Budget 2024 Reinvests in Vital City Services
On February 14th Council considered Mayor Chow’s budget. The last 10 years has seen deteriorating City services as a result of lower than inflation property tax increases. We’ve all experienced overflowing garbage cans, longer wait times for transit, locked park bathrooms and roads in disrepair. That's not good enough for Toronto.
Council had a choice this year: allow Toronto’s decline or get our city back on track. The budget was initially proposed by city staff to have a tax rate increase between 10.5% - 16.5%. I was pleased to see that the rate that was ultimately decided on was only 2.5% higher than the previous years budget. This amounts to an increase of $285 annually for the average Toronto home or the equivalent to a monthly increase of $23.75. This rate both recognized what we need to do for our city but also acknowledged the impact the economy is having on so many residents.
New investments in the 2024 Budget include:
Affordable Housing and Shelters
• Expanding the Multi-Unit Residential Acquisition program (MURA) by $100 million over three years to support the purchase of rental properties to protect low income tenants
• Implement Winter Warming Response Plan to provide emergency shelter and support for homeless Torontonians during inclement weather
• Create 450 new shelter beds to Refugee claimant response
• Additional frontline staff to protect tenants through the Eviction Prevention Program and RentSafeTO
• Increased funding for the Rent Bank, Tenant Support Program, Eviction Prevention in Community Program, Multi-Tenant Housing Program, Homelessness Prevention Program and Community Housing
• Critical funding for 22 City-supported drop-in centres that provide food, training, clothing and other basic supports for homeless Torontonians
Improved Transit Services
• Freezes TTC fares
• Full funding for the Scarborough Busway
• 160 new highly visible TTC workers to improve passenger safety and security
• Implements emissions performance standards for City vehicles
• Expands the Toronto Community Crisis Service city-wide to provide support for mental health emergencies
• Over 100 additional new first responders including firefighters, paramedics, police officers and civilian staff
• Sunday hours at additional Toronto Public Library locations
• New Youth Hubs at Library locations in priority neighbourhoods to serve vulnerable young people
• Increased community grants focused on youth violence prevention
• Enhanced service at Long-Term Care Homes to support seniors
• Additional spaces for EarlyON childcare program
• Almost $1million to support arts and artists
• The $50 million Back on Track Fund will leverage capital funding from the Ontario-Toronto New Deal to support urgent state-of-good-repair work such as potholes, address infrastructure deficiencies, and enhance public spaces across the city.
• Increased funding to plant additional trees and better maintain existing ones.
To view the budget in its entirety, please view the Council agenda.
Scarborough RT Derailment Raises Concerns About the State of Subway Repair
Last year, Torontonians were understandably horrified at footage of the Scarborough RT derailing. The incident sent 5 people to hospital and TTC staff have confirmed that it was lucky it wasn’t more catastrophic.
As reported in the Toronto Star, an independent review of the derailment was completed in November but has yet to be brought to the TTC board. The report found that in the period before the accident there was a marked decline in reported defects on the RT's reaction rail. That component of the line was later identified as the cause of the crash.
The reduction in reported defects prior to the derailment does not add up. The RT was supposed to reach the end of its service life in 2015, as such it should have been expected that the number of defects would increase and more preventative maintenance required to keep transit riders safe.
A formal report by the TTC is expected to come to the TTC Board in May. I will continue pushing for more accountability and transparency on the derailment to ensure that this type of incident never happens again. I have significant concerns about the slow downs that the subway is experiencing on Line 1, and that without sufficient funding for state of good repair we could see increased slow downs on Line 2 over the next 5 years. We simply cannot allow our subway system to either become structurally unsafe or slow down to a point in which we no longer have a functional transit system. I will continue focusing my advocacy on this critical priority.
For more information, please see this article.
Costs to Host FIFA World Cup of Soccer Continue to Rise
The cost for Toronto to host 6 games as part of the 2026 FIFA World Cup of Soccer has increased by $80 million dollars according to a new City Staff report. The total cost to host these games is now expected to cost almost $380 million, with only the province committed to covering $97 million of the total. While it is expected that the federal government will chip in some funding shortly, the City is still expected to be on the hook for a far greater financial commitment than Council was originally told.
A 2022 report to Council estimated the total financial exposure to the City of Toronto at around $100 million, with the expectation that the event would generate considerably more for the City. Unfortunately, City Staff executed an agreement that did not include secured funding commitments from both the provincial and federal governments as directed by City Council and they have now locked us into a poorly negotiated agreement that has not protected us from cost overruns. Moreover, because the City does not get sales tax revenue, the games are only expected to generate $5 million in direct revenue. The federal and provincial governments will reap significant financial benefits from Toronto hosting this tournament. This highlights the need for Toronto to have revenue tools that grow with the economy, and contribute significantly more money for this event until those tools are granted to the City.
While many in our community are excited that our city is hosting the largest sporting event in the world, these games cannot come at the expense of our City’s many priorities. The City is unable to back out of the agreement at this point so it is imperative that we do everything we can to ensure recover as mush of our investment as possible. That’s why I will be requesting that the City develop a revenue strategy that looks at creative ways we can leverage the World Cup.
