City of Toronto Budget update

As more information about the 2011 Budget is finally provided, I am left with more and more concerns.

I am disappointed that we are seeing the beginning of deep cuts to programs and services, a lax attitude towards writing billion dollar Capital and Operating budgets, and the manipulation of words to protect campaign promises instead of protecting the liveability of our city.

Mayor Ford’s 2011 budget introduces changes to our city’s Priority Recreation Centres, one of which is in our ward, Masaryk-Cowan Recreation Centre. Eliminating the full accessibility of our adult recreation programs hurts low income families within our community. It creates a financial barrier to opportunity.

The 2011 budget also increases fees for city recreation programs. And there are cuts to the tenant defence fund, a fund initially set up to provide the most basic of protection to tenants.

Although not overly visible this year, serious increases to the structural deficit will mean deep cuts to programs and services in 2012. ‘Short term gain equals long term pain’

There is a clear anti-TTC sentiment in this budget. There will be TTC service cuts, there will be a TTC capital cut, $3 billion is missing in the budget, and Transit City is cut with no replacement plan yet thought out.

There are also cuts to important environmental initiatives.

This budget will eliminate a program that provides homeowners a $60 or $75 rebate to replace water-guzzling toilets with modern, low-flow units and a $60 rebate for the purchase of efficient front-loading clothes washers. Toilets are the single biggest use of water in the average home. In a staff report, as of last month, this program introduced back in 2003 to reduce water consumption and avoid having to expand the water system at great cost, has cost a total of $37.3 million, while reducing water consumption and saving up to $180 million in future water system expansion costs.

The lack of planning and understanding of a budget of this magnitude is evident in the back and forth of their balancing act.

We have seen a week of TTC fare hikes one day and no TTC fare hike the next, TTC service cuts one day and no service cuts the next. This is a billion dollar budget. Changes should be thoughtfully considered. This budget provides programs and services that are the backbone of our city.

City services and programs create a liveable city. Boasting of a tax freeze when users fees are increasing and service cuts are evident is deceitful and harmful to our city.

My view of this budget is that it begins the reversal of 7 years of hard work to create prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all Torontonians.

Budget 2011 is available on-line at www.toronto.ca/budget2011.

……….and finally, thank you to everyone who has phoned and written Mayor Ford, Members of the Budget Committee and City Council, to everyone who has attended and deputed at the Budget Sub-Committee meetings. We must continue to voice our concerns.