On February 7 and 11, members of the Budget Committee heard from the public at deputations (public hearings) at City Hall, Etobicoke Civic Centre, North York Civic Centre, and Scarborough Civic Centre. Despite the tight timelines for this budget process (a common challenge for the budget process following an election year), about 170 people participated in the deputations.
City Manager Chris Murray summed up the issues raised at deputations in this handy word cloud:
Source: City of Toronto, Presentation by the City Manager and Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer on Staff Recommended Tax and Rate Supported 2019 Operating Budget and 2019-2028 Capital Budget and Plan, March 4, 2019.
Our analysis shows that many of the community's priorities remain deeply underfunded in the budget. Read Social Planning Toronto's budget overview and "A City Left Behind" report for details. On climate change, check out the deputation from Toronto Environmental Alliance. On homelessness, a group of Toronto physicians are urging Mayor John Tory and Toronto City Council to introduce a dedicated homelessness levy during the 2019 budget process. Read their proposal here.
Focus on Scarborough
Social Planning Toronto's Samandar Mahmodi and Ayan Jama caught some of the deputation action in Scarborough. In this budget watch post, they highlight the big issues from Scarborough residents and groups.
Twenty-six individuals participated in the Scarborough deputation. About half participated on behalf of community groups, associations/foundations or NGOs/charities, and half were community residents from Scarborough.
A range of community issues were flagged and presented by the deputants, including:
- affordable housing,
- transit improvement and affordability (introducing more reduced fare passes to ODSP recipients and other members of racialized and equity-seeking groups),
- climate change,
- conservation of ravines and ecology, and
- investments in renewable energy.
Speakers called for actions to create a better city, including:
- expansion of cycling networks,
- improvement in accessibility and affordability of recreation spaces and programs,
- funding the creation of more quality jobs and workforce development, and
- increased funding for programs to end the growing problem of gun violence in the city.
Most members of the community and representatives from organizations who deputed indicated that the Poverty Reduction and Youth Equity Strategies are significantly under-funded and asked that they be fully funded to make the lives of Torontonians better. (The City has reported that both strategies are fully funded in this budget but that point has been a matter of some debate.)
- A Scarborough resident receiving Ontario Disability Support shared her story about how she is facing challenges using the transit system, and that it takes her more than two hours to complete one ride. Also, 17% of her annual income goes to public transit, which is costly for someone who lives under the poverty line.
- A youth leader argued for the importance of having a balanced budget — a budget that will continue to support the fundamental needs of youth in Scarborough by not cutting after-school programs, summer camp leadership positions, and computers for children of low-income families. According to the speaker, these necessities have shown to improve learning outcomes for children, increase community cohesion, and decrease gun violence in our neighbourhoods.
- Another member of the public deputed on accessibility issues regarding the Toronto Transit Commission. He spoke about his experiences with inaccessible TTC stations, such as Warden station, and advocated for greater physical accessibility.
- A member of a community organization advocated for this budget to prioritize the long and overdue repairs in Toronto Community Housing buildings across the city and the creation of rooming houses in Scarborough.
- An ecological group requested multi-year funding dedicated to ravine strategies in Scarborough to protect and maintain ravines, recruit supervisors to support volunteers to protect plants from erosion, and have more green spaces for families.
- A resident asked for funding to build more bike lanes in Scarborough.
Toronto City Council still has one more opportunity to increase investment in these critical areas when Council meets for its final budget vote on March 7. Drop by City Hall, Council Chambers, on Thursday. The meeting starts at 9:30 a.m. and will likely run all day. You can also watch online here.