Delegates push on issue of rail taxes

Duane Hicks

Town delegates met with Ministry of Finance parliamentary assistant Yvan Baker regarding the review of the railway taxation system in Ontario during the Association of Municipalities of Ontario’s 2017 conference held Aug. 13-16 in Ottawa.
Back in the spring, the province set a minimum of $80 an acre for property tax rates in municipalities if a rail line goes through it.
While this is an improvement from $35 an acre, if a railway taxation system based on tonnage were in place, like it is in some other provinces, Ontario municipalities could be reaping hundreds of thousands–or even millions–of dollars.
“I would like to commend Coun. [Ken] Perry for moving this [issue] from nothing to where it is today,” Mayor Roy Avis said at Monday night’s council meeting.
He noted a ministry rep explained the current position of the government on this issue.
“They’re looking at it,” said Mayor Avis, who attended the AMO conference with Couns. Paul Ryan and June Caul, along with Fort Frances CAO Doug Brown.
“But they’re not looking at the tonnes per mile, as Ken was asking for throughout,” he stressed.
“But they’re looking at the cost per acre and increasing it.
“It’s not off the radar,” the mayor stressed.
“It’s going to be on their radar for the next couple years and it sounds great.”
The local delegates also met with the Ministry of Transportation to lobby for “Connecting Link” funding–provincial dollars earmarked for municipalities to repair and replace roads and bridges that run through communities and connect to provincial highways.
Much of the economy of Northwestern Ontario relies on traffic coming through Fort Frances to cross the border, and considering the extra wear and tear on roads due to traffic going to and from the mine, the town hasn’t been getting its fair amount.
For example, it got no “Connecting Link” funding last year.
This issue was discussed at length, Mayor Avis said, noting they suggested the province go back to having municipalities submit a five-year plan to the ministry, letting it know about which road jobs they needed done when.
“We could then depend on assistance when it’s needed,” Mayor Avis reasoned.
Coun. Paul Ryan said he felt delegates got their point across with the “Connecting Link” funding, adding he’s hopeful the town will get “some benefit” out that meeting.