Billboards, billboards everywhere - are they the solution to Toronto's budget crunch?

Solve our Budget Problems - Beautify the City


They're everywhere. Nearly ubiquitous, especially in the downtown core, they are considered an eyesore at best, and an oppresive private encroachment onto public space at worst. They are billboards, and if Toronto city councillors are serious about using new powers to be given to us by the province, they could be the key to a balanced civic budget.

The new City of Toronto Act, set to be proposed by Queen's Park next month is to give Toronto a whole host of new powers - everything from putting speedbumps on the road without asking McGuinty for permission, to the ability to tax cigarettes or extend bar hours. While nothing in any draft I've seen indicated that the province is explicitly giving the city the power to tax billboards, the willingness to concede a point such as that is clearly there - should Mayor Miller push for it.

Unlike a Toronto-only sales or business tax, Hogtown would not have to worry about shoppers or companies rushing out en masse to the hinterland north of Steeles - if billboards are to do their job for the advertisers, they need to be around places frequented by lots of people, not low taxes - and if a few of those monstrocities do decide it's no longer cost effective, all we're losing is one more visual blight.

Looking North-West at Dundas Square, billboards blot out the sky


By putting a tax - perhaps 10% for standard billboards, 15% for illuminated ones, and 20% for those video monstrocities - on the rental price of advertising on a billboard, advertisers will be forced to think twice before cluttering our city with their signage. With the money raised from the thousands of billboards out there, the city would be one step closer to financial probity. We would no longer have to worry if police are more necessary than transit, or if recreation centres are more vital than shelter services.

The question is not do we want a well-off city or a beautiful one. The question is don't we deserve both? The answer is that we do, and that a billboard tax is the way to do it.


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