Millroy: City Employees Should Pay For Parking

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In his first term as a city councillor, Matthew Shoemaker attempted to get paid parking for employees at and visitors to city hall and other city premises.

However, after a committee review, he lost in a 7-4 vote, the majority of council accepting staff’s recommendation that it not be done.

As if you would have gotten any other recommendation from staff, who were the ones who would be paying for the parking..

Not to be deterred, Shoemaker brought it up as a campaign issue as he sought re-election last fall.

Now that he is back in, I asked him where the issue was resting now.

“If it were up to me it would’ve been implemented last term,” he said in his email reply.

“What I discovered last term when I proposed it was that the details of which buildings staff would be required to pay (i.e whether all staff or just city hall staff, or just downtown staff), whether there were part-time and full-time rates and the rate of charge, were all details council wanted more information on.

“What I plan to do in the near future is propose a committee of council and staff (which I will volunteer to be on) to look at how other cities have dealt with this issue, and bring back a recommendation to council based on those findings. Unfortunately I don’t think it’ll be back in time for this year’s budget, but I hope to bring the motion in the next couple meetings.”

Shoemaker’s earlier plan would have seen full-time employees at the Civic Centre, Essar Centre (now GFL Memorial Gardens), the Ermatinger-Clergue National Historic Site, the transit terminal and the transit centre pay to park. Part-time employees and students would be exempt from the policy but city councillors would not, he recommended.

Shoemaker pointed out Ontario Lottery Corp. and the Courthouse require staff to pay for parking.

“Our own staff report sets out that Timmins, Thunder Bay, Sudbury and North Bay all either charge for parking or provide it as a taxable benefit to their employees,” he said at the time. “Sault Ste. Marie does neither of these things

“This is a matter of fairness, as most other public-sector employees in the Sault charge their employees for parking, including OLG, the Courthouse, Algoma University, Sault College, Sault Area Hospital and the Group Health Centre.”

I am with him on a lot of this but not on charging at the Memorial Gardens, Ermatinger-Clergue National Historic site or the transit terminal. You do not want to do anything that might keep people from visiting these sites, which charging for parking might do.

Actually, I am surprised the Canadian Revenue Agency hasn’t been after the city for at least assessing its employees with a taxable benefit for the free parking.

It did it in Toronto.

The Toronto Sun reported in 2017 that the CRA had been demanding for several years that free or subsidized parking provided by an employer be treated as a taxable benefit. The paper said the CRA had  reviewed paramedic and fire services and assessed the 911 responders with taxable benefits for 2013, 2015 and 2016.

The city ended up paying the retroactive costs but they will fall to the paramedic and fire services employees in future.

According to the paper, Toronto Police had dealt with a similar issue.

CRA spokesperson Patrick Samson said in an email to The Sun, in response to questions about which employee groups would be reviewed next, that any employer who provides free or discounted parking must include the “fair market value” minus any amount paid by the employee as income.

“It is CRA’s long-standing position that the cost of getting to and from work, including costs associated with parking, is personal in nature,” Samson said in the email. “Therefore, where an employer provides free or subsidized parking to employees, the employees have received a taxable benefit unless the parking is provided for business reasons, or for reasons of disability.”

The rules apply to all employees including CRA staff, Samson said.

“Where there are exceptions to the rule, CRA issues a taxable benefit for any subsidized parking where the employee does not pay the full market rate,” he said. “For example, in exceptional situations where there is an assessed and confirmed duty to accommodate, a taxable benefit is issued to the employee if the agency provides subsidized parking.”

Shoemaker points out that there are costs involved in maintaining the city parking lots. There is no disagreement there.

But I think it is safe to say there would also be some money left over that would go into general city coffers.

I think it would turn into a lot of expense and a lot of work to make the change to paid parking but I think it is something worth exploring again.

Although I am not in favour of running to a consultant on many things, as council seems to do on a regular basis, I do believe on this one someone or some group from the outside, with no financial stake in what is being looked at, needs to be called upon to do the required report.

 

JUST TO KEEP YOU abreast of the case of John Seamus Fyfe, who has been fighting to get bail after being charged with breach of recognizance, he is still in jail.

