Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Let's get the facts straight, it's the suburbs that benefit from Toronto's amalgamation

By: Metro Published on Mon Apr 20 2015

Who’s getting a raw deal from Toronto amalgamation? Well, not the suburbs.

Ever since the new City of Toronto was formed in 1998 by rapidly smooshing together five mostly independent municipalities, a lot of residents of the amalgamated city have been convinced they’re getting screwed.

I see the attitude reflected most in the frequent refrains from suburban politicians who ramble on about how the downtown elites are sucking up their tax dollars.

Hell, not a single Toronto city council meeting goes by these days without at least one of the 10 Scarborough councillors bemoaning how their part of the city isn’t being treated fairly.

They should stop.

Not just because it’s unhelpful, spiteful and generally useless rhetoric, but because the data shows there’s zero truth behind the notion the suburbs are getting a raw financial deal from amalgamation.

Instead, data from the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation obtained and analyzed by Metro reporter Jessica Smith Cross shows that it’s the city core that is subsidizing the city’s suburbs of North York, Etobicoke and, yeah, even Scarborough.

Smith Cross’s analysis shows that, in aggregate, the downtown area of Old Toronto will contribute 41 per cent of all commercial and residential property tax revenue for 2015, despite representing only about 23 per cent of the city’s population.

On a per-capita basis, the old City of Toronto contributes three times as much commercial and residential tax revenue as Scarborough and twice as much as North York and Etobicoke.

That’s a big gap.

But this data isn’t just an opportunity for smug downtowners to start crowing about how they’re keeping Toronto in the money.

The transfer of wealth from areas with lots of money to areas with less is a fundamental part of creating a healthy economy and a functional society. It’s a good thing.

We can, however, use this data as an opportunity to further consider one of Toronto’s most pressing issues: economic inequality.

Dense downtown areas of Toronto predictably generate more property tax revenue than industrial or suburban areas. But the gap in tax revenue between Toronto’s richest ward and its poorest is gigantic. Downtown’s Ward 28 generates more than 10 times more annual revenue than Ward 43 in Scarborough, Ward 9 in North York or Ward 1 in Etobicoke.

It’s a worrying trend. Toronto is concentrating its wealth in an unaffordable downtown core, pushing low-income populations to the fringes, in areas hard to serve with transit, infrastructure and social programs.

It’s a problem that requires real solutions.

But those solutions aren’t likely to be found by city politicians who won’t stop warring over old municipal boundaries.

Matt Elliott lives and writes in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter @GraphicMatt

This post was originally published at on 2015-04-20T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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