NAIOP GOVERNMENT RELATIONS UPDATE
NAIOP’s Government Relations Committee has been working on a number of public policy issues at the provincial and municipal level this year. Assisted by our government relations consultants, Campbell Strategies, we have ensured that public policy decision makers understand and respond to the concerns of NAIOP members. Some of the key issues NAIOP has focused on include:
1. Opposing a proposed parking levy and other revenue tools at the City of Toronto
Over the past eight months NAIOP has been part of a major effort to oppose a parking levy on both paid and unpaid parking spots in the City of Toronto. Through our work with the Commercial Real Estate Industry Coalition we challenged the City-commissioned KPMG report’s claim that a levy could contribute up to $535 million to the City’s coffers, raised concerns about the levy’s equity and its disproportionate impact on suburban businesses, and addressed the confusion between a levy and a tax. Our efforts included meeting with members of Toronto Council and senior City staff. We also commissioned Altus Group to provide a comprehensive analysis of the impact of a parking levy on Toronto businesses.
Our work on this issue resulted in a major reversal at City Hall. The concerns of NAIOP and our coalition partners were reflected in the City’s latest staff report and a revised KPMG report: both reports recommended against a parking levy and reflected many of the issues raised by NAIOP and the coalition. As significantly, Mayor Tory announced that he will not be supporting a parking levy and his comments also reflected the concerns we had raised with the initial staff report. We note that the possibility of a much narrower tax on paid parking remains in the staff report as an option that will require provincial authority.
While this issue still needs to be considered by the City’s Executive Committee and Council, we are pleased that the Mayor, City staff, KPMG and a number of councillors now understand that a parking levy is not good for Toronto. We will continue to work with our Coalition partners on this issue as the revenue tools report moves through Council for a vote.
2. Protecting the Vacant Commercial and Industrial Tax Relief Program
There has been a push from some municipalities to change and/or eliminate the Vacant Unit Rebate in the province. The City of Toronto in particular has requested the ability to vary the rate and conditions of the rebate, including the option of opting out of the program entirely. Mayor Tory has supported this position and recently strongly endorsed eliminating the rebate to save the City over $20 million a year.
The Province responded to this pressure in its Fall Economic Statement and committed to providing municipalities with more flexibility. At this stage there is not a full understanding of what “flexibility” for municipalities will look like, but discussions are continuing between industry, the province and municipalities.
NAIOP has been actively involved in the provincial review of the program and recognizes the rebate’s importance to our membership. We will continue to participate in government discussions and advocate on your behalf as the process moves forward.
3. Participating in TOcore discussions
The City of Toronto is undertaking a review of the Downtown core to develop a comprehensive and integrated approach to the area and its relationship to the City around it. The review, led by the Planning Department, is aimed at creating a Secondary Plan for the core, along with a series of infrastructure-related strategies or assessments.
In collaboration with BILD, NAIOP has provided comment to the City on a number of TOcore issues, with particular emphasis on tower separation distances. As the City moves forward with its review, NAIOP will continue to work with its industry partners to provide input into the process.
4. Hosting the “Commercial Development in Toronto: A City That Works
Needs Places to Work” event with Jennifer Keesmaat and Blake Hutcheson
The government relations committee hosted a panel event on October 27th with Jennifer Keesmaat, Toronto’s Chief Planner, and Blake Hutcheson, President and CEO of Oxford Properties. The panel discussed issues facing Toronto and our membership, including the proposed parking levy, transit infrastructure planning and the potential for commercial-city partnerships in the development of new public projects (such as Rail Deck Park and the Don River reconfiguration). The event was very well attended and we aim to hold more of these events in the future.
In addition to these issues, NAIOP will be continuing to advocate on a number of issues over coming year both on our own and in partnership with other industry groups. It seems the governments at both the provincial and municipal levels are always inventing new ways of impacting our industry and, accordingly, NAIOP needs to hold governments to account when our members are affected.