City Hall Update: December 2023

City Secures Much-Needed Funding from Province

Mayor Olivia Chow and Premier Doug Ford recently announced that they had reached an agreement to that would see the Ontario government provide $400 million per year until 2026. The money will be directed toward our over-capacity shelter system, operating funding for the TTC including the Eglinton and Finch LRT projects, when they finally open, and capital dollars for new streetcars.

This funding is vital in the face of a $1.5 billion deficit heading into the 2024 budget. But it does come at a cost. I am deeply saddened that the announced agreement accepted the provinces ability to move forward on their plan to build a massive private spa at Ontario Place and acknowledges the prerogatives of the Ford government to move the Science Centre out of Flemington Park to Ontario Place. I continue to actively support both Ontario Place for All and Save the Science Centre's efforts.

Moreover, part of the funding is derived from the Ontario government agreeing to upload the Gardiner and the DVP from the City. This will free up approximately $200 million per year out of the $400 million negotiated. This is obviously a financially boom for Toronto. However, this move will likely eliminate the possibility of opening up an additional 5.6 acres in the Portlands for housing and greenspace through rebuilding the Gardiner east of Jarvis on the ground as Ford is likely to keep it an elevated expressway. 

While the City has made these agreements that doesn’t mean the fight is over. The greenbelt and Peel Region dissolution reversal are just the most recent examples of Doug Ford caving to public pressure in the face of an unpopular move. I will continue to join residents across Toronto in demanding that Ontario Place remains public and the Science Centre continues to serve as an educational and employment hub for residents of Flemingdon Park and Thorncliffe Park. 

For more information about how you can get involved please visit the websites for Ontario Place for All and Save Ontario’s Science Centre: Ontario Place for All – Say Yes to Public Space and No to a Private Spa at Ontario Place!  SAVE ONTARIO'S SCIENCE CENTRE (

Crisis Looms as Aging Booms: Creating a Path Forward to Age in Place 

Long-term care homes shouldn't be the only choice for older adults. Supporting our seniors to be able to age in place as an alternative will require innovative housing models, infrastructure, and coordinated services to ensure their independence, safety, health and social well-being are being supported. A Naturally Occurring Retirement Community is typically a multi-unit residential building that over time may naturally come to house a high density of older adults. In 2021, approximately 489 residential buildings were characterized as Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities in Toronto, housing 70,013 adults aged 65 years and older, and 30,346 adults aged 80 years and older.
Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities are paths for older adults to age in place, while providing opportunities to realign the delivery of existing health and social services in a more efficient and innovative way. In addition, Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities programs strengthen and sustain healthy communities of older adults by addressing important determinants of healthy aging such as isolation, nutrition, physical fitness, and sense of purpose.
It is crucial that the City develop a comprehensive plan to support aging in place now. In 2016, Toronto crossed a demographic turning point with more people living in our city over the age of 65 than under 15. Subsequently, the percentage of our population over 65 has only increased—from 15.6 percent in 2016, to 17.1 percent in 2021, to an estimated 21.2 percent in 2041. This will place Toronto in the same category as “super aged” societies like Japan, where one in five people is a senior citizen.
I'm pleased to share that during last week's City Council meeting, my motion which was co-written by University Health Network's NORC Innovation Centre on creating new paths to allow for more older adults to age in place, passed unanimously. I look forward to working with City Staff across multiple divisions to get this work started. To learn more about my motion, please click here.
We owe it to our seniors to take the necessary steps to better support seniors to age in place through a coordinated Naturally Occurring Retirement Community plan.

Dundas Street Debate

In 2021, Toronto City Council first initiated a process to explore the renaming of Dundas Street and other City assets bearing the Dundas name. Since then, I have heard from many of you in the community - both in support of ensuring that those we honour reflect our values as well as concern about the potential costs of such a change. A recent staff report before City Council showed that the cost to rename Dundas Street had increased to over $11.3 million dollars. With the City facing unprecedented financial challenges, I am convinced that spending tens of millions of dollars to rename streets is not a priority while transit, affordable housing and many services Torontonians rely on every day are desperately in need of significant investment.

