The Toronto Star had an article today that gives a bit of a preview of the new City of Toronto Act. It is essentially a partial response from Dalton McGuinty to the problems that Toronto faces, and he hopes to have the legislation in place by the end of 2005.
Every year the City has to go to the Province looking for a hand-out, primarily because of the structural imbalances in the system left over from the Harris-era downloading. The imbalances are a result of municipalities being partially responsible for social programs, and only being able to pay for them out of property taxes -- which, of course, hits an urban centre like Toronto rather hard.
It doesn't really seem fair or smart to me since social programs are a redistribution of wealth, but only the higher levels of government can collect income tax. Furthermore, it is hard to explain why a City of Toronto homeowner should pay social assistance to a newcomer from Newfoundland or China who has moved to Scarborough, but a City of Mississauga homeowner should not. These services should be a provincial responsibility.
Anyway, Dalton McGuinty has done nothing to address this problem, and the new legislation leaves things this way.
So, although the new act is expected to give the City of Toronto new taxing powers, and other useful things, this doesn't really address the reasons why Toronto must go to Queen's Park every year.
However, when the new act comes along and gives Toronto the power, for example, to add an extra tax on gasoline, this will allow Premier McGuinty to say Toronto now has the ability to solve its own problems.
What the new legislation doesn't sound like it will do is give the City of Toronto the right to levy income taxes. Given that power, the City would finally have what it needs to win its battle with Queen's Park. We'd be able to lower our taxes overall by electing right wing nutjobs to Queen's Park who would download everything onto the municipalities. Since Toronto has the richest tax base in the province, we'd pay lower tax rates if services like health were downloaded onto the municipal income taxes than if they were left at the provincial level. But that would be ugly for our neighbours, and I wouldn't want it to happen that way.
In any case, that will never happen. The provincial premiers don't want the municipalities doing to them what the premiers now do to the Prime Minister.