Toronto’s mayor is calling on the federal and provincial governments to once again step up with financial support for Canadian cities as the COVID-19 pandemic stretches into a second fiscal year.
John Tory said Tuesday that if the higher levels of government don’t come through with renewed funding Toronto will have to cut up to $860 million of capital spending.
“I do not think it is an appropriate time to cut services to people, especially vulnerable people, and I certainly don’t think it’s time for a huge tax increase,” said Tory.
“So we’d be left with no alternative. But I’m optimistic. I think the other governments will come forward because they’ll realize we need to continue to make those investments, we need to provide services to people.”
Tory made the remarks in a speech to the Empire Club of Canada that previewed some of the city’s 2021 budget, which will be brought before city council on Thursday.
My statement stressing the need for Safe Restart 2.0 agreement in State of the City speech. (1/3) pic.twitter.com/K80UYCiCDp
— John Tory (@JohnTory) January 12, 2021
Tory had advocated for a “Safe Restart Agreement” for municipalities across the country in 2020, which federal and provincial governments agreed to last year.
He said on Tuesday that the agreement helped bridge Toronto’s $1.7 billion gaps for 2020, to help fund the city’s COVID-19 response and respond to shortfalls for its public transit.
He argued that Toronto – and all large cities in Canada – need a second agreement in place as local economies continue to suffer during the pandemic.
“Given the length of time it took to reach agreement on safe restart in 2020, the time to deal with 2021 is now,” Tory said.
The mayor pointed to reduced ridership on the Toronto Transit Commission as an example of how the city’s income has been hurt. He said that ridership has dropped from 1.7 million people each day to 504,000, leading to a loss of $650.4 million in 2020.
He said that the TTC will receive a $789.8 million city subsidy in this year’s budget but will also require an additional $796.4 million to offset COVID-19 impacts.
Other investments from Thursday’s budget that Tory previewed included an additional $281 million for shelters, plus a further $15 million for supportive housing.
He also said Toronto Public Health, city-owned long-term care homes, and Toronto Community Housing will get more funding.