It is standard practice for full City Council to have an opportunity to debate matters of strategic policy concerning the entire city at various stages in the process. That’s why I was very surprised that only the Executive Committee was provided an opportunity to debate, and provide input on, Toronto’s Long-Term Financial Strategy. The Mayor’s excuse was that it was not a fully developed plan. But it is precisely at this point where full Council should weigh-in and provide direction to staff going forward that is supported by elected officials before investing further time and money.
This seemed unusual, so I looked back through some past Executive Agendas for similar matters of city-wide interest. A cursory look found several equivalent update reports that have indeed come to full Council, including Ex 29.1 – Smart Track Project Update and Next Steps and EX 29.2 – Rail Deck Park – Results of Feasibility Analysis and Next Steps for Implementation. Both items were interim reports seeking Council direction to follow a particular strategic path. Both items were considered by full Council after being presented to Executive Committee. These are just two examples of many.
As your representative at City Hall, I have a duty to represent you on issues that affect the future of our city. In this instance, my opportunity to carry out that duty was denied. If provided that opportunity, I would have stated, on your behalf, that we cannot continue to keep kicking the can down the road in regards to major decisions affecting Toronto’s fiscal sustainability. As Staff clearly stated in the report, Toronto will face a $1.42B operating gap in 5 years if we continue on our current course.
We find ourselves in this position because we are making decisions that no other major world city is making. Under this Mayor, Toronto is spending over a $1 billion dollars to rebuild an elevated expressway, and well over $3 billion one subway stop. Further, the Mayor has made these decisions while actively working to not have evidence-based analysis conducted to inform those decisions.
In his report, the City Manager agreed with my previous motions to have Council conduct value for money audits and rank capital projects based on recognized urban planning principles.
We cannot wait any longer to put our city on a solid fiscal path. If the Mayor won’t provide that leadership, Council should have had the opportunity to do it for him.
For more information on this issue, please see the second half of this article.