Mayoral races are a long haul in Toronto – and that leaves plenty of room for little epiphanies.
On Monday, one of those showed up to file papers at city hall – Ari Goldkind, a 40-year-old criminal defence lawyer.
He made some headlines saying that he has a nose for B.S. and referring to the current mayor as Sideshow Rob. If past experience is any indication, an ambitious but untested outsider like Goldkind will go exactly nowhere in this race. Goldkind is a fringe candidate.
But it’s rude not to ask what ideas even a fringe candidate brings to the table, and so that’s what I did. He started out sounding a bit like David Soknacki and Olivia Chow, advocating a return to the LRT in Scarborough over the council-approved subway.
And then he kind of sounded like Soknacki on the land transfer tax, but it turned out I’d misunderstood when I thought he said that exemptions to the tax should go to more lower-priced houses and purchasers of homes worth more than $1.1 million should pay more.
What Goldkind actually wanted to see was the land transfer tax increased on million-dollar homes, and everybody else pay the same. That, along with higher property taxes, would pay for repairs and improvements of Toronto’s public housing.
Goldkind may throw around words like B.S. pretty freely, but for him, and really only him, taxes are not a dirty word.
After we spoke, it struck me: higher taxes shouldn’t be a de facto taboo, as they’ve become. Because while Goldkind might not have a hope at winning the election, if he actually pulled it off, his program of tax-and-spend government would probably make life a lot better here and drive almost no one from their homes. Taxes are low in Toronto – lower than elsewhere – and yet services are slipping. Subways are crowded and buildings are crumbling and according to this year’s Ombudsman’s Annual Report, even basic customer service isn’t sustainable.
As this year’s budget debate wrapped up, City Manager Joe Pennachetti laid it bare, that property taxes will practically have to rise more dramatically in coming years than they have in the past, just to maintain status quo.
Toronto is circling the drain. And yet, the collection of miserly landholders that make up Toronto will almost certainly shuffle out and cast their vote for one of five or so A-list mayoralty candidates with well-known resumes and no stomach for pitching the larger-scale tax hikes the city needs to pull out of its spin.
Now, I can’t say that anybody should go to vote for the unknown criminal defence lawyer who just joined the long list of fringe mayoralty candidates.
But maybe it’s time that we shook our heads, and stopped believing that we can have a great or even decent future, paying only a little more than we did in the past.
David Nickle is Metroland Media Toronto’s City Hall reporter. His column appears every Thursday. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org