Don't use property taxes for hospital

Don't use property taxes for hospital
Posted on September 28, 2016 | Alex Cullen | Written on September 28, 2016
Letter type:


Ottawa Citizen

Author's Note:

Author's Note:

The estimated cost of rebuilding the Ottawa Civic Hospital is some $2 billion. Ottawa Citizen columnist Randall Denley (Sept. 22 "How will we pay for - and build - the new Civic") suggests that, as the Provincial Government normally pays for 90% of this, some $200 million will need to be raised locally. In the past, when large capital projects like this are on the table, hospital executives have made a bee-line to Ottawa City Council asking for a special property tax levy to help cover the local contribution. City Council should reject this notion - here's why.

The Editor

(Letters to the Editor)

Ottawa Citizen


Dear Editor:


Columnist Randall Denley raises the question of how the new Ottawa Civic Hospital, once it lands on its new location, will be paid for. He estimates that the local contribution to this estimated $2 billion project will be 10% or $200 million. Let me be among the first to say "not from property taxes".


Health care is a provincial responsibility, not a municipal responsibility. The Province of Ontario has the tax sources (income, corporate, sales taxes) plus federal transfers to fund this important responsibility. Municipalities do not. Municipalities rely on property taxes and fees to cover their responsibilities, and have a tough time doing this based on these revenue limited sources, which is why they are forever lobbying senior levels of government for funding to meet such basic infrastructure needs as roads, sewers, transit, and housing.


And there is a more fundamental reason why property taxes are inappropriate to fund hospitals: their regressive nature. Property taxes are not based on ability to pay: the same taxes are required on a home assessed at $300,000 no matter if you are a young family with kids, a professional 6-figure income couple without children, or a retired couple living on pensions. This is why municipalities are adverse to funding social programs like social assistance from property taxes.


Ottawa City Council has traditionally rejected appeals to fund hospital capital projects from property taxes, for many of the reasons listed above. It would be a good tradition to continue.


Alex Cullen

(City Councillor, 2000-2010)

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