A message from Gord – April 23, 2020

Posted on April 23, 2020

Dear Ward 4 residents,

I am continuing to receive multiple updates each day on the City’s response and I am working hard to share that information with you through my social media channels and in email updates like this.

This year, to encourage residents to stay home and stay safe, High Park will be closed during the pre-bloom and peak boom period of the Cherry Blossom trees. The City is working on a virtual walk-through of the blossoming trees in High Park. While this will be disappointing news both for people who love the Cherry Blossoms, and people who regularly use the park, our first duty is to keep each other safe.

Due to the economic impact of COVID-19, many local businesses are in need of short-term economic support and a recovery plan. The City has therefore increased the funding for Digital Main Street Program and launched an online support centre for businesses. Find details on these programs and information on additional resources at toronto.ca/covid19BusinessTO

This morning I received that news that TTC is laying off 1,200 employees. This is terrible. Laying off front line workers delivering critical services and reducing services in the middle of a crisis is not the answer. This is clear evidence that federal and provincial governments should be supporting cities at this time. This morning, Federation of Canadian Municipalities also posted their public appeal for emergency funding to address severe revenue shortfalls during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The City is working hard to support the evolving medical needs of our community during the COVID-19 pandemic. The TTC and Paramedic Services are working together to repurpose five decommissioned TTC buses to safely transport both ambulatory and stretcher-bound patients, including those on ventilators. Modifications to three busses were complete on Tuesday and two are underway.

I know these are stressful times but I am heartened by the efforts of everyone, especially our healthcare workers, to fight this pandemic and save lives. I am confident we will get through this thanks to their hard work and everyone wholeheartedly following the advice from our public health professionals.

Be sure to check toronto.ca/covid-19 for daily updates with the latest health advice and information about City services and social supports.

Sincerely,

Gord

My thoughts on Municipal Finance

Posted on April 23, 2020

Click here to read it as a twitter thread.

Today the Federation of Canadian Municipalities put out a statement asking for $10 -15 Billion in direct federal aid to Cities. This raises some deep questions about public finance, public services and the relationships between orders of government.

The COVID outbreak put an enormous strain on all governments, the fact that municipalities “broke” under that strain reveals an underlying weakness in the current financial and service arrangements between orders of government.

This has happened before. The Great Depression exposed deep problems with who did what. A look at what happened then will help guide us now.

Before the Depression social assistance was provided locally by a hodgepodge of charities (often religious). Today’s Children’s aid societies and the United way are vestigial remnants of that system.

Many municipal governments (including Toronto) had administrative or coordinating roles to make sure that the charity from the wealthy (and some direct government funding) was spent “efficiently”.

This system couldn’t cope when the Depression hit which lead to the first large direct federal role in social assistance, particularly in providing housing and employment insurance.

During the Depression something like 10% of municipalities went bankrupt. This lead to the current legal restriction on municipalities that prevents us from borrowing to cover day-to-day operating costs. It was also a key consideration in the creation of The Bank of Canada.

We need to think on that scale or bigger. The job losses from the first weeks of the pandemic are larger than any period in our economic history.

We also need to understand how bad the City’s finances are. Currently we are spending about $65 million/week more than we take in. For context the total property tax is about $85 million/week. We would need to increase property taxes by 75% if we wanted to cover this ourselves.

This clearly shows that we don’t have the right financial tools for delivering the services we have. This vulnerability is the result of downloading. A few years ago I was at a municipal conference and Hugh MacKenzie presented a graphic representation of downloading.

This shows how much of public capital was owned by which government over time. It only goes to 2003, but the trend continues. Ownership of the assets matters because with ownership comes the responsibility for maintenance. Toronto is tens of billions behind on maintenance.

The story on the operating side is worse. Some of the services for which Toronto has full or partial responsibility, but does not have the financial capacity to carry are shelters, childcare, home for the aged, social housing, and transit.

You may have seen that the TTC is planning to lay off a huge part of it’s workforce. Without help this is just the tip of the iceberg.

FCM is right we need immediate cash. However the impact of COVID will last for years. We also need to negotiate a realignment of roles, responsibilities and revenues.

Finally, cities will be need to provide stimulus and jobs through public works the Feds will have to help with that too. Councillor Joe Cressy wrote about that here. This is an urgent public conversation that needs to take place in full public view.

3194 Dundas Street West Development Update

Posted on April 23, 2020

A rezoning application has been filed by Gairloch Developments to construct an 8-storey mixed-use building at 3194 Dundas Street West. The application proposes 122 m2 of non –residential space at grade, with 88 residential units above, and 55 car parking spaces below. Details are available on the City’s Application Information Centre here.

A pre-application meeting was held on December 9, 2019. City Planning Staff will begin work on a Preliminary Report reviewing the application. There will be further community consultation, however the format is not yet confirmed.

Note: At this time, the Government of Ontario’s Emergency Order suspends limitation periods and procedural time periods set out in legislation and regulation.  This suspension of time periods applies to all Planning Act procedural timelines, including complete application and decision timelines. The suspension is retroactive to March 16, 2020.​

 

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