Gridlock-relief costs ‘unfair'
Metrolinx has announced its recommendations for how to pay for its $34-billion gridlock alleviation strategy over the next 20 years
Clare Jonkman of Lynden Community Garage is concerned the additional taxes Metrolinx wants to levy will hurt his business.
Clare Jonkman worries it will be easy for business to drive past his door and head to Brant, where there is no talk of a 1 per cent sales tax hike or new gas tax. He's the owner of Lynden Community Garage, an auto repair shop at the crossroads of the Flamborough hamlet. About three kilometres west is Hamilton's boundary. "It's not fair. If they are going to do it, they have to do it province-wide," said Jonkman. "If I owned a car repair shop in St. George (in Brant County), I don't have to charge it and 1 per cent adds up on a major repair." The cost of paying for transit is on the minds of business owners all across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) after regional transit authority Metrolinx announced its recommendations for how to pay for $34 billion worth of subways, light rail and bus rapid transit over the next 20 years. The agency called for parking levies and a 15-per-cent boost to development charges, in addition to the sales tax hike and the new five-cent-a-litre gas tax. Metrolinx has suggested all the measures be imposed only on the GTHA, but that decision ultimately rests with the provincial government. Keith Hoey, president of the Burlington Chamber of Commerce, stresses the sales tax and gas tax should only be applied province-wide. "You can't have different sales taxes in different communities. It will drive shoppers elsewhere." Mathieu Langelier, executive officer of the Hamilton-Halton Homebuilders' Association, says the proposed charges will add as much as $9,000 to the cost of a typical home in Hamilton. Langelier hopes new homes will be exempted from the sales tax increase, but if they're not, he said it may force some buyers to purchase outside the region. "The overall goal is to build transit, not to make people drive further away." The gas tax will hurt every time she hits the gas pumps, says Brenda Jouvence, who co-owns Sonic Express delivery service in Hamilton. "Five cents a litre will just kill us," she said. "I totally think it's unfair. I'm filling up every day. My husband fills up every day. They talk about it costing $1,000 for a family; this will cost us double, at least." She thinks transit users should be paying more, too. The Metrolinx investment strategy did not call for any fare hikes. The Metrolinx plan does call for a charge on parking spots at shopping malls, commercial lots and employee parking. Metrolinx says the levy should vary according to property values, but estimates it would average about 25 cents per day. John Voortman says he will be upset if he has to pay for mostly empty parking spots at his Glanbrook recycling company. The city required him to have 50 to 60 spots but only 15 or so are regularly used. "If they are going to nail me for parking spots I don't use, I would be unhappy about that." Jim DiNovo, president of the Hamilton-Halton Construction Association, said he was surprised Metrolinx did not recommend a surcharge on licence renewals. "I don't understand the economics. If you impose a consumer tax, you're going to have an effect on consumer spending," he said. "You have to make it more expensive for those who drive to ease the gridlock and (get) people to use public transit.";