Ontario needs a budget that invests in people and public services

Ontario 2021 Pre-Budget Submission Prepared for the Minister of Finance 

Social Planning Toronto calls on the Government of Ontario to make tangible investments in the 2021 Ontario Budget that level the playing field for those most negatively affected by the pandemic – especially seniors, women, Indigenous people, racialized and Black communities, and people with disabilities. 

Residents of our great province deserve a budget that supports people, especially underserved communities and low-income households, to stay safe and healthy. We envision a budget that creates jobs through inclusive, local economic development. This time of unprecedented challenges requires a provincial budget that makes Ontario, and its local municipalities, more affordable, sustainable, and ready to recover.

We're Hiring! Executive Director Applications Accepted Until Feb. 26

Social Planning Toronto (SPT) is seeking a dynamic, enterprising, and creative leader with a passion for equity and significant experience in community capacity building to lead the organization through its next phase of growth and development. This individual will play a critical role in achieving SPT’s organizational vision — mobilizing our research and community planning expertise and wide network of community partnerships to advance social justice, racial equity, and civic engagement; advocate for progressive systems change; respond to changing social policy, funding, political, and economic environments; enhance the capacity of the community services sector; leverage learnings from COVID-19; and strengthen opportunities for all Toronto residents.  

The City of Toronto needs new revenues to cushion its $1.8 billion budget shortfall and position itself for pandemic recovery

As we all weather the second wave of the pandemic, the City of Toronto is facing a historic $1.8 billion deficit rolling into 2021. COVID-19 has created significant challenges for the City’s earning and spending abilities — it must deal with unprecedented increases in costs of running local programs and services, while facing significant decreases in revenues. 

The Federal Government has stepped in to support Ontario municipalities during the pandemic by dedicating $4 billion in emergency funding. This money is part of its Safe Start Agreement, which provides $19 billion in relief funding for all provinces and territories.

Forced encampment clearings are not the answer

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, encampments and temporary dwellings have increased at an unexpected rate in Toronto and many cities across the country. Encampments are not a suitable long-term housing solution for those most in need. However, for more than 1,000 homeless people in Toronto, encampments have provided a sense of community and security, especially during the pandemic. 

As the winter worsens and we grapple with the second wave of COVID-19, encampment residents are at risk of forced removal by the City of Toronto. Forcible clearings of encampments are not the answer. They are harsh and unfair. More so, encampment evictions can have negative social and health consequences by dispersing homeless residents throughout the community and breaking connections with service providers.

#NationalHousingDay: A bittersweet celebration

As the impacts of COVID-19 continue to deepen housing injustices and homelessness across Toronto, Social Planning Toronto celebrates National Housing Day with hope and determination.

It was on November 22nd,1998 that the Big City Mayors Caucus of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities endorsed the declaration of homelessness as a national disaster made by the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee, a housing advocacy group.

More than two decades later, homelessness persists and continues to have devastating impacts on our friends, neighbours and communities. Now every year on November 22nd housing advocates, stakeholders and residents come together to demand an end to homelessness and housing precarity.

Ontario 2020 budget shortchanges communities and nonprofits

Yesterday, Finance Minister Rod Phillips outlined Ontario’s roadmap for pandemic recovery in the much anticipated 2020 Provincial budget. Ontario's Action Plan: Protect, Support, Recover is based on a record $38.5 billion deficit and provides $15 billion in new support. 

Although the budget outlines initiatives to protect, support, and help our province to recover from the pandemic, much can be said about who benefits from this budget and who is left behind. 

Health care and small businesses have, understandably, received attention in this year’s budget. However, the 2020 Ontario Budget shortchanges local communities and the organizations that serve them. An effective and far-reaching pandemic recovery requires significant investment in both. 

Inclusionary Zoning: Low-Income Communities Left Off the Map

Toronto’s housing crisis existed long before COVID-19, but the pandemic has intensified housing challenges and shone light on the urgent need for immediate solutions, and medium and long-term policy interventions. Low-income and equity-seeking groups identified affordable housing as the top priority for COVID-19 recovery in SPT-supported consultations

Though Inclusionary Zoning will not end Toronto’s housing crisis on its own, this promising tool would increase the supply of affordable ownership and affordable rental housing in the city. So what is Inclusionary Zoning? In Toronto, Inclusionary Zoning (IZ) would require a percentage of new condominium and new purpose-built rental housing to be affordable to residents with low to moderate incomes, benefitting a growing segment of Toronto residents who don’t earn enough to afford market prices but earn too much to be eligible for social housing.

Recovery Report Has Some Good Recommendations. But We Need an Action Plan.

Last week our Interim Executive Director, Caryl Arundel, deputed before the City of Toronto's Executive Committee about the reports from the City Manager and the Toronto Office of Recovery and Rebuild (TORR).

The TORR report included 83 recommendations, ranging from detailed, service-related recommendations to others focused broadly on issues and relationships. The report was based on input from Torontonians, including marginalized communities who participated in SPT-supported consultations (summarized in the Community Voices Pave the Road to Recovery report we published last week). The City Manager’s report focused on how the City would address TORR's recommendations.

Another Attack on Local Democracy: Province Moves to Repeal Ranked Ballots

The Ontario government has undertaken an attack on local democracy once again, and this time the target is changing the rules for municipal elections.

Hidden in Bill 218, Supporting Ontario’s Recovery Act, 2020, a bill focused largely on COVID-19 recovery, the Ford government is attempting to revoke powers from municipalities across Ontario. If passed, municipalities will no longer have the option to use ranked ballot voting.

Welcome to Caryl Arundel, SPT's New Interim Executive Director

The board of directors and staff are pleased to welcome Caryl Arundel as the Interim Executive Director of Social Planning Toronto. Beginning October 5, 2020, Caryl will provide direction and support to SPT and continue our important relationships with community partners while we look for a permanent leader for the organization. As excited as we are for the future of the organization, it is nonetheless a bittersweet moment as we say goodbye to our outgoing Executive Director, Devika Shah. She has been a strong and visible voice for SPT and social justice in the city. Please join us in recognizing Devika's contributions and wishing her all the best for the future.

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