city should explore some other revenue sources, “a modest property tax increase” and “reasonable increases in some user fees.”
Matlow’s toll idea has a rough road ahead — the mayor has repeatedly spoken against slapping tolls on existing roads.
Councillor Janet Davis shook her head at the recommended cuts and Ford’s repeated claim that they were “efficiencies.”
“The mayor can call them what he likes but the people of Toronto will experience them as service cuts,” Davis said Tuesday. “They will be felt and they will hurt many people.”
Amid the outcry, veteran Councillor Maria Augimeri predicted the cuts would get a rocky reception at city council.
“I can’t see how any councillor in his or her right mind can vote against people like this,” Augimeri said. “I wouldn’t be able to do it. It’s not a question of left and right. It’s a question of decency and keeping the city on a 21st-century track.”
Budget vice-chairman Councillor Doug Ford shrugged off criticisms of the cuts, stressing the administration isn’t going “to continue charging the taxpayer.”
He declined to name any cut he was against.
“Everything is on the table,” the councillor said. “There is always better ways of doing things.”
Ford acknowledged there would be a lobbying effort against the looming cuts.
“You got the typical left that will lobby against anything but their only solution is to raise taxes and we don’t believe in raising taxes,” he said.
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