How to fund infrastructure

How to fund infrastructure
Posted on August 23, 2017 | Alex Cullen | Written on August 23, 2017
Letter type:


Ottawa Citizen

Author's Note:

Author's Note:

Today's (Wednesday August 23, 2017) Ottawa Citizen editorial "No higher taxes ..." on infrastructure funding rejects the call of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario for a slice of the PST to help fund infrastructure but instead calls on the province to remove funding for such provincial programs as social housing, long term care and education from the property tax base, in order to free-up funds to deal with the infrastructure deficit. My letter to the Editor deals with the implications of this proposal and looks at other solutions to the infrastructure deficit.

Ottawa Citizen - Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor:

Your recent Editorial on infrastructure funding ("No to higher taxes ...", Ottawa Citizen, Aug. 23, 2017) is correct in identifying provincial programs that local property taxes help fund (social housing, long term care, education) which would be more appropriately funded through ability-to-pay taxes, such as income and sales taxes. Your conclusion is that moving these programs off the property tax base would help free-up funds to deal with the infrastructure deficit that municipalities in Ontario face. True, but how would our provincial government, already facing deficits and mounting debt, replace the lost revenue?

There is no escaping the fact that, in order to reduce the infrastructure deficit we face in Ontario, funds must come from someplace. While almost everybody uses water and sewer services (funded in large part by water fees and sewer surcharges), our roads are a different matter. The major users here are cars and trucks. Some 84% of households in Ottawa have cars; most truck usage comes from commercial vehicles. Surely it makes sense to have a road user fee to help defray the cost of this infrastructure, through such means as license registration fees, higher gas taxes, etc.

Our public policy leaders need to engage its taxpayers in a full and frank discussion of how the infrastructure we rely on to live and work should be paid for. Our current reliance on property taxes to do the bulk of the work has proven inadequate. The writing is on the wall.   

About The Author

AlexCullen's picture

Former OBE Trustee (1982-88), Ottawa City Councillor (1991-94), RMOC Councillor (1991-97), MPP Ottawa West (1997-99), Ottawa City Councillor (2000-2010). Economist, former Policy Analyst NHW (1982-91), former... More