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E-BLAST: The Reality of the 2024 Budget

Well, I'm halfway through our marathon road tour of Pre-Budget Consultations. As Budget Chief, I'm joining our Chief Financial Officer to present Toronto's financial position and options to you, our residents, and then standing back to listen to what you have to say.

It was great to talk with residents about their priorities at the first Pre-Budget Town Hall this past Monday.

I've wanted the budget process to include these early conversations for a very long time now. I truly believe that if we had made more of an effort this past decade to help you deeply understand our financial pickle, then you, the community, would be our best advisors.

We've already stopped by Scarborough and Etobicoke this week, and held the first virtual Pre-Budget Consultation earlier this afternoon. We'll be coming to North York on Monday, November 27 and I hope to see Don Valley North come out strong to share your perspectives. Here is a taste of what you'll experience if you join us for the remaining events over the next week:


My job, before I hand the mic to our Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Stephen Conforti, is to demystify some of the accounting language we toss around in the media when we discuss the budget. I promise you I do this pretty quickly, but it really does help when everyone in the room is on the same page and knows what we're talking about.

Next, our CFO explains what has created the current pressure on our City's finances as clearly as possible. We're starting this year's budget process from a $1.5 billion operating shortfall. He also breaks down what we mean when we talk about debt and deficits at the City.

A sizeable crowd at the Pre-Budget Town Hall in Scarborough.


We spend a bit of time explaining Toronto's chronic structural financial deficit. This is very important to understand, especially as the Mayor gets closer to achieving a Financial New Deal with the Provincial government. The funds we hope to receive from the New Deal will need to be applied to addressing these structural financial challenges before we start to treat the new dollars as if Christmas has come early.

The long and short of it is, Toronto is currently funding much more than was ever intended to be covered through property tax alone. We have a mega-city transit system and tens of thousands of rent-geared-to-income social housing units, both of which used to be funded by the other orders of government that had the means to support these types of programs.

Long ago in our history, the Provincial and Federal governments decided that they could drive Canada's economy beyond natural resource extraction and agriculture if they invested in cities. They were right. In Toronto, they built a city with mobility and a social safety net, and it became the economic engine of the nation. The major social supports our city enjoyed were supported by the Provincial and Federal governments that had access to income and sales tax to pay the bills. Everything changed in the 1990s. In 1995, a new Provincial government took office in Ontario and immediately withdrew support from Toronto's transit operating budget. Soon after, they walked away from the management of social housing. These two things are not meant to be sustained by property taxes, and the absence of other government funding for transit and housing operating budgets has created a permanent structural deficit. It started as a $550 million hole, and has only grown since then.

For many years, City Hall looked for efficiencies to fill this hole. There were cuts, reductions in staff, and services contracted out. There was digitizing, re-imagining, centralizing, de-centralizing, anything that might reduce overhead. All the while, the city was growing and so was the number of people needing services. All of this growth has happened faster than our ability to address it while also filling that structural hole each year.

There is reason to be optimistic about the working table where City financial officials and Provincial ministry officials are trying to hammer out a New Deal for Toronto. The Federal government has even sent a representative to join the work. But make no mistake—the challenge has grown so much during the pandemic years that we will still need to deliver a very strict budget even with new funds from other orders of government. While the New Deal may attempt to provide a solution, we will want to spread that out over the next few years. The other orders of government will be watching to see how responsible we can be with the new dollars, and you should be too.

Mayor Chow and I spoke with reporters about the Pre-Budget Town Halls and the work she's doing to secure a New Deal for Toronto.


On this Pre-Budget tour, the real magic happens after our cautionary presentation is wrapped up. That's when you gather around some "kitchen tables" we have set up and talk about what you want to see in the 2024 budget. Each table has at least one of our most senior members of City staff or wonderful facilitators to lead the discussion and take down diligent notes. No need to worry that your group will be ordered to choose a leader and a note taker, it's taken care of. It's been wonderful to see how lively the discussions have been at the consultations so far. Folks really do have a lot to say when we lay the facts and questions down on the table and let them share their perspectives without a budget already locked in.

It's also been wonderful to watch these discussions because I get to see our staff connecting with residents in real time. It is so important for the staff who design and deliver our programs to feel connected to the people they are serving. We haven't given them this opportunity to connect before the budget is launched since 2007. When we did this process over 15 years ago, it was illuminating for Councillors as well. We all gained an understanding of the many ways our neighbourhoods were aligned and connected. No matter what corner of the city residents lived in, so many of them had shared priorities. This made it easier for Councillors to agree on common goals.  

When you have goals in common, there is more potential to set politics aside and simply push hard to get things done. And that sounds a lot like what we've heard so far: get roads paved, get homes built, get transit moving safely and reliably. Every session, we learn more and more about what matters most to you.

Our Pre-Budget Town Hall in Etobicoke.

I have to make it clear: This is going to be a very challenging budget. There are going to be cuts and there is going to be a tax increase. There's just no way out of it. We need to prioritize our most urgent needs, and those are going to be chosen based on what we take away from these Pre-Budget conversations.

So, share your ideas. Come out to an in-person or virtual meeting, or participate in the online survey. I've outlined all the ways to get involved below. This will be a challenging budget and a challenging year, and the best way to tackle it is together. When we can come from a place of shared understanding, there is no obstacle we can't overcome.



Below, find a list of the remaining Pre-Budget Consultation dates and other ways to get involved:

  • Saturday, November 25, 12 - 1:30 PM & 1:30 - 3 PM, Toronto Reference Library

  • Monday, November 27, 7 - 8:30 PM & 8:30 - 10 PM, North York Memorial Hall

  • Tuesday, November 28, 7 - 8:30 PM & 8:30 - 10 PM, Virtual

  • Wednesday, November 29, 7 - 8:30 PM & 8:30 - 10 PM, Rexdale Hub

  • Thursday, November 30, 7 - 8:30 PM & 8:30 - 10 PM, Virtual

As Budget Chief, I will be attending every single session and hope to see you there. We want to hear from you on what matters most and how we can work together to build a safe, caring, and affordable city where everyone belongs.

You can also complete an online survey to share your feedback. Find the survey and registration for consultation sessions at the link below:



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