Tell City Council not to delay action on poverty

A new report examining the proposed 2019 City Budget was recently released. It shows that the new Toronto City Council is already falling behind on their election promises to reduce poverty and improve affordability in Toronto.

Meanwhile, an entire generation is being squeezed out due to the rising costs of housing, child care, transit, and youth programming, and record numbers of people in our city are experiencing homelessness.

But it isn’t too late. City Council votes this Thursday March 7 on the 2019 budget and they need to hear from you.

Use our petition to send a message to the Mayor and your Councillor today. You can edit the message if you’d like!


More Information:

According to Social Planning Toronto’s report, 19 of the 26 elected members of City Council, including Mayor Tory, signed a prosperity pledge during the 2018 election in alignment with the City’s Poverty Reduction Strategy. They committed to building 7,200 new supportive housing units, at least 8,000 new deeply affordable rental housing units, and 1000 new shelter spaces by 2022. They also committed to expanding the TTC reduced fares (Fair Pass) to an additional 157,000 low-income adults, adding 40,000 new recreation program spaces, and 11,500 new child care spaces, including 5,000 subsidized spaces, all by 2022.

With a homelessness and housing crisis in Toronto, rising transit fares (see our petition to stop the transit fare increases here), 11,000 children on the waiting list for an affordable child care space, and a recreation program waiting list of more than 198,000 applications - we need Toronto City Council to keep their promises now more than ever.

Yet the current City Budget already has us falling behind on the City Council’s promises.

We read through the Social Planning Toronto report. We spoke with councillors’ offices about the report’s recommendations and they spoke with the city divisions responsible to find out what might still be possible in this year’s budget.

That’s why we’re asking the Mayor and City Council to vote this Thursday March 7 for an additional property tax increase of at least 0.174% more, representing only an additional $5.08 per year for the average property owner in Toronto, so that Toronto City Council can get back on track to meet it’s poverty reduction targets, by adding:

  • 550 additional child care subsidies [1]

  • 7,500 new recreation spaces [1]

We’re also asking that they:

  • Stay on track with expanding the Transit Fare Equity Program so that it can reach 157,000 lower-income riders by 2022 as promised; and

  • Vote to request an urgent report from City staff on how they can update the capital budget for 2020 to include building thousands more deeply affordable and supportive housing units, as well as more child care spaces. And that this report should include information on how they can add capacity to create more recreation spaces, so that they can meet their own 2022 targets.

This won’t solve all of the shortfalls in this budget, but it’s a start. See our petition on a motion for dedicated funding that Councillor Mike Layton will be moving this Thursday on transit fares, winter maintenance, and Vision Zero here.

The Mayor and Councillors claim that Torontonians do not want to pay even a few dollars more a year in property taxes. But we know that the majority of Torontonians understand that when we all contribute just a little, our dollars go further, life is more affordable, the greater costs of people falling into poverty can be avoided and lives can be saved.

Mayor Tory and your local councillors could keep their promises on Thursday March 7 when they vote on the City Budget, if they hear from enough residents. A massive push from residents now, just a few days before they vote, would show them that there is public support for doing what it takes to make Toronto an affordable and livable city for everyone.

Will you send a message now urging the Mayor and your City Councillor to vote to keep their election promises to take action on poverty? Use our form to send your message to the Mayor and your councillor today.




Background

Progress Toronto supports Social Planning Toronto’s report A City Left Behind: Poverty Reduction, Election Promises, and the 2019 Budget. We encourage you to read the full report [PDF] to get all of the details. We have pulled out a few highlights for you below.

