Dianne’s Desk


Hello Neighbours,

It’s 2° Celsius outside, and on Friday it will be 10°.

In Toronto. In February.

Meanwhile, Cape Breton digs out from under a mountain of snow the likes of which few have seen in their lifetime. The weather trends are telling and serve as yet another reminder of the speed at which climate change is affecting the country. Disconcerted like the rest of you by days spring days in winter, I am more determined than ever to help Toronto rise to our shared future challenges.

At this time every year, City Hall is dominated by the city’s budget. Toronto is squeezed between an inadequate, inflexible revenue source (property tax, which doesn’t grow even when property values do) and soaring financial demands. With only 9 cents of every tax dollar, we face aging infrastructure, spiralling construction costs, and a growing population, plus ~$1.5 billion for poverty reduction, which should be paid for by the Ford government. At the same time, many residents are facing financial hardship and feel unable to pay more. The city is doing its best we can to balance these difficult pressures while protecting current service levels, despite serious financial traps, including:

1. The number of refugees in Toronto doubled last year and is likely to double again this year, a fact compounded by tragic global crises. The $250 million from the federal government, as proposed, would only shelter ~5000 refugee claimants. We have 5,800 now and are on track for over >10,000 this year. No one has a plan to scale our response to this issue.

2. High-quality infrastructure is indispensable for a prosperous community. However, we are spending so much to shore up the province’s social services that we can’t fix our infrastructure. We are so far behind on critical repairs to roads, parks, arenas, etc. that costs and breakdowns are going shockingly higher. Expect exponential cost increases, worsening roads and dropping reliability.

3. We’re almost completely off track regarding climate, neither meeting climate reduction targets nor getting ready for what’s ahead. Both mean worse health and bigger costs ahead.

I don’t officially sit on the Budget Committee. But, to protect your interests and to strike the right balance between needs and ability to pay, I read through every budget document and asked tough questions at each and every Budget Committee meeting. See our video summary of this committee work. We had a great Ward 11 Townhall on the budget in January. I also read all of your emails to me on the topic – thank you for caring enough to write!

Many of your comments focused on the proposed police budget, arguing for increases to deal with hate, auto theft and break-ins, or decreases to fund other priorities. This detailed Budget Note sets out the CFO’s rationale. Please join me at my February 15 Ward 11 Townhall to discuss safety, auto theft and policing in our ward.

The final budget will be determined by the mayor with feedback provided by Toronto City Council. Meanwhile, I secured some wins for you on committees. For example, in light of highprofile controversies at 300 and 316 Bloor W, the Planning and Housing Committee agreed to consider limiting how much extra height committees of adjustment give high-rise developers as “minor variances”. Infrastructure and Environment Committee agreed that bike lanes should be “safe and passable” for bicycles, not just for cars. IEC agreed that we should obtain a net gain for endangered species when developers put replacement habitat on City property. This builds on my success in ensuring that two chimneys will be built for chimney swifts in Budd Sugarman Park, instead of just one.

Tax season is around the corner! A special thank you to anyone who made political or charitable donations in 2023; be sure to look for and file your documents. We invite you as always to reach out to our staff with questions and concerns. Best wishes for some real winter this season and a good year beyond.



Development

Development Map coming soon!