First impressions matter. Ours? This budget asks us to pay more for less.

After a week of piecemeal budget announcements from Mayor John Tory, today the City of Toronto released the 2023 City budget. Despite much hype from the Mayor, the budget proposes increases to property taxes and user fees without delivering a better city. Instead, it supports expansion of policing and security as a response to what ails the city. 

Inequitable policies, a decade of austerity budgets, and a lack of sufficient investment in communities have left people struggling with food security, the housing crisis, and poverty. But the preliminary budget fails to respond with investments that are proven and effective — such as well-resourced affordable housing, mental health supports, and violence prevention and youth programs. Instead, police budgets are prioritized over the community services we know communities need.

We’re just digging into the details. Here’s our first take on what we’re seeing from today’s budget launch.

We should pay more for a better city. But better is not what this budget is delivering.

A massive reliance on the Province and Feds 

The budget includes billions of dollars in assumed revenues — that is, the City is assuming the federal and provincial governments are going to come up with the cash to address the City’s substantial funding shortfall, including: 

  • $933 million to cover COVID-19 related impacts,
  • $97 million for refugee-focused services (a federal jurisdiction),
  • $48 million for supportive housing (a provincial jurisdiction), and
  • $2.3 billion for lost revenue over the next 10 years due to the Ontario government’s elimination of development charges under Bill 23 — the Province has promised to make up the lost revenue but requires an independent audit of the City’s books first.

The shortfall is due to ongoing structural funding problems that cities face. The provincial and federal governments have a responsibility to address the funding shortfall in the 2023 budget, and work with the City of Toronto and other municipalities to develop long-term funding solutions to ensure sustainable cities.

TTC fare increase and service cuts

The budget includes an increased transit fare (10 cents a ride) to fund inadequate service. Nine percent less service in 2023 than before the pandemic will lead to more crowded vehicles and longer waits for buses, streetcars, and subway trains — up to 10-minute waits for subway service.

A bloated police budget

The budget includes: 

  • a $48.3 million increase for the police budget, compared to no expansion of the Toronto Community Crisis Service pilot project, a non-police alternative to support people experiencing mental health crisis; and
  • a $1.6 million increase to support the existing crisis response service, but no expansion to other parts of the city despite the critical need for non-police interventions.

Although seven new Councillors issued a statement that increasing police funding without also investing in social supports doesn't improve community safety, the Toronto Police Services Board has approved the $48M increase to the police budget for 2023. Final decision goes to Council on Feb. 14.

Property tax raised to just below the rate of inflation

Property taxes are set to increase by 5.5%, with an additional 1.5% increase to the City Building Fund for transit and housing. That translates to an additional $183 for the average home, plus an additional $50 for the city building levy, for a total of $233 — just under 20 bucks a month extra. Every single dollar raised should prioritize the public and community services that residents need — affordable, reliable, and accessible transit; expanded affordable and accessible housing; and strong public and community services to support our communities, including youth, seniors, and newcomers. 

Cuts to Public Health 

The budget removes eight public health programs, including programs to address the opioid poisoning crisis, from the Toronto Public Health budget due to lack of funding from senior levels of government.

One good news item 

The TTC budget includes expansion of the fair pass discount program to 50,000 more people living with a low income. Nonetheless, after years of delays, the TTC still hasn’t fully implemented the program, leaving out tens of thousands of low-income residents.

CORRECTION: We received new information on January 11 regarding the fair pass expansion. The City has budgeted an additional $2 million for this. While it is technically correct that the expansion will include 50,000 more people, the City anticipates, based on past experience, that only 8,000 to 12,000 more people will use the program in 2023, and 15,000 in 2024 (annualized figure). Not everyone eligible uses the program — some because they still cannot afford transit and require a deeper subsidy.


We’re continuing to pore through the city budget documents and will provide more analysis in the days and weeks to come. But at first glance, this budget does not look like it will contribute to a more affordable, liveable, and safe city.

Still time to act! 

It's not too late to get involved in the budget process. The Mayor’s budget must be released by February 1. As Councillor Gord Perks told CBC, "[Residents] need to join neighbourhood associations and community organizations and fight for the city they want."

Take a look at our previous post for details on the deputation process this year. For the first time, the Budget Committee will hear both in-person and virtual deputations.

And join us on January 16 for a Budget Town Hall, a continuation of an amazing community discussion we held last night. (Check out other budget events here.)

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