What Do Property Taxes Pay For?

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Tonight a new Mayor of Toronto will be named. The campaign has been long and I can’t wait for it to end and for the city to move forward from its troubled reputation. Many voters have complained about increasing property taxes with one candidate promising to cut them if elected. Of course, these same people who complain about taxes being too high also say they don’t want their services cut.

Taxes are a fact of life, many people don’t understand what do property taxes pay for. In Toronto, they’ve been falsely told that our politicians have been wasting tax dollars but that simply is not the case. Property taxes pay for the services we use every day, whereas our Canadian income taxes cover major things like health care and employment insurance.

Regardless of where you live, if you want better services; taxes are what pays for them.

What property taxes in Canada pay for

Transit – Many people (myself included) complain about the transit options in Canada compared to other countries around the world. The thing is, those countries get help from the federal level to help pay for transit. In Canada, our provincial & federal governments help pay for expansions, but the day-to-day costs are funded from property taxes and cash fares. If we want better transit then we’ll need to pay or it.

Libraries – Some politicians complain that there are too many libraries and they’re a waste of money, this is ridiculous. Who wouldn’t want free access to books, movies, computers and programs?

Emergency services – Our property taxes pay for keeping our streets safe. In Canada, we’re fortunate to have excellent police services that help keep our crime rates down. Firefighters and paramedics also fall under emergency services and I’d rather not have those cut just to save a few dollars a year. We’re talking about life and death here after all.

Garbage / Snow removal – Breaking news, it snows in Canada. Ontario and Quebec were hit hard last year by the ice storm, and this past September Calgary got an early visit from winter. In both situations the local cities were able to quickly respond with snow removal because of their budgets which comes from property taxes. Money well spent.

Water supply &  waste treatment – Water is essential to life. Think about how many people out there don’t have access to clean drinking water. I’m happy to pay whatever for clean water.

Recreational programs – Recreational programs are possible because of the property taxes we pay. Swimming pools, ice rinks, tennis lessons, camps, parks, and drop-in programs are just a few things that we can take advantage of for free or on the cheap. Be sure to sign up early for these since they tend to fill up quickly.

Schools – It’s awesome to live in a country where getting an education is free. Some of our Canadian income taxes help pay for schools but it’s our property taxes that have helped introduce student nutrition programs at some schools.

Final thoughts
Property taxes in Canada also help pay for social housing, child services, road repairs and much more. In Toronto, we like to complain about high our property taxes are but surrounding cities actually pay more than those who live in the GTA. Regardless of where you live, understand that you can’t live in a great city without paying your share of fair property taxes.

It’s impossible to cut taxes and expect services to remain the same or to improve, hopefully, the people of Toronto have elected a new Mayor that understands this.

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi


  1. Potbelly on October 27, 2014 at 1:27 AM

    My coworkers complained about about the land transfer tax. So I asked if they realize people in th 905 pay substantially more property taxes than Toronto. I asked rather they want to pay something once when buying a house or something you pay indefinitely. Then they say they want neither. Some people just don’t get it.

    • Barry Choi on October 27, 2014 at 9:27 AM


      As much as I hate the additional land transfer tax, it is vital for the city since it brings in so much money that helps keep our city great. Like you said, I’d rather pay it once than have higher taxes.

  2. Alan W. on October 27, 2014 at 9:53 AM

    Don’t forget how much calling in the Army to clear the snow costs! 🙂

    We pay a very large amount for property taxes here in Ottawa, and the argument is usually between the folks who are “downtown” and those that are in the new rural areas being developed (i.e. who is paying for whose sewers and such)

    • Barry Choi on October 27, 2014 at 9:55 AM


      Yes our Canadian income taxes pay for the army, so it’s almost a deal for property deals when the army gets called in to shovel snow. It’s just fascinating how many people don’t understand that our taxes pay for the services we use everyday.

  3. ourbigfatwallet2014 on October 27, 2014 at 2:36 PM

    For us the big wild card every winter is snow removal costs. Some years they’re not bad but other years it can get ugly

    • Barry Choi on October 28, 2014 at 1:00 AM


      Should be no surprise that most cities in Canada have a pretty big snow removal budget. In Toronto they are out plowing as soon as the snow starts falling which makes driving conditions much safer.

  4. […] With the municipal elections that occurred this week, Barry Choi wondered:  what do property taxes pay for? […]

  5. Sean Cooper, Personal Finance Expert and Financial Journalist on October 31, 2014 at 11:01 PM

    I’m all for a land transfer tax if it keeps property tax increases to the rate of inflation. If people want to buy and sell their home every 2-3 years, let them pay the municipal land transfer tax every time!

    • Barry Choi on October 31, 2014 at 11:12 PM


      Plus the city badly needs that money that comes in. I found it pathetic that the Toronto Real Estate Board backed a mayoral candidate that has no real plan just so home buyers can save a bit on the land transfer tax. It’s like they didn’t learn from the last election.

  6. Deb on May 4, 2018 at 11:22 AM

    And yet I don’t see our roads getting any benefit from property taxes. How many more times does our cities think that patching them is going to cut it. Our roads are the worse they’ve ever been. The city also does a sloppy, crappy job of even patching. It probably would be smoother to drive on a railroad track then it is on our roads. And…there’s a whole lot of pot holes that seem to be ignored. I think that having decent roads to drive on is a necessary and should be a priority.

  7. Olivia on January 10, 2019 at 3:19 PM

    I am trying to use this website for school, but I’m not finding anything about how the money gets spent with our property taxes, and what it does.

    • Barry Choi on January 10, 2019 at 4:03 PM


      You’d have to look at how higher levels of government spend to get a better breakdown.

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