2024 Ontario Budget Submission

The Federation of Urban Neighbourhoods (Ontario) Inc. (FUN) provides a provincial voice for residents’ associations in Ontario’s urban areas. Residents’ associations are engaged with their municipal governments in land use planning and development, transportation, and advocacy regarding policy and priority setting for services provision, and revenues. FUN believes that sustainable urban regions are characterized by environmental balance, fiscal viability, infrastructure investment, and social renewal.

FUN recognizes the significant fiscal challenges facing the Government of Ontario, some representing continuing impacts of the COVID pandemic. We also believe that investing in and maintaining physical, social health and environmental infrastructure, all the while addressing the Climate Emergency are critical to the future wellbeing of all Ontario residents.

However, we are choosing to focus at this time on four matters: the growing Housing Market and Housing Affordability issue, Growing Protected Areas, Save Ontario Place, and Save the Ontario Science Centre.

Housing Market and Housing Affordability

We are all aware that Housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable in all urban areas of Ontario, especially Toronto. We are concerned however that the Government of Ontario is not effectively addressing the issue. The core issue is the rampant speculation in the housing market.

While many Canadians are desperately searching for a home they can afford to buy and live in, others see housing as an investment only. In the first half of 2021, 25 per cent of homes sold in Ontario were bought by investors who didn’t need a place to live. In theory, building more new houses should cool down house prices, but in practice, that won’t happen when an investor can own 10 of them. If we want to curb inflation in the housing market, ending unproductive speculation — it can be done through the tax system. And this is something we could do very quickly.

According to research by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), home prices in Canada have risen 30 percent since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and land speculation is partially to blame. CMHC Chief Economist, Brad Dugan says that’s “something that worries [him] because that adds extra froth to the market, pushes home prices higher and can create a harder landing if and when the market turns and prices correct.” When Ontario was facing a similar problem in the early 1970s, Premier Bill Davis implemented a 50 percent Land Speculation Tax on people buying and selling homes that were not their principal residence. This tax is credited with slowing the extreme increase in property values in Toronto in the 1970s.

Urgent action is needed to help stop the extreme increase in home prices in Ontario, driven by home flippers and land speculators who treat housing like a Bitcoin-type commodity.

It’s time for the Ontario Government to stop out-of-control housing prices by re-imposing a Land Speculation Tax to stop home speculators from unfairly driving up the cost of housing in Ontario to unprecedented levels.

Growing Protected Areas

A healthy environment is key to enjoying a good quality of life in Ontario. It’s also key to a healthy economy and avoiding the astronomical costs of flooding, pollution, and other forms of environmental degradation. Protected areas are effective nature-based solutions to climate change and biodiversity loss that enhance our resilience and conserve the plants, animals and ecosystems that sustain us.

In 2021 a government-commissioned Protected Areas Working Group submitted recommendations to the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks to grow protected areas in the province, including investing $100 million per year over four years to identify innovative and cooperative approaches to establishing new protected and conserved areas.

A made-in-Ontario “Wild Accelerator Fund” as recommended by the Protected Areas Working Group could leverage matching resources from the federal government, as recently occurred through the $1 billion tripartite framework agreement between the governments of Canada and British Columbia and the First Nations Leadership Council.

Ontarians overwhelmingly support the addition of new protected parks and conservation reserves. With the right investments Ontario can once again be a leader in this area. The 2024 Budget must include a financial plan to create a lasting conservation legacy.

Save Ontario Place

The Ontario Government has signed a secret deal with Austrian company, Therme, for the company to build an exclusive luxury spa on the public Ontario Place site. The government has also agreed to spend $650 million in taxpayer money to build a car park at the site to help business. Residents all over Ontario, not just residents of Toronto (!) are very angry at the plan, preferring that the Ontario Place site remain a public park and be revitalised. Over one million people visit Ontario Place every year. It is not a desolate unused wasteland.

Save Ontario Science Centre

Key stakeholders were not consulted on the Science Centre move, and the decision was made based on “incomplete” and insufficient information, driven by the need to justify a publicly funded parking garage at Ontario Place for the private luxury spa company. The Ontario Science Centre should remain where it is. And why not build a second one that focuses on freshwater and the Great Lakes down at Ontario Place?

The Federation of Urban Neighbourhoods call on the Ontario government to reverse these plans.

Respectfully submitted,

Geoff Kettel
President
Federation of Urban Neighbourhoods

c.c. Premier and Ontario Party Leaders

Photo: ©2024, Paddy Duncan