The Stop Joins Community Leaders to Challenge City Council on Budget Process

CityCouncil

The Stop has joined more than 90 community leaders to challenge City Council on a backward budget process.

In an open letter sent yesterday to Mayor John Tory and Toronto City Council, The Stop and other signatories stressed the need to fund already-approved Council strategies — including policies set to impact seniors, child care, and poverty reduction — in advance of a critical Budget Committee meeting this week.

The letter identifies the City’s budget process as part of the problem. While applauding Council for showing “leadership in adopting well-crafted strategies to better respond to the growing and complex needs of our diverse population…”, the signatories are adamant that the City’s approach to funding its commitments to vulnerable residents is backwards.

City Council’s Budget Committee meets today to discuss the direction staff should take in crafting the 2018 Budget. The process proposed includes an across-the-board freeze to programs and services, rather than funding Council’s already approved priorities.

“Council’s budget process starts by saying ‘we can’t do what we promised,’ and then asks the community to rally to stop cuts to services,” said Sean Meagher, Executive Director of Social Planning Toronto. “This letter asks Council to take a different approach: envision the city we want to build and then find ways to pay for those choices fairly and reasonably.”

Today in The Toronto Star, Feroza Mohammed (Founder and Chair of the Toronto Residents Advocacy Council) and Lee Soda (Executive Director of the Agincourt Community Services Association) published an op-ed that outlines the steps recommended in the open letter:

  • Instead of imposing an arbitrary tax rate or budget cut, start the budget discussion with a consideration of programs and policies that can create the kind of city we want to build.
  • Involve the public earlier in this discussion of budget objectives and priorities — instead of waiting until after city staff have spent months deciding what programs and services to cut.
  • Put the City’s strategies and plans front and centre in the budget. The City has adopted plans with specific targets for improving access to housing, child care, transportation, jobs, or for improving the lives of youth, seniors, and newcomers. Staff should cost out these commitments, and involve the public in a discussion as to how to fund them.
  • City staff should work with public participants to create action plans, and design implementation strategies on how to achieve these outcomes.
  • Be transparent about how budget choices impact people that already lack equal access to opportunities. Even an initial analysis shows how TTC fare hikes and rising program fees hurt women, racialized communities, and people living in poverty most. Council’s commitment to apply a gender equity lens to the budget was an important first step, but until there is an open and transparent equity analysis of budget options, decisions that make people worse-off and deepen inequality will go unseen and unaddressed.

You can read the complete open letter online, or learn more from our friends at Social Planning Toronto.

Note: The photo above and portions of this post originally appeared on the Social Planning Toronto website.