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Mammoliti courts seniors with promise to end property tax

Toronto City Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti.

Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

CITY HALL BUREAU CHIEF

Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti plans to formally kick off his mayoral campaign with this bold appeal to senior citizens: Elect me, and you'll never pay property taxes again.

A campaign source said eliminating property taxes for Torontonians over the age of 65 will be the main plank of Mr. Mammoliti's platform, to be unveiled at a glitzy dinner and dance tomorrow night.

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The veteran councillor for Ward 7 York West will propose paying for the vow with massive layoffs and more private-public partnerships, according to the source.

"He's looking at doing that at a rate that's never been done before," the source said, adding that Mr. Mammoliti will offer "rewards" to families who take in elderly parents.

He has already made more outlandish campaign promises than any other candidate. He's for casinos and red-light districts - neither of which the city has the power to build on its own - and he's promised to dig a subway to the troubled Jane-Finch neighbourhood.

It's difficult to put a price on his new promise for seniors.

The province, through its Municipal Property Assessment Corp., collects title information and determines the current value of properties in Ontario. MPAC doesn't organize information by the title holder's age. The city's finance staff does not keep such statistics either.

The municipal government already offers tax relief to low-income seniors and people with disabilities who apply to the city's hardship program.

"[The program]is designed to acknowledge that there are people who live in this town who bought homes in Toronto for $7,000 and they're still in them," said budget chief Shelley Carroll. "Under CVA [current value assessment]they've got a problem, clearly. So we help them address that."

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Last year the city raised the ceiling for low-income seniors to qualify for deferred or cancelled property-tax increases, a move that staff estimated would make 82,000 households eligible for deferral and 19,150 eligible for cancellation.

Finance staff predicted it would cost an extra $200,000 per year to expand cancellations and $6,000 in lost interest to expand deferrals.

The hardship program only defers or abolishes property tax increases, not the whole tax bill, as Mr. Mammoliti will advocate.

Even without a hard figure, it's safe to say eliminating property taxes for seniors would carry a hefty price tag, the budget chief said.

"It's really deeply disappointing that someone might be running for mayor who hasn't figured out that the financial burden on this city is the central issue and that there are no easy fixes," said Ms. Carroll, who last week unveiled a proposed $9.2-billion operating budget with a 4-per-cent residential tax hike.

"Making impossible promises is incredibly dangerous."

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Kelly Grant is a health reporter with The Globe and Mail. More

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