Instead of renaming the street as a whole, Council has approved a compromise motion to rename Yonge and Dundas Square at a cost of just over $300 thousand, payed for by developers through section 37 funds, saving over ten million tax dollars compared to renaming the street as a whole. The new name, Sankofa Square, was chosen at the conclusion of a two year process by the City’s selected advisory committee, made up of leaders from Toronto’s Black and Indigenous communities as well as the local business community. It has come to light subsequent to the Council decision that the local Councillor, who moved this motion, did not adequately consult the Yonge-Dundas Square Board of Management. This concerns me greatly and is not an example of good governance. In addition, Council requested that the Toronto Public Library and the TTC rename the Jane/Dundas Library and Dundas and Dundas West Stations, respectively.
It is important to note that the final decision to rename the library and two subway stations lies not with City Council but with each respective board. I will be working closely with my colleagues on the TTC to ensure that a full review of our naming policies takes place, and that all options are considered, before we move forward with changing the names of Dundas and Dundas West stations. 

Rob Ford Stadium

Mayor Chow and City Council have chosen to rename Centennial Park Stadium “Rob Ford Stadium”. Considering Rob Ford’s history of racism, misogyny, homophobia and dishonesty, and the international disgrace he brought to our city, I could not in good conscience support this motion, and know that there are many people in Toronto who would be far more deserving of such an honour. For more information, please see this article.


The capital backlog and operating deficit that the TTC faces is dire, and Toronto desperately needs a long term funding plan with the Provincial and Federal governments. However, the 2024 budget request approved by the board contains some good news. The recommendations include restoring service to 97% of pre-pandemic levels, providing operating funding for the future Lines 5 and 6, and no increase to the current fare levels. As a new member of the TTC Board of Commissioners, I look forward to working with my colleagues to make our transit system more affordable, safe, and reliable for all Torontonians.  

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City Hall Update: February

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

Community Supports
•    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

Public Works
•    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. 

City Hall Update: September 2023

New Ontario Place Proposal Still Privatizes our Waterfront
Austrian spa company Therme and the provincial government’s revised proposal for  Ontario Place is still the wrong project for our waterfront. While the redesign has slightly reduced the footprint of the proposed facility, the project would still require cutting down hundreds of mature trees and privatizes much of the West Island.
While everyone agrees that Ontario Place needs revitalization, the province should listen to Torontonians and create an iconic, modern new park on the waterfront, building on the 2018 Celebration Common plan for a year-round destination public space.


Renderings of Celebration Common by DTAH for Ontario ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport 2018
I am encouraged by Mayor Chow’s statement that she will fight the provincial government must respect the City's process to review this proposal. I will continue to work closely with community advocates, including Ontario Place for All, to keep our waterfront public at Ontario Place, while fighting for a green natural destination for everyone. For your information, please see this "better idea" from Ontario Place for All and Ken Greenberg.
For information on Therme’s most recent proposal, please see this article.

Minister’s Resignation Doesn’t Address the Root of Greenbelt Corruption Scandal
The Greenbelt, which includes important ecological features  the Oak Ridges Moraine and the Niagara Escarpment, is vital to Toronto’s future. It forms the headwaters of our city’s rivers, including the Humber, Don, and Rouge, while providing recreation space and food security through agricultural land. In fact, the greenbelt runs through Toronto itself, along the urban river valleys down to Lake Ontario. A threat to the Greenbelt is a threat to Toronto’s future.
Minister Clark’s resignation is only the first step the Ford government must take to address the Greenbelt scandal that saw $8 billion worth of land carved out of protected areas to benefit wealthy developers under a very flawed process. First, and foremost, the land must be returned to the Greenbelt.
The recent Auditor General’s Report and the findings from a housing task force commissioned by the current government both found that the protected lands are not needed nor desirable for new housing. There is more than enough land to meet Ontario’s housing targets and the greenbelt land is likely 25 years away from being developable as the properties aren’t serviced with water, electricity, or roads.  
The OPP has turned over the criminal investigation into this matter to the RCMP and the provincial Integrity Commissioner has signaled that there will be further investigations. I will provide updates on the scandal and continue working with municipal representatives from across the GTA and environmental leaders to protect the Greenbelt. For more information, please see this article.

