Improving the Municipal Code for Fair Access to Rebate Programs

1 July 2020

The City of Toronto offers a Water Rebate Program to low-income seniors and low-income persons with a disability who consume only a small amount of water each year.

Ms. J contacted our office after she was deemed ineligible for the program, even though she received the Federal Disability Tax Credit, indicating that she was a person with a disability.

When we asked the City’s Revenue Services division, they explained that although the program recognized several different income sources (including the Ontario Disability Program, the Canada Pension Disability Plan, the Workers Safety Insurance Act, and others), the Federal Disability Tax Credit was not on their list. When we asked the City to review its eligibility criteria, they noted that any change to the existing program would require an amendment to the Municipal Code. We considered this to be a matter of fairness. We recommended that the City change the Municipal Code to give the City Controller discretion to accept other evidence of disability, in addition to the existing eligibility criteria.

In response to our recommendation, City Council amended the Municipal Code to give staff more discretion in assessing whether someone qualifies for the rebate program (as well as other relief programs for property tax and solid waste charges). This change allows staff to give rebates to deserving applicants even where they don’t fit neatly into one of the boxes that they previously had to fit into