(January 28, 2023) Let’s start by remembering that mental health treatment and addiction response are dramatically underfunded by the provincial government. Ten months ago, on March 3, 2022, the Conservatives, Liberals, and NDP at Queen’s Park all agreed to give $1 billion every year to cars. Only the Ontario Green Party voted against this. We wanted to spend that money on mental health. At the same time, the Ford government has cut hundreds of millions of dollars of city revenue, as well as paying nothing towards the TTC operating costs or Covid losses. As a result, the city has less money than ever to support people in crisis, just as the need is larger than ever.
The city is doing what it can. In the most difficult budget year we’ve ever had since inauguration, we did set aside money for additional ‘Streets to Home’ workers and special constables on the TTC. We’re also rolling out the 211 Community Crisis Service pilot as fast as we can. This is faster and cheaper than police and much less traumatic for the person in crisis. We are also building affordable housing as fast as we can. We expanded shelter spaces by 50% since 2019, and I hope to be able to announce an additional warming center before the end of January.
The TTC is also doing everything it can. I strongly support their demand for a meeting with all levels of government, demanding that they take it seriously and provide the resources necessary to respond. In the meantime, it’s prudent to have the SafeTTC app on your phone. There’s a designated safe area on every subway platform, which is under direct observation. I’m also very glad to see so many TTC supervisors on subway platforms this week.