City Budget Watch
Budget Process Concludes with Minor Tweaks, Leaving Big Challenges Ahead for City Council and the Next Mayor
On February 15, the Mayor and City Council met for a marathon 12½ hour budget meeting, resulting in a final 2023 budget that looked much like it did when it was launched just over five weeks ago.
Welcome but Minor Tweaks
A majority on Council, including the Mayor, supported an amendment, allocating $7 million to enhance select programs and services using savings identified by City staff and funds from a non-program account. An additional $1 million from a non-program account was used to expand eligibility for property tax cancellation and deferral and water and solid waste rebate and deferral programs for qualifying low-income households. Several councillors across the political spectrum worked together to craft this ‘consensus motion.’
On Friday evening, the Toronto Star broke the story that Mayor Tory had been in a relationship with a former staff member from his office which came to an end last month. The mayor indicated that the relationship started during the pandemic when the former staffer was in his employ. Shortly after this stunning news became public, the mayor announced his intention to resign from office at a hastily-organized press conference. The mayor’s announcement that he would resign has raised many questions about the final budget vote, set for Wednesday, February 15, and the operation of Council going forward under strong mayor powers (or not).
In a 15–11 Vote, Toronto City Council Rejects Board of Health Recommendations to Declare a Public Health Crisis & Open 24/7 Warming Centres
At its meeting on Wednesday, a majority of City Council (15-11), including the Mayor, voted against opening 24/7 warming centres for unhoused residents and declaring a public health crisis in the City of Toronto related to the lack of access to 24-hour indoor space.
The following Toronto Board of Health recommendations were rejected by a majority of Council:
- City Council declare a public health crisis in the City of Toronto based on systemic failure of all three levels of government to provide adequate 24-hour, drop-in and respite indoor spaces, and call for the immediate provision of safe, accessible 24-hour respite spaces that are accessible through walk-in access.
- City Council direct the General Manager, Shelter Support and Housing Administration to provide 24/7 indoor warming locations until April 15, 2023, possibly including City of Toronto Warming Centres, and locations provided by community organizations, including faith-based groups, that would provide low-barrier, walk-in access to people in need of a safe place to spend the night.
What would a budget with a heart look like? Harm reduction, community services, child care, and public transit options
The 2023 police budget includes a $48 million increase, using revenues from property taxes.¹ Meanwhile, vital public and community services that make neighbourhoods safer, healthier, and more livable are being cut or frozen — which is also effectively a cut when inflation is factored in.
This is the third and final post in our series examining alternative ways to spend $48 million. Check out our first post on housing options and our second post on supports for unhoused individuals, homelessness prevention, and tenant protection. In this post, we consider the alternate ways that $48 million could be used to improve critical services in four key areas: harm reduction, community services, child care, and public transit.
What would a budget with a heart look like? Supports for unhoused individuals, preventing further homelessness, and tenant protection options
The police budget includes a $48 million increase using revenue from property taxes, while many essential and lifesaving services for unhoused individuals remain deeply underfunded. In addition, Toronto’s proven and effective programs to prevent evictions reach far too few people in a city with growing homelessness, and far too many tenants struggle to get their landlords to fix and maintain their properties, as required by law.
In this second post in our series examining alternative ways to spend $48 million, we consider how reallocating these funds to homeless support, eviction prevention, and tenant protection programs could spread some much-needed love in this city — including in areas that are life-and-death situations.
On February 1, Mayor Tory released his 2023 budget for the City of Toronto, exercising his authority under the new ‘strong mayor’ powers. Despite urgent calls for the City to invest more in services — affordable housing, 24/7 warming centres, public transit, community services, climate action, to name a few — and reallocate police funding to build a strong, equitable and caring city, the Mayor has chosen to use the strong mayor powers to introduce his own budget, while making no substantive change to improve the lives of Torontonians. Where’s the love, Mayor Tory?
The 2023 City of Toronto budget includes a proposed $48 million increase for the police using revenues from property taxes. Instead of greater investments in enforcement, what if that funding was invested in the areas that evidence shows will build a better, caring, safer, affordable and livable City for all?
In a series of posts, we look at alternative ways $48 million could be spent, ways that show more love and that will improve life in Toronto. Today, we consider addressing the affordable housing crisis through two programs that could increase access to rent–geared–to–income (RGI) affordable housing and preserve more existing affordable rental housing at risk of being lost.
Today, Social Planning Toronto sent a letter to Mayor John Tory summarizing what we heard over the course of three City budget–focussed events we hosted in January.
At those events, more than 300 organizational partners, grassroots groups, and residents shared their thoughts, concerns, and struggles related to the 2023 budget. These Torontonians overwhelmingly stated that the 2023 City budget falls short. It does not address our city's multiple crises, nor the major challenges that residents across the city are facing. We've urged Mayor Tory to revise the budget to prioritize the key actions that residents and community organizations are looking for.
You can read the full text of the letter below.
Budget committee concludes its work with requests to the mayor, but no actual changes to the 2023 City budget
In past years, the City of Toronto’s Budget Committee could make changes to the staff-recommended budget, with the final decisions resting with Council. Under the new strong mayor powers, the Committee no longer has the authority to vote on changes to the budget. It is only permitted to make requests of the mayor, effectively reducing its power to an advisory body.
Deputation highlights: Calls to reallocate police funding + support for transit, affordable housing, homeless supports & climate action + concerns over “Strong Mayor” powers
On January 17 and 18, over 220 residents, frontline community workers, staff and board members of nonprofits, and representatives from neighbourhood associations and business groups participated in the City of Toronto’s public hearings on the 2023 City budget. Deputants shared their priorities, expressed their concerns, and argued their case for a better budget and a better city.