Mississauga Residents Might Not Have to Pay Gardiner Tolls After All

While Toronto—and Toronto Mayor John Tory—are reeling after Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced that her administration will not approve the city's plan to impose tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway, 905 residents (and some 416 ones) might be breathing a sigh of relief.

Although it's probably fair to say that Tory and Toronto's toll proposal wasn't popular in every circle, the announcement has come as a bit of a shock.

The tolls, officially approved by city council in December, were meant to help Toronto rebuild roads and better tackle its transit expansion plan. Although the tolls were being instituted to help T.O. better manage its financial and transit affairs, critics were concerned about the impact the fees would have on both Toronto residents and nearby 905 commuters who frequent the city for work and play.

Back in November 2016, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie responded to the news, emphasizing the effect the plan would have on the 905.

“I support the building of regionally-integrated transit and transportation networks through dedicated funding. Mayor Tory has many tools at his disposal to raise revenues that other cities do not have. He has chosen to implement road tolls that will not only affect residents in his city, but those in the 905 as well,” Crombie said in a statement. “It's important that Mayor Tory understand the ramifications of his actions on business and tourism.

Prior to this sudden announcement, there was little indication the province would interfere in Toronto's plan.

To soften the blow, the province pledged to help municipalities by increasing funding for local transit through an enhancement to the existing gas tax program, effective 2019 (in layman's terms, the province will allow cities to access more of Ontario's gas tax revenues). This will effectively double the municipal share from two cents per litre to four cents by 2021.

According to the province, there will be no increase in the tax that people pay on gas in the province as a result of the enhancement.

While Tory was careful to thank the government for the enhancement—it will, after all, provide the city with up to $170 million to put towards transit—he was adamant that gas tax money will not net the city nearly as much as the proposed road tolls.

"The province opted to deny us the ability to toll our own roads," Tory said during a press release. "This is the same government that introduced toll lanes on one of its own highways. The gas tax increase is less than what would have been able to raise on our own. It denies us long-term control over this aspect of our finances. Gas is a good step, but cannot be the only step."

While Tory and some Toronto councillors are rightly concerned over this blow to their long-term revenue-generating plan (Toronto does need extra money in its coffers to maintain and enhance its infrastructure), the news is probably good for 905 mayors and residents who feared the tolls would be a hardship for commuters.

What do you think, Mississauga? Is this good news, or a short-sighted move on the part of the province?

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