Bracebridge council is getting behind a proposal to increase Ontario’s HST.

On Wednesday night, The Association of Municipalities of Ontario came to the town looking for support for its Local Share Plan.

AMO Director of Policy Monika Turner says municipalities in Ontario are facing a serious financial issue. She says AMO has run the numbers and over the next ten years all municipalities will need about $4.9 billion to pay for infrastructure and services alone. The Local Share Plan would tack one per cent onto Harmonized Sales Tax which Turner says could bring in about $2.5 billion annually. Turner says that money would then be handed out to municipalities based on the number of households in each community. For example, Bracebridge would be given just over $1.8 million each year with AMO taking both full-time and seasonal residents into consideration.

Turner says these financial projections for municipal costs are based on real numbers provided by the province.

This plan was presented during the AMO conference in August, and Turner says while municipal representatives were all for it, the provincial politicians didn’t have the same opinion.

She says if the one per cent was added to HST, there’s no guarantee the province wouldn’t use this added revenue stream for other needs or start pulling other infrastructure funding for municipalities.

Turner says AMO understands this plan isn’t perfect and not everyone can agree that it’s the best way to move forward. But, she says when AMO officials presented the problem of the $4.9 billion in upcoming costs, no one disagreed.

She says this is just one possible proposal that could help municipalities and AMO has looked into a few different ways to bring in extra funds. This includes exploring funding from upcoming marijuana sales, expanding the municipal fuel tax and increasing land transfer taxes. Turner says the HST increase was the proposal that seemed to be the best fit for Ontarians because it’s an optional tax.

Turner says since the provincial politicians aren’t supporting this idea AMO officials are looking for support from its municipal members to put the pressure on the province. During the Wednesday night meeting, Bracebridge council voted unanimously to support this proposal.

Turner says this HST increase may not be the right answer in the end, but if nothing is done to focus on this infrastructure cost issue local residents are going to be paying a lot more on their property taxes.

Turner says AMO will be bringing the local share discussion up once again when provincial elections wrap up next June.

If you’d like to have your say or find out more about how the Local Share Proposal could benefit your community you can find more details here.

Here is the proposed breakdown of what each Muskoka municipality would get annually if the HST increase was implemented:

  • District of Muskoka $14,561,891
  • Bracebridge $1,819,044
  • Georgian Bay $1,188,769
  • Gravenhurst $1,739,750
  • Huntsville $2,050,320
  • Lake of Bays $950,938
  • Muskoka Lakes $2,055,762

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