Written by: Michael Manu, Toronto Youth Cabinet Budget Lead
Toronto’s former City Manager left our elected officials with an important consideration. He noted that the city, with all of its success, has severe, threatening pressures that must be addressed before they lead to severe consequences. He tasked the city with multiple recommendations, one of which implored Council to clearly identify a strategy that will drive fiscal policy. The recommendations were laid out in what is known as the Long-Term Financial Plan, which the Mayor and Executive Committee considered earlier this year.
The Plan highlighted that if the City continues with current operating budget practices, a funding gap of at least $900M will exist by 2023 – at the minimum. In addition, current revenue streams may render a Capital Budget funding gap of several billion dollars if a city building approach is undertaken. It is reasonable to assume that an issue of this magnitude would be given ample time in the Council Chamber. This important piece of business was not debated, however. As someone who is genuinely concerned about the City’s financial viability, it is disappointing that such a pressing issue was essentially deferred to a time not yet known.
I have been waiting for the budget to be given a serious platform during this election. Due to unforeseen circumstances, other issues have taken up most of the discourse. Nonetheless, it is disappointing that only ONE of the mainstream mayoral candidates has at the minimum, discussed the issue.
For the Mayor and Council, it is crucial to reach a consensus on this issue. The demand for city services is growing, and we cannot continue to defer Toronto’s future direction for another generation to be burdened with. Elected officials can do much more to inform residents on what the issues facing Toronto are, what the strategic options are going forward, and what the impact and outcomes of each will be. It is unfortunate that only the most informed are aware of this threat to our beloved city as we go to the polls. And to delve into how these measures have and will affect the least among us would be worth another blog post.
The lack of discourse for the Long-Term Financial Plan highlights the contemporary Council attitude when it comes to city building. Strategies and initiatives are awesome and make it appear as if our elected officials are making strides. However, intent is demonstrated by funding. In addition, Council continues to maintain the practice of setting revenues before determining expenses rather than defining our needs and subsequently applying an appropriate fiscal policy. It is no surprise they are taking the same approach here!
If I were the mayor, I would push to build support for determining an action item regarding the plan, at the latest before the 2020 Budget Cycle. To make this a vibrant and equitable city for all, I would also mandate a city-building approach and fund it accordingly. Investment is an important factor in ensuring Toronto’s greatness is maintained and expanded! It is time to be bold.
The “If I Were Mayor” blog series profiles the ideas of youth and rising leaders from across the GTHA as a way to add their voices to the municipal conversation. Posts have been curated by CivicAction’s Emerging Leaders Network, For Youth Initiative, Laidlaw Foundation, Toronto Youth Cabinet, Citizen Empowerment Project, Young Women’s Leadership Network, and the Centre for Community and Immigration Services. The views contained in this post are the author’s and are not reflective of CivicAction or the CivicAction Leadership Foundation.