Cash strapped Toronto Mayor David Miller says "billboards are a license to print money"
As cities across Canada face decreasing revenues and increased labour costs, they are looking under every stone to see if there is a way they can balance their budgets. The City of Toronto is no exception to this trend. Earlier this month, they approved a new billboard tax which they hope will raise big bucks and help to generate significant new revenue. It's a move that has outraged the outdoor advertising industry.
According to media reports, the new tax will help to raise over $10 million in new revenue. The new tax can range from $1,150 to $24,000. Local activists are hailing it as a way in which the arts can find new funding while helping to beautify Toronto.
The issue of billboards has also proven controversial in Vancouver with COPE councillor David Cadman leading the charge to get rid of hundreds of "illegal" billboards. More recently, the new billboard erected by the Squamish First Nation at the south end of the Burrard Street Bridge also stirred up some emotions.
Rosanne Caron, president of the Out-of-Home Marketing Association of Canada told Global TV:
When you're talking about a tax that is more than the industry's profits, you're going to decimate the industry. How can they survive?
Retiring Mayor David Miller disagreed with that assessment of his new tax. He said:
Billboards are a license to print money...
This sign bylaw controls the amount of advertising, the numbers of signs.... You do need to regulate this kind of advertising because otherwise the logic of the market means that it will be everywhere.
Based on how much Miller is planning to rake in with the new billboard tax, his assessment might be bang on. According to Global:
About $1.4-million of the money the tax generates will go to covering the cost of enforcement, the rest into the city coffers to be allocated during the budget process. Council decided not to immediately commit the money to arts programs, but activists said yesterday they're confident that is where it will end up.
As part of the budget package, council also decided they are going to implement a new $50 tax on every new property tax account that is opened in the city. The final budget will be passed early next year.