Using the Vehicle Registration Fee for Good

Friday, August 1, 2014

As Mayor, one of the first things I am going to do is reinstate the Vehicle Registration Tax. And I even believe it should be boosted to $75.

That sucks, right?

Yeah I know.

But I challenge you, right now, to hear me out. Whether you hate me or love me, whether you plan to vote for me or someone else, let me tell you, as briefly as possible why I’m doing this.

Because it’s not what you think.

To me the absence of the Vehicle Registration Fee (VRF) represents a lot of what is wrong with this city and this painfully protracted mayoral race. Nobody wants to make tough decisions. Nobody wants to own up to the truth: that maintaining and growing a city costs money. Those candidates that you see at the debates – the big five – none of them want to confront voters with the idea that money makes things happen. They may lie straight out, as Mayor Ford does, and say that money is being saved. Or they may promise the moon, as Ms. Chow does, without regard to any hard, sobering numbers. Or they may be intentionally coy or vague. None of that works. It’s just a shell game. And that’s insulting to all of us.

My position stands as a rallying cry, especially to those – probably most Torontonians – who will bristle at the prospect of paying another chunk of money to the government. I am doing it because we need a leader who is not afraid to make tough decisions, to lead a city by listening but not pandering, to tell the truth about the economics of progress and to sanely and responsibly oversee the business of government.

And what about the $75? It will go towards enhancing Wheel-Trans: the TTC service for those with mobility challenges – and will also go towards improving accessibility at TTC stations, which is sorely dragging. The money will go to ensure that Torontonians and visitors with any degree of ability can travel through the city and use mass transit safely and conveniently; that no-one gets left behind. That all of us can move through this city easier and faster.

Frankly I’m not sorry if this annoys you. I am here to make a case for the city; to be its public defender. We have a great city that is respected around the world, but there’s a lot that needs to be fixed. Starting at City Hall and moving outwards from there.

By repositioning the VRF I am doing two solid things. I am helping make the city more accessible – as it should be, but I am also demonstrating, as I do with all of my presentations, discussions and plans, that I am a leader who is truly concerned for the health and future of the city and its residents, but that I am willing to do more than simply give lip service to the problem.

People who know me know that I am straightforward in my plans and my approach. I am not here to make a comfortable career for myself. I am not riding on anyone’s coat-tails to earn the position. I am interested only in doing what I can for the city – a new approach, a new mindset for the 21st century.

The hard fact is, you get what you pay for. If you pay nothing, you get nothing. Actually you get worse than nothing – you get debt – and that leads to much more significant damage very quickly. But when you pay your share for the services you use, you deliver energy and motion to the city, and you also earn the right to enjoy its benefits.

Toronto deserves a leader with the guts to do this and do it right.

 

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