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Index for my Toronto Budget 2004 project
David Lewis Stein Gets it All Wrong

Yesterday, Brent at the Urban Archi-Texture Blog criticized a dumb column in the Toronto Star by David Lewis Stein. I had fisking it on my list of things to do, so I'm glad that I can just send you there to read what Brent wrote.

Reviewing his column again, here's a snippet of Stein's column:

Stop whining: Toronto gets off lightly on taxes

Don't cry for Toronto. Yes, the city is broke and even with the recently announced handouts from Queen's Park and Ottawa, City Council will likely have to impose serious tax hikes. But Toronto homeowners have been getting a break for some time now. We have been taxed at a lower rate than homeowners in the 905 regions.

Which is truly asinine nonsense.

His column makes the following conceptual errors:

  • He compares the taxes paid on a $260,000 home in Toronto to the amount of tax paid on a same-priced home in places like Ajax or East Gwillimbury. As if. Those houses may be the same price, but that's about all they have in common. Families already have to pay a huge premium to buy a house in Toronto -- that doesn't mean they should have to pay the same sort of premium in their property taxes, too. They would, if they were charged the same tax rate as other communities.
  • He decides that the ratio of commercial property tax dollars to residential property tax dollars is a magic number, and since Toronto's ratio is higher than suburban ratios, City businesses are "getting whacked". But why shouldn't City Hall be free to arrange the balance of taxes in whatever way they feel wisest?
  • He lionizes Mike Harris and Al Leach for their heroic efforts in trying to reduce the burden on Toronto businesses. He neglects to recognize that the province willfully penalizes City businesses by charging them their own special rate for education tax. Current value assessment -- which they imposed, despite promises not to do so -- isn't a friend of Toronto, either, when it comes to the provincially-pooled portion of property taxes that go to education. Harris and Leach had little concern for Toronto at all.

In short, Stein has got it all wrong. And, as Urban Archi-Texture Blog points out, Stein has caused some terrible confusion out there, in the real world of Toronto Star readers.



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