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Mayor puts brakes on idea of additional provincial impacts levy

Says he was 'a bit early' with the idea and won’t be bringing forward idea during Wednesday’s 2023 budget confirmation session
20211215 Cam Guthrie RV
Mayor Cam Guthrie sits in his office at city hall in this file photo.

Now is not the time to introduce a 'provincial impact local levy' that would add to this year’s proposed property tax increase of 4.96 per cent, says Mayor Cam Guthrie.

In a video posted to his Twitter account on Tuesday, Guthrie announced he no longer plans to bring the idea forward during Wednesday’s 2023 budget confirmation hearing – an idea he’d shared a week earlier.

“We may be a bit early on the levy idea,” he said. “Did my idea have merit? I think it did.”

Guthrie pitched the idea, also through a Twitter post, on Jan. 12 in response to what he described as the “actions and inactions” of the provincial government – specifically referring to inadequate funding for provincial services such as supportive housing as well as mental health and addictions services.

He also pointed a finger at recently approved provincial housing bills which make a number of changes to legislation that reduce development charges and parkland fees for some new builds.

“I was asking for feedback. I wanted to hear from my council colleagues and I wanted to hear from the public,” he said in the video posted Tuesday, noting he received a mixed back of responses. “Your feedback matters.”

Though he didn’t declare a firm dollar figure, Guthrie previously posed the idea of a 1.5 per cent levy that includes $1.175 million in new spending as a starting point for conversations.

Several items of provincial responsibility are already featured in the budget, including $750,000 going toward capital and expansion costs at Guelph General Hospital (set to be pulled from reserves for a second straight year), as well as the impacts of implementing Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act, and Bill 109, the More Homes for Everyone Act.

City staff estimate the financial hit from Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act, at about $1 million, though Guthrie thinks $2 million is more likely, along with $275,000 from Bill 109, the More Homes for Everyone Act.

“I believe that we can actually still help with the homelessness, mental health and addictions issues without having to do the levy tomorrow,” Guthrie said, adding, “It might be better to wait on the housing front and see if the province is going to be able to come through (on comments about financially helping municipalities).

“Fingers crossed.”

In Tuesday’s video, Guthrie notes the feedback he received revealed there’s “still so much stigma about people experiencing homelessness with addictions issues,” with several people stating they didn’t want their money to go to helping “those people.”

“I would just encourage people to please don’t treat people like that, don’t talk to people like that, don’t talk about people like that,” he said. “It is a major, major crisis.”