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FORUM: Toronto’s budget built on a false premise (Feb. 2023)

March 27th, 2023 · No Comments

Where is Ford in Toronto’s time of need?

By Jessica Bell

The first official Toronto budget under the new strong mayor reign has revealed an unpleasant truth. This is a fantasy budget built on a house of cards. Even with a seven per cent planned property tax hike, the federal and provincial governments need to hand over $1.4 billion to the city for the budget to balance in 2023. And even if they say yes to Toronto’s official funding request, the city will still cut services.

You and I will be paying more for less. Off-peak TTC bus and subway service is facing big cuts, and adult fares are going up. Road maintenance and road safety programs are being cut. Recreation fees are going up. The city’s official climate action plan is underfunded and falls well short of our bold climate targets. 

This is not the time for austerity. Our city is falling into disrepair. Commuting times are getting longer. Our parks and sidewalks are dirty and neglected. The high cost of food has driven more and more people into chronic hunger. Housing prices and rent are at record levels of unaffordability. Our city’s escalating mental health, opioid, and homelessness crises are a moral shame.

This is not a new problem. The mayor has failed to maintain and upgrade services and infrastructure throughout his eight-year reign. You’re not imagining things when you notice there’s more garbage on the street or the roads have more potholes than usual. That said, the woes of our city are also very clearly the responsibility of the Ford government who is not only underfunding municipalities and our needs, but sabotaging municipalities’ efforts to fund services as well.

I’m talking about Bill 23, which freezes, eliminates, and reduces the development fees Toronto can collect from new homes to partially pay for city infrastructure, from parks to affordable housing. 

In University-Rosedale, about 80 per cent of residents live in buildings of five storeys or more, and that percentage is on the rise. Since more of us are living in apartments with no access to a backyard, it is doubly important for governments to invest in not just essential infrastructure, like transit and sewerage, but the community centers, parks, libraries, and free open spaces needed for urban residents to play, enjoy themselves, learn, and appreciate their city and neighborhood.

I support reducing and waiving development fees for permanently affordable housing, co-ops, non-market housing and to build housing for those in need. 

I see no good value in giving a tax cut to developers and downloading even more infrastructure costs onto residents. Developers have a responsibility to contribute their fair share to our city.

This is a province-wide problem. Facing massive shortfalls in development fee revenue, municipalities across southern Ontario are considering cuts to services and big property tax increases ranging from five to 100 per cent. This is a Ford tax.

We are returning to the provincial legislature on Feb. 21. We expect a housing bill, a health care bill to privatize surgery delivery, and the next annual budget. 

As your MPP, my goal is to organize with you to increase funding for municipalities, mental health, health care, education, housing, and public transit—all the things that make our city great.

We are not alone, Toronto. Municipalities across Ontario are furious with the funding cuts, and it’s having an effect. 

Already the minister for Municipal Housing and Affairs has signaled their intention to help municipalities with the loss of funding as a result of Bill 23. We’ll have to hold their feet to the fire to get them to deliver.

Jessica Bell is the MPP for University-Rosedale and the Official Opposition’s Housing Critic. She can be reached at 416-535-7206. 


Tags: Annex · Columns · Opinion