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Majority warily back Olympic bid

Poll shows worry cost may be too high, but reveals support for transit tax

Thursday, October 26, 2000

Toronto residents warmly back the city’s bid to play host to the 2008 Olympic Games — but not at any price, reveals a new poll released today.

While 70 per cent of those questioned back the city’s ambitions, 73 per cent reject new taxes to pay for the facilities and an even higher margin — 83 per cent — oppose any large debt load as a result of the Games, according to the Pulse of Toronto survey conducted for Globe and Mail and CFRB by Ipsos-Reid pollsters.

Meanwhile, despite unease about a possible tax burden from the Olympics, the poll showed a clear majority support a dedicated tax to pay for improved transit service in the city.

The generally positive, but cautionary, response of those polled about the Olympics shows that Toronto residents understand that the history of putting on the mega-event usually carries a long-term financial price tag as well.

“People in the city feel they should not be burdened with the fallout,” said John Wright, senior vice-president of Ipsos-Reid, noting the history of the costly SkyDome bailout in the 1980s.

Toronto is one of five cities on the shortlist to hold the 2008 Games and the International Organizing Committee is scheduled to make its selection next July.

Etobicoke resident Caroline Mallany is typical of the majority view about the Olympics. “The residents shouldn’t be solely responsible for it,” she said, noting that hotels and other businesses stand to “reap the benefit” from the Games should they come here.

She noted, for example, that the long-term debt incurred by the 1976 Montreal Olympics is still being paid off by taxpayers there.

“I don’t want them [the organizers] to have carte blanche and say your taxes will pay for it,” she said.

However, Gerry Goss, a sports fan who supports the Olympics, said he is willing — within reason — to run the risk of a tax increase and a long-term debt to pull off the Games in Toronto.

“It would certainly give Toronto a bit of recognition,” he said of the Olympic honour, but even he cautioned that his willingness to incur a new tax or debt depends on the amount.

In contrast to their guarded view of financing the Olympics, Toronto residents endorse a dedicated tax to finance improvements to the Toronto Transit Commission.

Of those surveyed, 59 per cent said they would be willing to pay a tax of between $6 and $20 a year — on average $8.74 — for the TTC. Only 20 per cent rejected any special tax at all and a plurality of 28 per cent said they would pay an extra levy of between $16 and $20 a year.

That’s music to the ears of Richard Ducharme, chief general manager of the TTC.

“The politicians seem to think that people only want tax cuts. I think people are saying wait a minute, what about infrastructure and service?” he said.

For example, Mr. Ducharme said, the TTC needs three- to five-years’ lead time to order replacement equipment for aging buses, subway cars and streetcars. This could cost between $3.5-billion to $4-billion over the next 10 years, not counting any system expansion.

“This election will [vote in] the most crucial council that the TTC will face as far as where we go in the future,” he warned. Voters, he added, had “better hope that the councillors who come back in the next election are prepared to deal with it.”

The poll also showed that a majority of Toronto residents see transit as a service that benefits everyone, with 83 per cent agreeing that the cost of transportation improvements should be shared broadly in society, not just by users.

Higher gas prices may serve as impetus for better public transit. Of those surveyed, 48 per cent said they are now more likely to use the TTC because of rising gas prices.

Pulse of Toronto

Ipsos-Reid interviewed by telephone 404 adults living in the City of Toronto between Oct. 13 and Oct. 17 on behalf of Globe and Mail and CFRB. The results from a sample this size are considered accurate to within 4.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, to what they would have been had the entire adult population of Toronto been polled.

Anyone wishing a detailed description of the methodology can receive it at cost of 25 cents a page by writing to: Polling Methods, c/o Editorial Department, Globe and Mail, 444 Front St. W., M5V 2S9.

Transit, roads and taxes

A TTC tax?

How much per year would you be willing to pay on your municipal taxes if it was dedicated specifically to the TTC?

Nothing         20%
$1-5            19%
$6-10           18%
$11-15          13%
$16-20          28%
Don’t know      2%

TTC: all pay or only users pay?

Some people say that the money for transportation improvements should really come from everyone in society, because we all benefit from the transportation system even if we don’t actually drive a car or use public transit. Other people say that only the people who use the transportation system should pay for improvements, because they profit the most. Which of these views is closest to your own view?

Everyone pays    83%
Users pay       16%
Don’t know       1%

Transit and roads

Do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

I support a day of the week which would be ‘car free’ in the downtown core.

Agree           67%
Disagree        32%


Tearing down the Gardiner Expressway is worth it if it means Toronto will have a more beautiful waterfront.

Agree           55%
Disagree        42%


Because of rising gas prices, I am now more likely to use the TTC.

Agree           48%
Disagree        51%


The quality of service of the TTC is better than a year ago.

Agree           44%
Disagree        41%

Source: Ipsos-Reid

Toronto and the Olympic bid

Hosting the Olympics

Would you say you are in favour of or opposed to the City of Toronto hosting the 2008 Summer Olympics? Would that be strongly or somewhat?

Strongly/somewhat in favour   70%
Strongly/somewhat opposed     29%

Toronto’s Olympic bid

Do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

I think Toronto has a good chance of winning the 2008 Olympic bid.

Agree           68%
Disagree        29%


I would support the bid for the Olympics even if it means an increase in taxes to pay for the facilities.

Agree           26%
Disagree        73%


I would support the bid for the Olympics even if it means that Toronto taxpayers are faced with a large debt as a result of hosting the games.

Agree           16%
Disagree        84%


I would support Toronto’s Olympic bid even if it means several years of road construction and disruption of traffic.

Agree           52%
Disagree        48%

Source: Ipsos-Reid