Opinion: Canadian corporations enjoy billions of dollars in tax cuts while we bear the burden

In 2013 I wrote an article in the Toronto Star where I laid out the unfortunate reality that exists for large corporations in Ontario. 

In the article, I described how Ontario’s large corporate tax rate was reduced to just 11.5 per cent by the then governing Ontario Liberals. It would have been reduced even lower had the NDP not stopped the Liberals’ campaign to make the mega-corporation tax rate a lowly 10 per cent.

Each percent back then amounted to roughly $1 billion in lost revenue during a time when the economy was growing, corporations were sitting on record piles of cash, and the Liberals were proposing charging you directly for transit expansion with toll roads and other daily fees and taxes.

There was absolutely *no* reason to make life easier for corporations, and life harder for you. In fact, the economic conditions in 2013 were the exact kind when you ask big business to pay their fair share.

The Federal Liberals under Trudeau are no better. They kept Stephen Harper’s tax cuts to mega-corporations and there is no sign of rolling them back. All the while they pledged to deficit spend on our backs.

A recent report by the Canada Revenue Agency detailed how corporations are still avoiding paying taxes. It estimates that corporations, in just one year avoided between $9.4 billion and $11.4 billion in taxes. That is money we are going to have to pay instead with our taxes.

Today the economy is still chugging along as it was before the tax cuts. Corporations are raking in record profits while still not paying their fair share. The corporate tax rate in Ontario is still at 11.5 percent and the Conservative Provincial government has pledged to finish the job the Liberals started by reducing the corporate tax rate to 10.5 percent.

This will take away roughly another $1 billion in revenue while healthcare, education, childcare, child nutrition programs, and front line services you rely on are cut.

It seems we’re expected to pay more for less, while corporations are paying less and raking in more profits.

Supporters of this tax cuts plan will argue it “stimulates job growth.” As I detailed in the 2013 article, studies show that despite over 15 years of corporate tax reduction, corporations have simply banked the money instead of reinvesting it as was intended. This notion holds even more truth today. It is madness to continue this policy.

To be clear, I am not speaking about taxes on small businesses. They enjoy a completely different and smaller tax burden, as they should. This is about the mega corporations with assets of over $50 million who are sitting on piles of cash yet refuse to pay their fair share.

For years and years, both the Conservatives and the Liberals have counted on your vote so they can subsidize the profits for their big business friends on your back. 

This fall, don’t let them take your vote for granted again.

Maria Augimeri is the former Councillor for Downsview, Former Chair of the TTC, TRCA, North York Community Council and Downsview Aerospace Working Group, and the current federal NDP candidate for Humber River—Black Creek. She is a periodic contributor to the Downsview Advocate. 

TRCA building’s groundbreaking event

I was pleased to participate in the ground-breaking ceremony on June 7 for the brand new Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) head office in our community. This project is significant for many reasons.

The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority is an essential provincial body that manages our city’s watershed and ravine system (such as the Humber River and Black Creek waterways). They ensure that the ongoing effects of climate change are mitigated, and they do the bulk of behind-the-scenes work in ensuring our community remains as safe as possible from flooding and pollution. The reason we have clean and reliable water sources is partially due to the good work done by the TRCA. As seasonal and flash flooding becomes more commonplace, the TRCA’s efforts are becoming ever-more essential.

The building itself is to be on 5 Shoreham Drive. It will be a state-of-the-art eco-friendly structure that sets a new standard for office building development with the highest ‘green’ certifications and low-carbon footprint. The building is aiming for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum certification as well as “WELL Building” certification. It is the kind of building we can point to when looking to achieve the highest standards in commercial building development in our community and City. It is set to be completed in spring, 2021.

The economic impact of this new building will also be a welcome benefit to our community. The hundreds of full time jobs the office will bring, in addition to the thousands of volunteers it will attract every year, will generate new business and economic activity to our area.

The TRCA was founded in the wake of Hurricane Hazel’s disastrous flooding impact on the City of Toronto. Its mission statement is to ensure our city and region’s ability to weather 10, 25, and 100-year storms is maximized, and our watersheds and ravines remain protected from pollution and inappropriate development. It is essential to the quality of life in our city. 

In my roles as TRCA Chair, Toronto City Councillor, and TRCA Board Member I have overseen this project since its infancy and I was extremely proud to be alongside other dignitaries to break ground for it in Humber River—Black Creek. 

Maria Augimeri
TRCA Board Member,
Former TRCA Chair,
Former Toronto City Councillor

Downsview’s future is at a crossroads

For the bulk of my political life, I have been fighting for the future of Downsview. Chief among my efforts has been the battle against the sale and development of the Federal lands at Downsview Park.

A few years ago, with the help of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), the first portion of this land was sold to the highest bidder by the Federal Government. Developers then turned this beautiful green space into a disastrous “neighbourhood” fraught with horrible, systemic building flaws, and unbearable quality-of-life issues for some of its residents. The City still refuses to recognize these homes as up-to-code.

This neighbourhood stands as a physical indictment of the Feds’ vision for the rest of the Downsview lands. There are three other neighbourhoods planned like this, and it seems like the same future awaits them.

To the north of this area, at Keele and Sheppard, is a beautiful swathe of federal parkland known as William Baker. It has bike trails, massive mature trees and, on a good day, you can witness some unique wildlife. According to plans by the Federal Government, this area is to be bulldozed and in its place, 3,500 apartment units are to go there, with the Feds pocketing the cash.

It’s unconscionable. Especially considering that as part of a necessary defense strategy in 1947, these lands were taken from 270 Downsview residents to build a military base. But today, with the based closed, they are trying to cash in on the lands they took away from us 70 years ago. The right thing to do is to give the lands back to the City.

That is why I am planning to bring a motion to an upcoming City Council demanding that the Federal Government give us back our lands. In the City’s hands, park land is illegal to sell. If this land is restored to its rightful municipal status, it will be protected for generations. It could thrive with amazing programming and activities that any design or control from Ottawa could never accomplish. This land is Downsview, not a cash cow for the Feds.

We have a choice. We could choose a nightmare future of shoddy homes with limited green space plagued with traffic and flooding, or we can choose a bright future with these lands in the hands of the people of Downsview who will love and care for them in perpetuity. As it stands, you have a hand in this choice. Make sure you always choose leaders who will fight for the best of these two futures. You will have the opportunity to make those choices over the next two years.

But I am not waiting. The time to give this land back to Downsview is long overdue.

Maria Augimeri is the Councillor for Ward 9 (York Centre) and has represented Downsview residents for over 30 years. She is also the leader of the SetDownsviewFree movement which demands the Feds to stop selling parkland and hand the Downsview lands back to Toronto.