There is a consensus building that the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) needs to invest in transit. Voices as diverse as the Labour council, Civic Action and Toronto Board of Trade have campaigns to support it. Even a columnist for the Report on Business has come out in support.
So, how do we make sense of polling numbers that show negligible support for the proposals to pay for it?
We need to look at these polling numbers in context. The HST is one of the most unpopular taxes around. In part, this is because of its visibility in every purchase from a cup of coffee to a car. It’s so hated there was a successful referendum to repeal it in British Columbia. Yet the poll shows that 35 percent of people in the GTA support an increase in this tax. And when the pollsters asked how much we should spend on transit, almost half of Ontarians agreed it should be about $500; which is the estimated cost of the Metrolinx proposal.
So how do we get more people to connect the dots between what we pay, how we pay, and where the money goes?
Maybe it’s sitting in traffic when you would rather be spending time with your kids, or being late for work because you can’t get onto the streetcar that is making us think differently about how to fund transit in this city. Whatever the reason, it looks like we are at the point where Torontonians are ready for an adult conversation about taxes.
As we connect our city with a transit plan, let’s also make the connections between the taxes to pay for it and for other services that support us. Premier Wynnes’ consultation process has a stronger starting point than it may appear.