Source: Facebook

The City of Toronto is considering implementing a rain tax to manage stormwater runoff but early polls indicate the idea is extremely unpopular.

Toronto announced it would begin stormwater and water service charge consultations on its website.

“The City of Toronto is consulting with water users and interested parties on the possible implementation of a stormwater charge, stormwater charge credits and a water service charge,” reads the website. 

The potential changes would affect the current rate paid by customers. 

Consultations aim to gather feedback surrounding the possible implementation of a stormwater charge for all property classes, a stormwater charge credits program for large properties, and an administrative weather charge.

The Toronto Star has already begun a consultation of its own. In an opinion article published on the website by Warren Kinsella, the Star asked, “Are Toronto’s politicians out of touch with reality by proposing a Rain Tax?”

An overwhelming majority said yes.

The proposed stormwater charge, or rain tax, would be based on the amount of stormwater runoff into the city’s storm sewer system that a property allows, represented by the amount of hard surface area of said property.

The City of Toronto said hard surfaces include roofs, asphalt driveways, parking areas, and concrete landscaping. 

The city explained that when not absorbed into the ground, runoff from stormwater enters storm drains and is carried through pipes into local waterways. 

“When severe storms happen, more stormwater runs off hard surfaces and enters the City’s sewer system. Too much stormwater can overwhelm the City’s sewer system, which can lead to flooded basements and impacts to surface water quality in Toronto’s rivers, streams and Lake Ontario’s waterfront,” said the city.

The funding would allegedly help with funding the city’s stormwater management initiatives. 

Canadian Taxpayers Federation federal director Franco Terrazzano said that the City of Toronto should instead focus on cutting wasteful spending and taxes.

“These big spending Toronto politicians and bureaucrats shouldn’t be looking for new ways to take more money from tapped out taxpayers,” he said. 

Properties less than one hectare in size will have a tiered, flat-rate stormwater charge based on each property type’s average hard surface area. Properties under one hectare in size are separated into three categories. First, residential properties are considered to have seven tiers. Multi-residential, such as apartments or condos, and industrial, commercial, and institutional properties all have five tiers.

Aerial photography will be used to determine the amount of hard surface area on properties larger than one hectare in size. The City of Toronto will undertake this assessment.

Toronto’s city staff proposed a rain tax for property owners’ water runoff in 2017. Former Mayor John Tory shut down the proposal.

This proposal is not unique to Toronto; other municipalities such as Kitchener, Mississauga, and Orillia have already implemented rain taxes. 

Public consultations on the rain tax are scheduled to run from March 18 until April 30,  with the city organizing virtual meetings that residents can join online or by phone on April 8, 11, and 16 to provide further information and collect feedback. A survey is also available.

The city staff will review the feedback and submit a report to the Executive Committee and City Council, which is planned for summer 2024.