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FORUM: Layton laments city’s snow job (Spring 2019)

April 23rd, 2019 · No Comments

City budget a place to lock in priorities

By Mike Layton

The city’s 2019 budget deliberations are underway and I have had many residents from across the city reach out about the issues that affect them and the services they depend on the most. We are in the midst of one of the most damaging winters on our roads and no amount of pothole blitzing is going to be able to patch up the decline in public assets that Torontonians depend on every time they step out of the door.

My discussions with you have confirmed that the issues you care most about are the same ones I have been working on to get added to the budget. These include funding for affordable childcare and youth hubs, a litter picking strategy in our ravines, and reversing the fare increase on the TTC. I have also spoken out about the fact that this budget does not substantially address our growing State of Good Repair backlog on public assets (like roads) and Toronto Community Housing.

What is top of mind for most people right now is the request to see the city provide enhanced snow removal, salting, and clearing city-wide. The three week response times most residents have been told to expect before their roads and sidewalks are cleared (if they even receive sidewalk clearing) is unacceptable. 

The city’s ombudsman recently released a statement saying that this lack of service is having an effect on the quality of life of our residents. When we fail to provide safe passage on our public rights-of-way we are putting public safety at a serious risk. It does not need to be this way.

Our ability to quickly respond to recent snow storms has been seriously impacted by the degradation of funding for these services over the last nine years. The downtown core is seemingly “stuck in time”, grappling with a service standard for snow clearing from the time of amalgamation that no longer works in our denser core. Putting off problems for future generations to solve is not going to work. I have brought this issue up at budget committee and will continue to advocate for proper investment until it is made.

I recently moved a request in Budget Committee for Transportation Services to report back on the cost to expand and enhance winter maintenance in response to the issues with snow clearing, and the extreme freeze-thaws we have been experiencing. Unfortunately, this request for information was not approved by my colleagues on the committee, but I remain committed to getting this funding approved as quickly as possible.

Another issue that is top of mind for the residents of Ward 11 is the need for substantial investments in affordable housing. The Housing Now strategy that was passed in January aims to increase the supply of affordable rental housing within mixed-income communities by making municipally-owned properties available to non-profit and private organizations for redevelopment on long-term leases. 

I was successful in having council agree to add an additional property in Ward 11 to the list of sites to be considered, bringing the total number of sites to 12. Council also agreed to my request to look at alternative ways of financing affordable housing through refundable debt. 

Unfortunately, council rebuffed my efforts to add a higher percentage of deeply affordable and affordable housing units to the approved strategy. Some councillors even shared their belief that this would make the development less profitable. I hope that one day City Council will learn to put people before profits. 

If you would like to chat about the budget, or want to share any local concerns with me, please do not hesitate to write to me at councillor_layton@toronto.ca or call 416-392-4009. I am looking forward to hearing your ideas on how to build a city we can all be proud of.

Mike Layton is the councillor for Ward 11, University-Rosedale.

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Tags: Annex · Columns · Opinion