A “Pinko Commie” Former Toronto City Councilor Talking Sense On Taxes

Blog, Municipal Government, Steve Lafleur

Those of you who follow municipal politics may recall hearing of Adam Giambrone. Giambrone is a former chair of the Toronto Transit Commission, and former mayoral candidate. While his campaign was derailed by some relatively minor personal issues, he is still seen as a young, up and comer in Toronto’s political community. But Giambrone has penned a recent article that should remind us all that people who are derided as “pinko commies” sometimes have good ideas about economic policies.

As some of you may be aware, I am strongly in favour of fiscal decentralization. I recently authored a study in which I argue for eliminating the federal role in areas that are constitutionally assigned to the provinces (and the provinces should foster municipal autonomy). I further articulated in the Winnipeg Free Press why this would lead to more accountability, and more efficiency.

In his recent Now Magazine piece, Giambrone made similar arguments to mine. Cities are in a better position to plan for their own infrastructure than the provincial and federal governments. So why not just give them the taxing power to do so? While I don’t agree with every detail of his proposal (e.g. I don’t think the Toronto Transit Commission should have the ability to set tax rates — only council should have that ability), it is heartening to see that there are municipal leaders who understand that if cities want to fix and upgrade their infrastructure, the money will have to come from local taxpayers, rather than from Ottawa and the provinces.

I encourage you to read the article. Political labels often prevent rational discussion on public policy issues, and lead to an exaggeration of what is actually a pretty blurry line between the “left” and “right” on fiscal policy. While Giambrone’s idea isn’t perfect, it is a very good starting point for a discussion on re-balancing the federation. He should be applauded for thinking outside of the box.