For more information, please see this article.
Taking Action to Curb Auto Thefts and Break-ins
Auto thefts, and associated break-ins are a significant concern across the country that has hit home for too many St. Paul’s residents following several troubling incidents in our community. Toronto reported more than 12,000 stolen vehicles in 2023. With a 24.4% increase from the previous year, the situation is getting worse.
More concerning than the auto thefts themselves are the increasingly brazen lengths car thieves are willing to go to obtain their targets. In recent cases in our community and across the country, thieves are breaking into houses with people home to obtain keys. Thankfully, one of the main perpetrators of the recent rash of incidents in Forest Hill was apprehended but more work needs to be done to dismantle the international crime organizations that are behind the thefts.
Cars are being stolen in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, and other major cities and ending up in China and the Middle East. It is clear that there must be co-operation between the Toronto Police, OPP, RCMP, auto insurance companies, and the Canadian Border Services Agency to address this matter.
That’s why I was pleased to see that the federal government announced $121 million to attack car theft earlier this month, which is in addition to the recent announcement by the province of $51 million to address this problem.
Josh is doing everything he can at the local level by advocating to senior levels of government and working closely with 13 and 53 division to review efforts in combating auto thefts and break ins. Please the following memo from the Staff Sergeant for our local police divisions:
“Toronto Police has been working closely with the Provincial Carjacking Task Force to provide supports in addressing the issue.
Directed Patrols have been created for all members of both 53 and 13 Divisions working with our Crime Analysts to determine trends and identifiers.
These continued directed patrols are being conducted in the high risk areas and based on data analysis we can adjust our resources appropriately.
We have dedicated officers that will continue to canvass for video evidence and anything to assist in our investigations.
Both Divisions have held town hall and meetings with experts in Auto Theft. Our CPLC meetings have been a source of communication and information sharing with the purpose of educating the public on crime prevention measures which includes opening the lines of communication and community involvement. I personally have connected with community members who have created community chat groups to assist in the dissemination of information related to the thefts.
Our Crime Prevention Officers have conducted Crime Prevention assessments known as CPTED (Crime Prevention through Environmental Design) to many residents and continue to do so.
53 Division and 13 Division Major Crime Units have worked through the nights to prevent these crimes and have had success with arrests and identification of suspects. As this is truly widespread I would say nationally, even beyond our provincial boundaries, other police services are making the auto theft issue a top priority as well.”
For more information, please contact 13/53 Division at (416) 808 1300 and inquire about the next Community Police Liaison Committee meeting (CPLC) at [email protected] . Please note the CPLC is a chance for you to personally meet your local authorities, to ask questions and receive answers.
Crackdown Needed After Report Finds City Defrauded for Millions
A new report by the City’s Auditor General has found that the City of Toronto has lost $27 million over the past 5 years due to fraud. The City employees that engaged in this fraud were fired by the City and members of the public that were caught have been referred to the police.
The scams that have taken much needed money away from programs and services we all rely on include:
- Resident using multiple identities applied for, and was granted, numerous subsidies totaling over $60,000
- City employee took sick days to work for a neighbouring municipality
- City Employee made false insurance claims for services that were never performed
- Resident lied about work status for 15 years to receive almost $140,000 in benefits they were not entitled to
The Auditor General’s Report and the subsequent action by the City should serve as a strong warning for individuals looking to scam the City. For more information, please see this article.
The Somali Centre for Culture and Recreation
Toronto is home to one of the largest Somali communities outside of Africa. For over 40 years, Toronto’s Somali community has advocated for a place to gather, learn, celebrate and be well. Now, a new generation is taking the lead to build the Somali Centre for Arts & Recreation. This center would be a hub for Somali services and a place to access diverse programming for community members of all ages. This dynamic space will advance community belonging, serving the Somali community and all other residents nearby. I’m proud to be an active supporter and ally in their efforts to turn this dream into reality.
CareTO: Transforming the Level of Care in City of Toronto Long-Term Care Homes
One of the most meaningful initiatives I brought to Council was CareTO- to transform long-term care in Toronto toward an emotion-focused approach. I returned to Lakeshore Lodge in Etobicoke where this amazing team is creating a model that focuses on the emotional well-being of residents with dementia, and all seniors, in our care. I look forward to continuing to work with Senior Services and Long Term Care division on expanding this model of care across our City's other nine homes. To learn more about CareTO, please visit this website here.
New Hours at Deer Park Library
Our libraries are about more than books. They’re places for families, seniors & youth to study, socialize and for all of us to be well. I was proud to join Mayor Chow and Councillor Ainslie at Deer Park to announce expanded library hours, including Sundays, in branches across the city. This is good news for the Deer Park library in our ward. Starting in September, Deer Park will now be open on Sundays from 1:30pm to 5pm year round, except on holiday weekends. Expanding access to our libraries means more access to welcoming spaces, friendly staff, increased digitized opportunities and more children and youth supports.