Fyfe was released on bail by Justice of the Peace J.A. Guitard, who is a lawyer, on Nov..2  in respect to a series of drug charges under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

One of the conditions of his bail was that he not be out of his residence without his surety, Michelle Bolland, but on Dec.6 he was arrested while sitting alone in a vehicle in the Canadian Tire parking lot.

Boland had stopped to use a washroom and when she approached the arresting officer apparently her explanation fell on deaf ears.

Fyfe had a bail hearing on Wednesday and was denied bail.

I have no brief about the charges Fyfe faces in regard to drugs, but I do have to wonder about the charge of breach of recognizance. Surely the appearance of the surety and her explanation as to why she and Fyfe were briefly apart should have been enough for a reasonable officer to have given him a pass.

If he had been standing alone outside a washroom area, would he still have been arrested by this officer?

Don Orazietti, whose firm is representing Fyfe, said in a letter of complaint to Caroline Mulroney, Ontario Attorney General, “At best this is a questionable violation of the order and shows that this city has too many police officers with nothing to do.”

Two Crown Attorneys are now involved in this case, a fed for the drug charges and one for the province in regard to the breach, which to me smacks of overkill as there is no flight risk. The defence even offered to have Fyfe wear a security bracelet. .

Criminals of all types are getting bail on a regular basis. As such, I have to wonder what these Crowns, who seek to keep Fyfe in jail, and the justices of the peace, who go along with it, see as so egregious here.

 

YOU MAY RECALL a couple of weeks back that another fellow and I were virtually duelling over which of the two of us was the stupidest man around, each claiming the mantel.

He had left the rear door of his car open so that it filled with snow overnight, leaving it with the task of shovelling it out in the morning.

I hadn’t cleared a path to the house so my wife could get in from the road during the recent storm. She fell over the bank the city plow had left and couldn’t get up and would have remained there if the cabbie who had let her off hadn’t seen her go down.

Well, setting that aside, I think cemented the claim with my column.

I named the fellow as Patrick LeClerc. His name is actually Patrick LeClair.

And I knew the spelling of LeClair, as well I should, since I have coffee with him about 150-200 mornings a year

However, I forgive myself, as I always do when I can’t remember who I am.

Like Doug Who?

Gee, getting old is fun. However, you would all be wise to try it.

18 COMMENTS

  1. I like the way you think Doug. This city just bleeds money because they can’t keep up with the times. In Toronto home owners are even required to remove snow and maintain the sidewalks on there property. Think of how much money the city could save if we did this. Also, city staff have free access to water fountains. They should have to bring their own water or pay for it, just like their lunch. Imagine the lost revenue because they fill their empty water bottle for free at work instead of paying for the utility and brining it from home. And in Europe they have pay washrooms on the streets. Wouldn’t that be another great idea, instead of the free public washrooms this city maintains. You make some good points Doug, there should be no free benefits that people have to pay for in different places.

  2. Shoemaker needs to keep something in mind. City councillors have designated parking. They have those spots 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Will they be paying the daily rate for each and every day? Hopefully city buildings will start installing bike racks to encourage people to use 2 wheel transportation.
    As far as the maintenance of these lots, it has to be done in order to conduct daily business. You can’t try to dump the costs of this on the employees. Put in paid parking for everyone if you feel we need to find a way to tax more money from people.

  3. It would seem that you’re putting the cart before the horse. Before discussing whether city employees should be paying for parking, you need to decide whether or not to implement paid parking lots at those buildings. Then you can discuss whether the employees should pay or if it is a taxable benefit. If the general public doesn’t have to pay to park there, then employees shouldn’t be required to either.

  4. I despise having to pay for parking at any hospital…it just does not sit well with me. What next though…should teachers pay for parking to help with the increasing educational costs in this province?

  5. Having to pay for parking in Northern Ontario is absurd. We’re far from being a dense urban area where land is a premium. It’s a claw-back measure that unfairly targets those most economically in need.

  6. But, where do these funds from the parking go??? Would it be to the city, or in the case of the hospital, to the hospital…or does it go to private entrepreneurial companies?? Who, I might add, raise the price indiscriminately.

  7. I have an idea to save some money get rid of the the car allowances for the for councilors and Mayor and give them a city bus pass. This might give them some valuable insight.

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