Tory gets his budget, then dips
Former Mayor John Tory at City Hall to pass his last budget, Feb 15, 2023. Photo by Terence Reeves.

Tory Gets His Budget, Then Dips

The 2023 Toronto city budget didn’t go to a vote. With the “Strong Mayor” powers granted by Doug Ford’s PC government, now-former Mayor John Tory prepared the budget, and that’s it.

All City Council could do was propose minor amendments to the budget and vote on those.

In the past, councillors debated and voted on the City budgets. But the mayor is now much more powerful.

Tory’s budget came in at $16 billion. City Council made amendments to spending totalling around $8 million. That amounts to changes to 0.05 per cent of the spending.

There was the largest property tax increase in years, at 5.5 per cent, plus a 1.5 per cent rise in the building levy. There was a smaller commercial property tax increase of 2.75 percent. This will raise additional revenues, but the city continues facing shortfalls, and is appealing to the provincial and federal governments to chip in funds. Some funds have been promised but not yet delivered.

Toronto Police got a $48 million increase to their budget, which was a bit over a billion dollars a year already.

Alejandra Bravo, city councillor for Davenport, introduced an amendment to take $900,000 off of that increase and allocate it to 24/7 warming centres so that unhoused people wouldn’t freeze in the cold. Loss of limbs and death from frostbite is common in the city.

Several city councillors spoke in opposition to this motion.

York South-Weston councilor Frances Nunziatta, who was seen being chummy with Toronto Police Services executives in the gallery during breaks, was one of them. Nunziatta argued that she would not allow “even a dime” of the police’s budget to be reallocated anywhere.

Beaches-East York councillor Brad Bradford questioned Bravo repeatedly about whether she was trying to “defund the police.” Bradford is being supported by conservative politicians as a potential Tory 2.0.

Bravo’s motion failed 8 to 17, with one abstention.

The one significant amendment to pass came from councillor for Don Valley North Shelley Carrol, who has become increasingly aligned with Tory over the years. The amendment introduced $7 million in funding for various social services.

That included $800,000 for warming centres, which is about enough for one new centre to open for two months of 24/7 operation. That should give likely enough warming centre capacity for the rest of this winter. Then the same capacity issue will come back again in the fall as temperatures drop.

The TTC saw a modest increase in funding in Tory’s budget, but not enough to prevent the transit service from raising fares by 10 cents and increasing wait times along many routes.

Shortly after the council meeting, Tory submitted his formal resignation. The week before, The Toronto Star broke the story that he, long married and in his late 60s, had a sexual relationship with a staff member in his office who seems to have been 29 when it started. He said the relationship had ended before the story broke.

This article appeared in the 2023 Feb/Mar issue.