Merrickville-Wolford council has decided not to support the Association of Municipalities of Ontario’s (AMO) suggestion to raise the HST in the province to 14%. The initiative, called Local Share, was originally proposed back in 2017 as a way of supporting the crumbling infrastructure in many of Ontario’s municipalities. The money collected by the 1% tax increase would go towards funding local services, such as roads, bridges and public transit. The proposal is also supported by the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA), which believes that it could help reduce the upward pressure on property tax bills and diversify how local communities are funded. Mayor David Nash told council that the head of ROMA made it clear at the ROMA conference in January that he believes that they can’t afford not to take this step to ensure a sustainable future for Ontario’s municipalities.
Even so, most of the councillors where not in support of the tax increase, as they are sceptical that Merrickville-Wolford would see any benefit. Historically, the provincial government has not been very good at allocating funds to small municipalities like Merrickville-Wolford. “There is no guarantee, even if this goes ahead, that the government will actually honour this and put that towards infrastructure for municipalities. instead of into general revenue,” said Councillor Chuck MacInnis. “Then we are back in the same boat, except taxes are one per cent higher.” Only about $25 million is currently set aside each year for all the roads in Ontario after significant funding is given to public transit in cities like Toronto, Ottawa and Hamilton.
Councillor MacInnis also pointed out that Ontarians already pay high enough taxes and, if they wanted, the Ontario Government could set aside one per cent of the current tax levy to fund infrastructure projects.