Friday, May 31, 2013

Hamilton and the Potential GHTA HST Hike, Some Numbers

There is certainly a possibility that Ontario could raise the HST by one percentage point from 8% to 9% (provincial portion) in the GTHA to pay for Metrolinx's new transit infrastructure. Whether that actually happens is a question, as federal Minister of Finance Joe Flaherty has apparently come out against regional variations in the HST. The province could raise the rate for the entire province.

But that's for another discussion. I'm more interested in how much a HST raise would raise for Hamilton. This Star article has some info on the relationship between HST revenue in the province, along with Flaherty's complaints. Here's the data we are interested in:

"One of four proposed transit taxes, a higher HST would raise $1.4 billion in the Toronto region but would net out at $1.3 billion after a mobility tax credit is applied to assist low-income residents.
It would generate $1.7 billion in the rest of the province. Both Wynne and Metrolinx officials have said that money could pay for local infrastructure priorities in those other areas if the 1 per cent were applied Ontario-wide."

That's $3 billion per year for the entire province for the extra percentage point. Hamilton's population is 520,000, versus a total population of 13,505,900 for the province. By simple division, that's $115.5 million per year for Hamilton available for transit. The East West LRT has estimated capital costs of $800 million. If all the extra money was directed towards the LRT, that would take 6.9 years of the HST revenue. Considering we've been talking about LRT for over five years now, that's a pretty short timeline.

Of course there are other projects, namely the GO train station at James North (and maybe one in Stoney Creek). But the cost of this project (apart from the stations) doesn't totally benefit Hamilton (extending the line to Niagara at the same time surely benefits that region, plus Toronto, Mississauga, Oakville and Burlington to a lesser extent), and the required capital costs beyond the stations aren't that much, some track and a few extra trains. Plus the project is already going ahead and funded (I assume).

So if this HST hike actually happens (and there are a lot of road blocks) and Hamilton gets its share of the hike, then paying for the LRT capital costs can be done in fairly short order. Council unlikely likes the idea of the HST rise, but if it is imposed upon them then the money for LRT should be available (providing the province doesn't funnel it disproportionately into the CIty of Toronto, which is a possibility, which council needs to fight against).

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