At a time when the cost of living in Canada is on the rise and life in the city of Toronto isn't getting any cheaper, the idea that things might be about to get even worse is the last thing we want to hear.
But, Mayor John Tory acknowledged that possibility in a rather eye-opening letter Thursday, warning that Toronto could be facing tax hikes, service cuts, and job losses without more financial support from upper levels of government — and he said that support is needed now.
In the open letter addressed to Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Canada's Finance Minister, Chrystia Freeland, Tory thanked both levels of government for their support over the course of the pandemic but made it clear that more is needed.
"I am writing today to reiterate our request for continued assistance from the Government of Canada and the Province of Ontario to address the continued impacts COVID-19 is having on our city’s finances, so that we do not have to make deep cuts to services our residents require, impose massive tax increases they cannot afford or implement reductions to our capital budget which will eliminate thousands of jobs and threaten our economic recovery," Tory wrote in the letter. "The City requires an immediate funding commitment for 2022 and 2023 COVID-19 impacts to avoid an unprecedented and inflationary property tax increase, extreme service cuts and elimination of programs."
\u201cMy letter to @cafreeland and @fordnation on the need for all governments to work together to address the continued impacts of COVID-19 on our City\u2019s finances.\n\nPlease see my letter below.\u201d— John Tory (@John Tory) 1668094706
Tory spelled out where Toronto is still yet to see life and business reach pre-pandemic levels.
Weekly ridership on the TTC is still between 65% and 70% of the norm, adding up to $123 million in lost revenue so far this year.
Public health guidelines on physical distancing have required the city to open many more shelters. That, along with an increased number of people experiencing homelessness in Toronto has cost the city $201 million in 2022.
Another $491 million dollars has been lost because of the reduction in travel and in-person working, impacting revenue streams from hotels, user fees, parking fees, and other services.
"Given our limited options to raise revenue, and our inability to run budget deficits, we do not have the fiscal capacity to absorb these massive shocks to our system," said Tory.
Having just secured his third term as mayor, Tory ran on an election promise of keeping property taxes low, specifically below the rate of inflation in 2023.
His request to the province and federal government comes four days before the Ontario government is due to release its fall economic statement.
In the letter, Tory said a funding commitment is needed by November 30 so the city can finalize its operating budget for 2023.