On February 7, the Mayor's Executive Committee met to review and make its recommendations on the 2017 City budget. The Executive Committee made one significant change to the proposed budget, reversing the massive child care fee hike for families using child care centres in schools. Other than that, we did not see any other significant movement on this budget. The budget still contains over $1 million in cuts to shelters, elimination of the cooling centre program for vulnerable residents, over $1.3 million in cuts to care in long-term care homes, the elimination of 111.3 full-time equivalent recreation worker positions, and big increases to recreation user fees and transit fares. As it stands, this budget fails to make real progress on the City's poverty reduction strategy.
Source: Social Planning Toronto, 2017. Adorable "play-in" protest outside of the Mayor's office calling for investment in child care, February 7, 2017.
For a detailed update on the City budget, check out our previous post. The only change to that update is the reversal of child care fee increases ($351 per year) for children in child care centres located in schools. Otherwise, everything else is the same.
Read the updated City Budget 2-pager here
- Hurray! Parents, advocates and residents across the city have made a lot of noise about the sorry state of access to affordable child care in this city. In response, the Budget Committee introduced funding for 300 new subsidized spaces, and the Executive Committee reversed the major fee increase for families with children in child care centres located in schools. The reversal of the fee hike is a one-time reprieve. It will be reconsidered in next year's budget but for now it's off the table. With 17,700 children on the waiting list for subsidized child care in Toronto, we have a ways to go to create the child care system Toronto families need.
- Councillor McConnell, the Deputy Mayor who oversees the City's poverty reduction strategy, said the budget still needs work. She identified four areas for change: the emergency cooling centre program, youth mentoring programs in schools, shelter cuts ("we can't go backwards"), and youth programs in libraries. She said she would look at how she can get these items into the budget at next week's Council meeting.
- TCHC plans to close 427 tenant homes this year due to lack of funding for repairs, which will up the number of boarded units to nearly 1,000. The TCHC CEO Greg Spearn says without additional capital funding, they will be boarding up one unit per day in 2018. At the February 7 meeting, he expanded on this, stating that 7,500 units would be closed by 2022 without new funding and an additional 14,000 units would be in critical shape. This is the dire situation we're looking at without funding coming from somewhere. Meanwhile, the waiting list sits at 97,500 households with a projected decline in the number of social housing units in 2017. The City has invested more than its one-third of capital costs for TCHC (calling on the province and federal governments to chip in one-third each), but the City's investment in TCHC repairs (and new affordable housing) is not nearly enough.
- City staff reiterated earlier remarks that this budget includes no service cuts to TTC. Then Councillor Perks rhymed off a long list of bus routes that have experienced a service cut in the past year. The TTC classifies those as routine adjustments where they move service from less busy routes to more busy routes. They've also moved service off less busy routes to compensate streetcar routes affected by the delay in the delivery of new streetcars from Bombardier. Whether you call them routine adjustments or service cuts, if you're waiting for the Parliament 65 bus (or one of the dozens of other routes affected), you are going to be waiting longer (buck up, it's just a routine service adjustment). TTC data also show that one in four bus/streetcar routes are overcrowded at some point during the day. The City is investing more money in public transit, and it is not nearly enough.
- Recreation is a real loser in this year's budget. The budget proposes to eliminate 111.3 full-time equivalent recreation worker positions. A lot of these are part-time positions, often held by youth. The City says most of these positions are vacant and not needed. Meanwhile, the waiting list for recreation programs includes over 189,000 people - the majority are children (based on 2015, most recently available data). How many people would have access to recreation if we kept those 100+ positions? On top of that, recreation user fees are going up. All fees are increasing by 2.3%. But the hike is much bigger at 12.3% for introductory and subscriber programs affecting 85,000 people. Plus before and after-care camp fees are going up too. The City is not renewing contracts for use of three TDSB pools, redirecting registrants to neighbouring pools instead. Councillor McMahon tried to save the contract for the use of the SH Armstrong Pool near the Beaches but to no avail. The Executive Committee voted against her motion.
Time for Action
There's time for one more push before the final budget vote at City Council on February 15 and 16!
- The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty plans a rally and picket calling for No Cuts to Shelters and Housing. Thursday, February 9, 11 am, 67 Yonge Street, just south of King Street.
- Commitment to Community holds the post-valentines' "Have a Heart, Stop the Cuts" rally at City Hall on Wednesday, February 15 from 9:00-10:30 am prior to the City Council budget vote.
A Message from Commitment to Community
On Wednesday, February 15, City Council will debate and final vote on the city’s 2017 budget.
Please join us for the Have a Heart Rally at 9am to demand a fair budget that makes life better for people in our city!
Toronto is the most unequal city in Canada.
One in four children lives in poverty.
Hundreds of thousands are stuck on waitlists for affordable housing, child care and recreation programs.
And over the last six years, people who can least afford it have paid the price of TTC and program fees hikes AND service cuts.
We say Toronto can do better!
City residents need a budget that makes transit, housing, child care, recreation and critical city services affordable AND accessible.
1. Join us at City Hall on Wednesday, February 15 at 9 am - 10.30 am for the “Have a Heart” rally. Let’s send a strong message that Council can do better. Sign up to get involved here. Share the Facebook event page and attached flyer with your friends and your networks to help get the word out. (If you can’t make it at 9 am, please join us later in the day – the budget debate will likely continue into the evening).
2. This week, sign the on-line petition and urge your Councillor to vote for fair budget that improves access to city services instead of cutting them back.
3. Join our pre-rally poster-making parties on Thursday, February 9 at 12-8 pm or Monday, February 13 at 6-9 pm (2 Carlton Street, Suite 1001)
Please help get the word out.
Next Up ... Toronto City Council meets to vote on the City Budget. The meeting is scheduled for February 15 and 16. The vote could all be over on February 15 or it could take 2 or possibly more days. Usually, it's over in 2.