It’s smart and… it involves tracks.
Smart Track. Rolls off the tongue without so much as giving it a second thought.
Which is a good thing (at least for the John Tory camp) because when people start putting more than a passing thought into this much hyped transit plan, the only thing left to say about it… Track. Yes, it definitely involves track.
Just over a week ago, the Globe and Mail’s Marcus Gee began to wonder how exactly John Tory was going to fund the city’s contribution to the ambitious 53 kilometre, 22 station plan. “I don’t propose to offer hardworking Torontonians transit relief in exchange for a financial headache that could last for years,” Tory said back in June. “Therefore, I will not raise property taxes to build the SmartTrack line. The city’s one-third portion will come from tax-increment financing.”
Tax-increment financing, everyone! The solution for not paying for stuff we need now has a name to it. And a fancy-schmancy, official sounding name it is too.
“But it is far from clear that TIF could work here in Toronto, especially for such a costly project,” Mr. Gee writes.
Wait, what? ‘Far from clear that TIF could work…?’ Did I read you right there, Mr. Gee. “This leading candidate for mayor is just feeding more false hopes,” he concludes.
A leading candidate feeding us false hopes on transit. Stop me if you’ve heard that one before.
Where Marcus Gee was cautiously skeptical about the Tory Smart Track plan, John Barber, writing in the Toronto Star a week later, was nothing short of stupendously apoplectic. “As mayor, John Tory could derail Toronto by trying to implement his half-baked, financially fraudulent transit plan,” states the sub-headline. And Barber is just getting started.
The magic carpet Tory has commandeered for this trip is called tax-increment financing (TIF), whereby the city borrows $3-billion and promises to pay it off with future tax revenue generated by property development attracted to the new stations. Tory’s breezy backgrounder cites a study by Metrolinx, the provincial transit authority, to explain how the magic is supposed to work. But because the type is so big and the single page so small, it doesn’t have space to report the study’s conclusion: that TIF is the riskiest, least desirable of all potential transit financing mechanisms, given one star out of five in the study’s final rating.
If he wasn’t so grumpy looking all the time, I’d plant a big wet one on John Barber for that sentence alone.
John Tory’s big plan for building much needed new transit is untried and untested here in Ontario. Expert panels brought together to come up with the best ways to fund transit expansion have ranked tax-increment funding well down the list of feasible approaches. As Marcus Gee pointed out in his article, a recent panel chaired by Anne Golden listed tax-increment funding “as one of its ‘smaller’ revenue sources.” Both Gee and Barber point out the funding of subway construction in New York has fallen far short of the original TIF projections.
AND THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT, PEOPLE!
If we want new infrastructure, whether it’s transit or roads or new sewer lines, we should be paying for it. When did we start believing this stuff comes at no cost to us? When crass, craven politicians like John Tory started pitching us a line, telling us there was a magic pot of gold at the end of the rainbow made from unicorn tears.
Nobody seems to dispute the worthiness of the plan itself. The province has been working on their version of it for a few years now. If it actually contributes to helping reduce gridlock and congestion, bring it on.
But stop trying to convince us it won’t cost us a dime. We bought into that scam 4 years ago and here we are, plans delayed, plans scuttled, relief years, if not decades away.
– in arrearsly submitted by Cityslikr