The following councillors signed the Prosperity Pledge in the 2019 election:

Prosperity Pledge Signatories.png

The Prosperity Pledge that 19/26 members of Toronto City Council signed reads:

I PLEDGE, if elected to Toronto City Council, to work with community, business and faith leaders to reduce poverty and inequality in Toronto, and to support the full funding and full implementation of Toronto’s Poverty Reduction Strategy (TO Prosperity) and other Council-approved equity initiatives over the 2018–2022 term, including the following approved actions:

  • 7,200 new supportive housing units, at least 8,000 new deeply affordable rental housing units, and 1,000 new shelter spaces

  • Reduced TTC fares for an additional 157,000 lower-income adults

  • 11,500 new child care spaces, including 5,000 subsidized spaces

  • 40,000 new recreation program spaces

The Proposed 2019 City Budget means City Council is already falling behind

Taken from the Social Planning Toronto Report:  A City Left Behind [PDF]

Taken from the Social Planning Toronto Report: A City Left Behind [PDF]

The following is taken from the Social Planning Report here.

 

Housing and Homelessness

“The waiting list for social housing now surpasses 100,000 households. Nearly half of all tenant households lack affordable housing.Toronto’s shelter system has never met its own occupancy standard of 90% since that standard was re-established by Council in 2013. The City’s respite centres, Out of the Cold programs, and 24-hour drop-ins are now assisting over 1,000 people a night who can’t find a proper shelter bed. These programs are not shelters. They do not meet the City’s shelter standards. Yet, this is the state of the crisis”  -  (Social Planning Toronto Report, 12-13)

Supportive housing: Of the 7,200 new supportive units in the Pledge, 1,278 new units/supports will be provided over the next three years. There are no plans for the remaining 5,922 units/supports.

Deeply affordable rental housing: Of the 8,000 new deeply affordable rental housing units in the Pledge, 1,707 units/allowances will be provided over the next three years. There are no plans for the remaining 6,293 units/ allowances.

Shelters: Of the 1,000 new shelter spaces in the Pledge, all 1,000 are expected to be completed in 2020


Child Care

“Licensed child care spaces provide for less than 20% of the city’s children, and fee subsidies are available to only one-third of children under age 13 from low-income families. Over 11,000 children are on the waiting list for subsidized child care in Toronto — while a considerable drop in recent years, still a substantial level of unmet need.40,41 Recent research from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives confirms that Toronto has the highest child care costs in the country for infants and preschool age children and second highest for toddlers” - (Social Planning Toronto Report, 18)

Child care spaces: Of the 11,500 new child care spaces in the Pledge, 2,817 will be completed by 2024. There are no plans for the remaining 8,683 spaces.

Child care subsidies: Of the 5,000 new subsidies in the Pledge, 760 will be added by 2022. There are no plans for the remaining 4,240 subsidies.


Public Transit

“As part of the City’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, Toronto City Council passed a motion to create the Transit Fare Equity Program.33 Recognizing the importance of access to public transit, Toronto City Council created this program to provide reduced transit fares and passes for low-income adults.”  -  (Social Planning Toronto Report,15)

Reduced transit fares: The Pledge called for reduced transit fares for an additional 157,000 lower-income adults. The 2019 budget expands eligibility for 23,000 adults. At present, funding to expand eligibility for the remaining 134,000 adults is not confirmed.


Recreation

“In 2018, Toronto City Council adopted a three-year Community Recreation Growth Plan to begin to address the waiting list, which had reached over 198,000 applications for recreation programs — an increase of 74% in three years.”   Social Planning Toronto Report, 21)

Recreation program spaces: Of the 40,000 new recreation spaces in the Pledge, 7,500 are included in the 2019 budget. The remaining 32,500 are unfunded.

City Council can make a different choice on March 7

“Rather than fully funding Council-approved strategies and plans, the budget reveals the real priorities of Council — low property taxes that especially benefit the affluent, no new revenue tools (i.e., taxes from other sources), and expensive capital projects that don’t deliver on the critical needs of Toronto residents...The current budget is designed to serve the most affluent Torontonians at the expense of everyone else, especially the poorest of our city”  (Social Planning Toronto Report, 7)

Toronto City Council will be making changes to the City Budget on Thursday March 7. They can choose to improve the budget so we can meet the poverty reduction targets that the majority of councillors (and the mayor) committed to during the 2018 election. Sign the petition to send a message to the Mayor and Toronto City Council to ask them to keep their promises.