2022 City Budget Deputation
Oral Presentation to the City of Toronto's Budget Committee
January 25, 2022
Good afternoon everyone. Thank you for the opportunity to address the committee today.
My name is Sami Pritchard, and I am the Manager of Advocacy at YWCA Toronto, the city’s largest multi-service organization serving women, girls, and gender diverse people.
The more than 13,000 people we serve across the city depend on our services to escape gender-based violence, access safe and affordable housing and emergency shelter, and secure employment.
Many of our programs are funded by the City, a partnership for which we are grateful. We are heartened by commitments such as the HousingTO Action Plan, the creation of a Gender Equity Office, the development of a non-police crisis team, and the embedding of an equity lens in the budget. And we commend the City for the recent implementation of a $4.00 wage top up to emergency shelter workers, recognizing the risk these workers are taking day in and day out to serve our community.
However, our community members are facing multiple challenges that are not fully addressed by the proposed 2022 Budget. We are glad not to see any service cuts but we know that maintaining service levels with piecemeal enhancements does not go far enough to address the systemic inequities along racial, gender and neighborhood lines growing in our city – inequities that have only been heightened by the pandemic for our community members.
While at last there has been a property tax increase, no other new revenue tools have been introduced to address the mounting crisis faced by essential services. As nonprofit operators, many of us are providing essential services at cost, having to fundraise to fill in gaps in government funding. For multiple years we have implored the City to consider new revenue tools. Nearly 50% of the City’s shelters are managing outbreaks in an already precarious system. The $11.6 million in additional SSHA funding does not seem enough to meet the dire need. Neither does the $12 million in funding for a 10-year community safety and well-being plan, especially when contrasted with a police budget of $1 billion every year.
We do not feel the concerns of our program participants – those facing food insecurity, struggling to pay rent, dealing with increased violence and precarity at home and at work, and mounting caregiving responsibilities – are fully reflected in the priorities of this budget. Yes, investments have been made, but do they go far enough and deep enough to address the realities on the ground?
For example, many of our frontline staff, such as cleaners, cooks, child care and shelter workers, rely on public transit to get to and from work. But these workers are not eligible for a TTC discount because funding for phase three of the Fair Pass Discount Program seems to be absent from the budget. We know the City has working poor who would benefit from affordable or even free transit to get into essential services. We expect these people to clean our shelters and work during a pandemic that has exposed them to so much risk, but cannot seem to find an affordable way for them to get to work. This feels wrong.
We have more women in our affordable housing programs who are struggling to pay rent than ever before. We are concerned that the level of funding for rent relief initiatives in the budget does not match the level of growing need across the city. We fear that more women will lose their housing and their children, and will have their safety compromised because the City did not intervene in a critical moment of the pandemic to address growing needs. Funding for a Housing Commissioner is still missing from the budget.
The actions taken with this budget will have long-term ramifications. Many strategies, offices, and novel solutions have been explored but the budget allocations for most of these programs seem to fall short of the type of investment needed to make impact and scale up solutions.
We understand the City is facing many fiscal pressures, but we are worried that this proposed budget has taken an old approach to new and growing problems. As you reflect on all of the deputations over these two days, we do hope you will seriously consider enhanced funding measures, new revenue tools for future years, and creatively support improved access to services, in full and equal partnership with community agencies.
Thank you very much for your time.
Sami Pritchard is the Manager of Advocacy at YWCA Toronto.