Only about one-third of Toronto and region residents approve of the taxes and tolls floated this week by Metrolinx to pay for a dedicated transit fund.
A Thursday poll by Forum Research shows property, gas and sales taxes were among the least palatable of 11 potential money-makers that have been shortlisted by the regional transportation agency. Metrolinx is looking for ways to boost the public transit network by $2 billion a year.
Those revenue tools only received between 16- and 25-per-cent approval among poll respondents. A 5-per-cent increase in property taxes rated lowest.
Another scheme that would charge motorists three cents for every kilometre driven was also rejected by 72 per cent of respondents.
One in six of those polled didn’t have an opinion on any of the revenue tools.
Among less traditional taxes, a $1-a-day parking levy had the highest approval at 47 per cent, followed by high-occupancy toll lanes (43 per cent).
Overall, Metrolinx taxes and fees won the highest approval among those with an annual household income of $100,000 and seniors. Support was also strongest among provincial Liberal party supporters with 46-per-cent approval, compared to 27 per cent among Progressive Conservative backers.
The strong disapproval of traditional taxes underscores the need for revenue tools that are directly linked to improving public transit, said Forum president Lorne Bozinoff, who speculated that the low acceptance might prompt the Liberal government to abandon the idea of raising transit taxes.
Metrolinx has failed to link the revenue tools to its Big Move plan to improve congestion, he said. “What they’ve done is what they shouldn’t have done. We’ve said all along, ‘don’t present the taxes without the solution.’ ”
Overall, people feel overtaxed, Bozinoff said, adding that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s reaction of retching sounds when he heard the list, “might not have been too far off in terms of what people are thinking.
“You list these 11 taxes and they are a tax when they aren’t attached anything.”
There was little difference in approval levels between respondents in Toronto and those outside the city, and between drivers and public transit users.
Respondents were polled on their approval of each revenue tool. The interactive voice response telephone poll of 995 adults is accurate plus or minus 3 per cent 19 times out of 20. The results for subsets grouped by age, geography or political preferences, are less accurate.
A slate of four taxes preferred by the Toronto Region Board of Trade — a sales tax, gas tax, commercial parking levy and high-occupancy toll lanes — was met with similarly high disapproval in a Forum poll of 1,491 residents: 62 per cent of respondents were opposed. That research took place on March 28 and April 3.
During a stop in Kitchener Friday, Premier Kathleen Wynne said she’s only looking for taxes and tolls in the Toronto region to pay for transit. They’re not being considered in other areas of the province.
Ontario needs to think of improving transit every year just as people have come to expect annual highway upgrades, said Wynne.
“In a very ongoing and continuous way, we have to do the same thing with transit building,” she said. “And we need to build in a culture of ‘that’s just what we do as a province, we build transit in an incremental way over time.’ ”