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What the 2020 City Budget means for you

BY SHELLEY CARROLL

I'm writing this just after leaving a celebration in the office of Budget Chief Gary Crawford. Our cause for celebration? The 2020 City Budget was adopted unanimous

Councillor Filion — one of our longest-serving Councillors — remarked that this unanimous budget vote was the first of its kind. The reason is simple: it comes down to you. Many of us on Council have voted against Mayor Tory’s budgets over the years because of a chronic tendency to over-promise and then under-fund initiatives. This year, the Mayor did the right thing by explaining to Torontonians early on that more investment was needed and, therefore, more taxation. He was rewarded for his honesty with widespread community understanding and Council's support. Transit I’ve already outlined in earlier e-blasts how much of the Mayor’s City Building Fund (CBF) tax will go directly to transit. Most of that money will go toward speeding up state of good repair work for the TTC. During my speech in Council, I said: "Anyone who has ever stood in the sweaty darkness of a stalled Line 2 train knows why the extra dollars are needed now.” What I didn’t realize was, as I was saying that, Line 1 was down at Davisville Station. We will all pay a little more at home but every unplanned TTC service disruption demonstrates why that's needed. New vehicles of all types will be purchased with the remaining transit dollars.

Housing A third of the new CBF tax dollars will go to improving housing affordability. The how and where will be the subject of a future report. The budget we adopted already strengthens the funding outlook for rent-geared-to-income housing by increasing the Toronto Community Housing Corporation budget. I’ll be looking to ensure the new CBF dollars go beyond public housing to create more affordable solutions for low-income and middle-income families struggling in the private housing market. Community services There was even a surprise successful amendment yesterday. Since the Mayor and Budget Chief had already introduced a motion to increase the number of dedicated youth hubs in libraries and community centres, a majority of Councillors were finally convinced to invest in increasing library open hours to make sure the services are there when youth need them most.

The Budget also invests in critical front-line services: hundreds more police officers on the ground in communities across the city, dozens of new paramedics to keep up with the demands of our aging population, and more transit operators to address the persistent service issues we see with the TTC. So with all of this unanimity, is there nothing to worry about for the next year? I wish I could say that's the case. As several councillors and Mayor Tory remarked, next year is when the real impact of provincial cuts to childcare and public health funding will come home to roost. The province In April 2019, when the province’s first budget was announced, we learned that Doug Ford's government was withdrawing from the childcare growth plan and in fact rolling back past support. We received one-time funding from the province to mitigate the immediate impact. Even with that one time fund, the city had to put up an increase in property tax dollars or risk losing 186 subsidies spaces for the children of low-income working families. If the province chooses to go ahead with de-funding childcare operating dollars next year, 1160 subsidized childcare spaces will need to be cut. That's more than any of our property tax pockets can absorb.

A similar challenge will come to Toronto Public Health. The province's drastic cut to public health funding garnered huge attention last spring and Premier Ford agreed to slow down his cuts to preventative health services in municipalities. In 2004, the provincial government began funding municipal public health services at a rate of 75 cents for every dollar spent directly as a result of SARS. Let us hope that the value of municipal public health has been made crystal clear to our current provincial government in light of COVID19. Local impact Here in Don Valley North, we will have money for capital. That means we will have dollars to spend throughout the year to see the completion of some of our Participatory Budgeting project winners and there will be a new PB process later this year. But these are all made possible through community benefit funds.

The City will continue to feel the most pressure when it comes to your day-to-day services. As the weather starts to warm up, my DVN team and I will be out canvassing door-to-door to hear your concerns and learn where to invest city funds the most wisely. Councillor Mike Colle put it best when he spoke to this year’s budget: “Every day is budget day when you are listening to your residents. Collecting feedback on how we spend people’s money happens 365 days a year.”

 

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