YWCA Toronto Statement on the 2021 City Budget
January 15, 2021
The 2021 City Budget contains some promising new and enhanced investments in equity areas and has succeeded in largely maintaining service levels at a time of heightened financial uncertainty. However, it fails to address the emerging needs of Torontonians 10 months into a pandemic that promises to go on much longer.
The staff-recommended budget ignored a huge opportunity to reallocate funding from the police budget and to introduce new sources of revenue like a luxury homes tax.
While the City is reliant on funding from provincial and federal governments to balance the books, it needs to take bold positions in support of communities facing marginalization – if not during a global pandemic then when? There is no better time to introduce new sources of revenue, make significant gender investments, and re-consider police-centric community safety models.
Missed opportunities cannot be the theme that dominates the budget. The time for urgent action is now. While we are grateful not to see service cuts, a lack of significant investments across all service areas effectively amounts to a cut just the same.
Some highlights from the 2021 City budget launch:
• $54 million in new investments are included to address “inequities and modernizations initiatives” such as affordable housing, transit fare pass programs and community-based safety initiatives, which is great. But, is it enough to ensure the success of, for example, the pilot project exploring alternative policing? Only a fraction of those new investments has been slated for the pilot.
• $12 million of those new investments for equity and reconciliation initiatives to go towards things like the expanded fare pass program, police reform pilot and community safety, housing initiatives, data for equity unit, Indigenous affairs support, and the elimination of child library fines.
• There is a 170% increase in budget funding to the Housing Secretariat, which oversees affordable housing in Toronto. Their investment in Shelter, Support and Housing Administration will create 3,000 temporary shelter beds while following social distancing public health guidelines.
• There is a 22.6% increase in funding for Toronto Public Health.
• In the capital budget, the City is investing $7.3 billion to realize the HousingTO Action Plan and other housing commitments over a number of years and will need an additional $4.4 billion more from federal and provincial governments to make this a reality.
• Unfortunately, there is no new money going to child care, which is disheartening given the financial impact the pandemic has had on child care centres and the ongoing need for care given that the Province’s stay-at-home emergency order does not apply to child care centres. In fact, there is a 7.7% cut earmarked for children’s services.
• While there is $1.7 million earmarked for the community-based crisis response pilot, there is no indicated plan for investing in this long-term, nor an explanation for why this funding did not come out of the police budget.
• $399,700 for confronting anti-Black racism and poverty-reduction – while welcome, it is far from enough to staff and build out properly such a response. Plus, it is funding that is earmarked to end in 2022.
• Property taxes will go up by 0.7% in line with inflation. It is not enough, given the immense and
urgent pressures facing Torontonians in need of increased services and supports right now.
• $740 million of federal and provincial funding has been confirmed for the City for 2021, but that leaves more than $900 million “assumed” dollars to achieve the balance this budget requires.
YWCA Toronto plans to depute before the Budget Committee on January 25th, and with partners we look forward to preparing a robust response to this draft budget with concrete ideas for how it might be improved before it is voted on by Council.
The Budget presentation and documents made available Thursday can be accessed on the City website.
YWCA Toronto operates on the traditional territory of the Huron-Wendat and Petun First Nations, the Seneca, and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. We are grateful to work on this territory as we strive to build a more equitable and just city for women, girls, and gender-diverse communities.
Jasmine Ramze Rezaee, Director of Advocacy and Communications, YWCA Toronto
416-961-8101 x 321 | firstname.lastname@example.org