Ontarians should pay an extra percentage point on the HST, raising $2.5 billion a year to keep local roads, bridges, arenas and other infrastructure in better repair, says the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.
The lobby group representing hundreds of local governments called on Premier Kathleen Wynne to boost the sales tax to 14 per cent from 13 per cent and launched a public relations campaign at www.thelocalshare.ca.
“Municipalities cannot possibly make ends meet on property taxes alone,” AMO president Lynn Dollin told councillors from across the province at the association’s annual convention in Ottawa.
She acknowledged the request is “something very bold” but said the group’s polling suggests about three-quarters of Ontarians support such a levy.
“Is the public ready? Yeah, I think so,” she told the crowd on Monday. “They like it more than higher property taxes. They like it more than deep cuts.”
With less than a year until the provincial election next June 7, however, a decision to raise the HST one per cent would be politically dangerous for Wynne’s Liberal government.
Finance Minister Charles Sousa’s office quickly shot down the AMO idea as Wynne prepared to speak at the convention Tuesday.
“We will not be increasing the HST,” Sousa spokesperson Jessica Martin said in a statement, saying Ontario has a “strong track record” of supporting municipalities with $4 billion a year, up from $1.1 billion when the Liberals took power in 2003.
The province is also doubling gas tax revenues to municipalities beginning in 2019 and has embarked on a $190-billion, 13-year infrastructure program to build new public transit, hospitals, schools and more, Martin added.
Dollin said the AMO’s research found retail sales tax increase is the fairest way to go, spreading the cost more widely as municipalities face cash crunches as their own infrastructure ages and crumbles.
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