Deputation to the City of Toronto’s Striking Committee
November 24, 2022
My name is Jasmine Ramze Rezaee. I am the Director of Advocacy and Communications at YWCA Toronto. We are the city’s largest multi-service women’s organization. We help women, gender diverse people and their children escape violence, move out of poverty, and access safe, affordable housing. Every year we serve around 13,000 people in more than 30 programs from Scarborough to Etobicoke.
I am joining you today firstly to congratulate you on your election or re-election to Council and also to express our concerns about the proposed budget schedule for 2023.
As a community-based organization, we engage in systemic advocacy in collaboration with and on behalf of our community members many of whom are survivors of violence, struggling with poverty and housing instability, and dealing with the intergenerational effects of colonialism.
For the past decade or so, we have actively engaged in the municipal budget process. Every year, we come out to depute. Every year, we attend budget meetings by the City and our partners and lead conversations internally in order to understand what the pressing needs of our community members are, where the concerns with the budget lie, and what we would like to see included in the budget.
This is a time-consuming process. We need time to review the budget materials, analyze them, and develop a comprehensive response based on our advocacy priorities and the needs of our community members.
As I am sure you can appreciate, these are desperate times. The level of need and crisis we are witnessing, particularly on the frontlines, is very high. And, as a community-based nonprofit we do not really have the ability to influence the City’s budget process in any significant way outside of the budget cycle.
So to echo the concerns of the Executive Director at Social Planning Toronto, we are not in favour of a shortened budget cycle. We have always hoped and urged for a more participatory budget process and, internal to the City, called and worked with City staff for an equity lens in the budget – which seems to have been removed altogether this year.
The proposed budget cycle is the least amount of time provided for community to review the budget and depute in recent memory. The reduction of meetings and lack of time to prepare for deputations undermines public participation and transparency. It also restricts Council's ability to review the budget and get answers to critical questions.
In short, we are concerned that these proposed changes will make it more difficult for community members and organizations like us to engage with the budget.
As a proud partner of the City, we hope you will not go down this route. We need a budget process that is as accessible, transparent, and participatory as possible. Many important decisions are made during budget time that directly affect our community members. What we really need is an enhanced budget process, not the one currently being considered.
Thank you for your time.
Jasmine Ramze Rezaee is the Director of Advocacy and Communications at YWCA Toronto.