Dear Friends and Residents,
To ensure that you are informed on the decisions being considered at Toronto City Hall, I've prepared the following updates for you.
Please feel welcome to send me your feedback as hearing from the residents of Ward 22 assists me in advocating on our community's behalf at Council.
Ward 22 – St. Paul's
1. 2012 City of Toronto Budget
Today, City Manager Joseph Pennachetti released the staff recommended 2012 Operating and Capital Budgets. The budgets contain $30 million in approved service eliminations and reductions as well as $65 million in efficiencies that are being actively reviewed by staff.
Also, Capital spending reductions in this budget could total $132 million over the next 10 years. Many of the cuts proposed today were a result of the Mayor's request to cut 10% from the budgets of every City Department, Agency, Board and Commission. While it is clear to me that savings need to be found to continue providing Torontonians with the services they expect and deserve, arbitrary targets are simply not a thoughtful way to create a budget that supports services Toronto residents rely on every day. We must consider reasonable sources of revenue while we consider reductions. Management and our collective agreements with the City's employee groups must be reviewed. And City services should be evaluated individually, and reduced or receive increased investment depending on need and our current financial situation.
While I recognize the mayor's intent to rein in spending, an order to cut without considering context, details or how residents would be affected by our decisions has led to a number of recommendations by staff that will have an adverse impact on our communities.
Some of the recommendations put forward in today's budget include:
- Elimination of 7 TDSB school pools, 2 outdoor pools and 5 wading pools
- Eliminating programming at 12 recreation centres in TDSB shared-use facilities
- Reduction in Wheel Trans services for dialysis patients
- Reduction in Toronto Public Library operating hours and purchasing of new materials
- 36 fewer paramedics
- Reduction in TTC bus and streetcar frequency
- $4 million less in Community Partnership and Investment Program Grants
- Elimination of WinterCity outdoor programming
- Reducing road cleaning standards
- Reduction in child care services in hostels
- Reduction in horticultural service - annual flower bed, perennial and shrub display reduction
- Reduction in street trees and urban forestry programs
- Over $1 million reduction in Long Term Care Homes
- Closure of several child care centres
- Closure of several homeless shelters
On the revenue side, Staff is recommending a number of measures including:
- 2.5% property tax hike.
- Increased TTC fares
- Increased user fees including recreation programs for children, seniors and low-income individuals, as well as ice rink permits
- Increased garbage rates for multi-unit residential buildings (apartments)
I will present a more detailed analysis of this document to Executive Committee and full Council in the coming weeks but I would like to offer my initial impressions. While we must make some difficult but necessary decisions, many of the cuts proposed today are simply unsupportable from a basic good governance perspective. I heard from many residents during the Core Services Review process that services such as childcare, libraries, public transit and supportive housing were essential to the functionality of our city and our residents' basic quality of life.
In the New Year, I plan to host a town hall meeting on the proposed 2012 budget to ensure you have an opportunity to be informed and make your voice heard. I'll send out details on the meeting date and location once they're confirmed.
I will continue to work with my community, councillors of every political stripe and City Staff to find solutions to Toronto's fiscal reality without cutting the services that make Toronto a liveable city for all residents.
2. TTC Service Reductions and Fare Changes
Last Thursday, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has provided the specific service level adjustments stemming from previous reductions adopted by the Commission outlined in my September update. The service cuts, along with a fare increase, will negatively impact numerous residents in Ward 22 and across the city. This action is in response to the 10% cut to the TTC's budget requested by the Mayor's Office. Routes across Toronto will be affected. In Ward 22, the following routes are slated for service changes 22:
- 11 BAYVIEW/28 DAVISVILLE:During the morning peak period from Monday to Friday the combined service on Davisville Avenue will change from every 6 minutes to every 6 minutes 23 seconds. Service on Bayview Avenue will change from every 12 minutes to every 12 minutes 45 seconds.
- 34 EGLINTON EAST: During the morning peak period from Monday to Friday, the combined service west of Kennedy Station will change from every 4 minutes to every 4 minutes 30 seconds.
- 54 LAWRENCE EAST: The service west of Lawrence East Station to Eglinton Station during the morning peak period will change from every 4 minutes 30 seconds to every 5 minutes 15 seconds. The service west of Lawrence East Station to Eglinton Station during the afternoon peak period will change from every 4 minutes 30 seconds to every 5 minutes 15 seconds.
- 512 ST CLAIR STREETCAR: Service will be increase during the morning peak period from Monday to Friday. The service will be improved from every 2 minutes 55 seconds to every 2 minutes 45 seconds. In the afternoon peak period from Monday to Friday the service will be improved from every 3 minutes 30 seconds to every 3 minutes 20 seconds. Service will be reduced during the midday Monday to Friday from every 5 minutes to every 6 minutes. On Saturdays, the service in the morning will change from every 4 minutes 40 seconds to every 5 minutes 30 seconds. During the afternoon the service will change from every 4 minutes to every 4 minutes 40 seconds. During the afternoon on Sundays and holidays the service will change from every 5 minutes 15 seconds to every 6 minutes 20 seconds.
The TTC is a public service. Public transportation is the only transportation option for many seniors, students and workers across the city. Many residents in our community rely on public transit to go grocery shopping, travel home from work, visit family or attend religious services on the weekend. Also, I am concerned about the safety of individuals, including seniors and women, traveling after dark that cannot afford a taxi and are left with long walks to their home if service is infrequent. Our community is already suffering from several routes having their operating hours significantly reduced.
The TTC, the Mayor's office and Council should be working to improve service to make transit the preferred options for Torontonians. Reducing service will, by the TTC's own estimates, turn riders away from public transit leading to increased air pollution and gridlock.
If done thoughtfully, finding efficiencies and making cuts at some of our Agencies, Boards and Commissions may have merit. However, the TTC is already woefully underfunded. While most of the service reductions presented may seem minor to some, they will exacerbate current problems of overcrowding and long wait times on transit routes throughout the City. Transit discussion should be focussed on much needed expansions, such as rapid transit to the airport and a Downtown Relief Line. Reducing basic services, such as these bus routes, will take Toronto in the wrong direction.
As your advocate, I will work to find solutions to this year's budget challenges that retain and improve the transit services Torontonians rely on.