Protecting the Ontario Science Centre in North York

Earlier this spring the Provincial Government announced their intention to move the Ontario Science Centre to a much smaller location at Ontario Place. This announcement was done without consultation with residents of Thorncliffe and Flemingdon Park who rely on the Centre for employment and education opportunities. The Science Centre is also part of a burgeoning cultural district that includes the Aga Khan Museum and the Japanese Cultural Centre.

The cultural attraction is an important economic driver for the local community as it brings visitors from across the city and around the world to Don Mills and Eglinton. It would be a real blow to this community to lose the Science Centre just as the opening of the Eglinton Crosstown’s “Science Centre” station is about to make the attraction more accessible to the entire city.

The City of Toronto has an obligation to explore all possible means to keep the Science Centre at its current location. I was proud to successfully move a motion at City Council requesting Staff to explore avenues to have the Province continue operating the Don Mills and Eglinton site and, if necessary, the feasibility of the City operating the Science Centre as it does the Toronto Zoo. For more information, please see this article and consider signing up to help save Ontario's Science Centre here.

Artscape Update

I was saddened by the news that Artscape, which operates City facilities such as the Wychwood Barns along with many other buildings throughout our city, was going into receivership. However, I am happy to report that Mayor Olivia Chow is actively working toward a resolution to protect both the residential tenants and the business operators and artists who would be impacted by Artscape's failure. Locally, I am working closely with the Wychwood Barns Community Association to support the tenants, but also to ensure that the many events that our community values, such as the farmers' market, continue for many years to come. I will be certain to provide an update once I hear more from the Mayor's office. 

City to Study new Revenue Tools to Fund Services 
We have all seen the decline in City services over the last decade. Austerity under the previous two administrations has led to overflowing garbage bins, crumbling roads, locked or dirty park bathrooms, waiting longer for your bus, and not being able to find a space in a recreation program for your child. These issues will get worse if significant action isn’t taken.
Toronto is facing a $1.5 billion deficit this year and a $47 billion capital shortfall over the next decade. While the City continues to look for savings wherever possible, multiple review from outside consultants confirm that without new sources of revenue, Toronto’s ability to purchase new buses, build libraries and community centers, repair roads, and improve parks will be threatened. That’s why Council supported studying the feasibility of implementing new revenue tools last week that would allow the City to invest in improving city services while addressing its structural deficit.
Unlike most large cities in North America, Toronto is almost solely reliant on property taxes to fund city services and infrastructure. Cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles have access to a range of tools that grow with the economy and capture revenue from visitors. 

Since Premier Mike Harris downloaded several provincial services to the City, including community housing, and withdrew significant contributions to the TTC's operating costs, the City of Toronto has been tasked to provide several provincial services without being resourced to do so successfully. The status quo is unsustainable. 
Some of the measures being looked at to improve our city include a parking levy for large commercial operators, a municipal portion of the HST, increased land transfer tax for homes valued over $3 million, and an increase to the Vacant Homes Tax. For more information, please see this City report.

Subway Cell Service Finally coming for all users – not just Rogers customers
The federal government and Mayor Chow announced on Monday that Rogers will be forced to share cellular infrastructure in subway tunnels to other providers by October 3rd. Service is currently offered at stations and some tunnel sections in the downtown core and is expected to be available across the whole subway network by 2025. To learn more about this announcement. Please see this article.

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