Towards a Resilient and Sustainable Toronto
The Toronto 2023 Budget that passed in February, includes an Operating Budget of $16.16 billion and a Capital Budget & Plan of $49.26 billion; but, with a $933 million financial impact from COVID-19, we will have significant challenges ahead. The questions we must ask ourselves are:
What type of Toronto do we want? And are we willing to do the work to get it?
Requests for funding from federal and provincial partners, while necessary and essential in times of crisis (i.e. the pandemic, emergencies), is not a sustainable way to run the city. Funding from both sources are not stable or predictable and usually come with strings attached.
So, how do we build a self-sustaining and resilient city?
- I am not going to reinvent the wheel and propose new multi million dollar initiatives. City staff, partners, and communities are working on a number of plans and strategies, including those to tackle the housing crisis, and bolster community safety and wellbeing. These plans have been funded and communities were consulted. They are rooted in social justice and human rights. Stopping that work and shifting gears will come with costs. I will have the leadership demanded of the times, as well as the political will to support what is working, build capacity where it is needed, and cut what is lagging.
2. Toronto is experiencing unprecedented fiscal challenges, but so are many of you. As such, I will:
- Not increase property taxes above the rate of inflation over the next two years.
- Explore other revenue tools including parking levies which can generate between $171 million to $535 million annually.
3. I will work with mayors across Ontario to create a sustainable revenue generation model for our cities. This will involve negotiation with the federal government to:
- Allocate 1% of the GST to Toronto, and other municipalities across Ontario. We are all struggling, and Toronto can help lead the charge for transformational change. This percentage can generate revenues close to $550 million for Toronto and it will grow with the economy. It will ensure that Toronto has the capacity to not only appropriately handle this COVID recovery period, but also be self-sustainable moving forward. This plan will take a couple of years to implement, but it is a novel approach that is worth consideration.
Revenue generated from this model will be directed toward social assistance and social housing, transit, and cultural and creative programs.
4. Doing all this work will achieve nothing if we are leaving people behind. As such, I will build on the TransformTO Net Zero Strategy and integrate current and future strategies and plans within the broader objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals. As Canada’s largest city, we must take a leadership role in tackling some of the world’s biggest problems – right here at home. At the nexus of global pandemics, calls for racial and social justice, climate change, and geopolitical issues that heighten the refugee crisis, lies the poorest and most vulnerable among us. We all have a role to play in building back better than we ever were before.