Toronto urges Ottawa to keep its $235 million promise

May 24, 2023 | Canadian News, News

The City encouraged Torontonians to push the Canadian government in keeping its funding commitment, which could have been used to ease post-pandemic financial stress.

The city said in a news release on May 23, 2023 that Ottawa was yet to provide the promised $235 million COVID-19 pandemic support for Toronto’s 2022 Budget.

Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie said she was “asking residents to join [them] in this fight [as] the City of Toronto does not have the resources or revenue tools to address the unprecedented financial pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The financial pressure stemmed from “lost revenue from reduced TTC ridership, increased costs to shelter to growing number of people experiencing homelessness and much more,” according to a city media statement.

“During the 2021 federal election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau personally committed to help Toronto through the pandemic,” the release said. “To date, the Government of Canada has not provided the promised funding.”

The city said the funding for frontline services may be affected in the future, because of the lack of government support.

Toronto spokesperson Erin George said the 2022 budget shortfall will be offset with one-time funds that “would otherwise be allocated to capital projects.”

That “would consist of up to $300 million from paused 2022 capital projects,” and also “up to $154 million in funds originally intended for capital use that were set aside in a dedicated reserve fund since the onset of the pandemic,” George said.

City Councillor for York Centre James Pasternak said Toronto needed the funding for basic services like park and road maintenance, TTC services, and keeping up with municipal licensing.

“These were just a few of the services that would suffer unless the federal government comes to the table,” Pasternak said.

“Justin Trudeau who is in power, because the people of Toronto elected federal MPs to Ottawa,” he said. “We are not asking for the Sun or the Moon.

“This is not a bailout, this is an investment,” because the city is the economic engine of the country, it drives the provincial economy, and thus national economy, he said.

“If this was a bank failure, the federal government, Chrystia Freeland would be on her hands with this with billions of dollars to help out, coming down Bay Street,” Pasternak said.

He said one of the reasons why the government was not giving the fund was that this is a municipal government, “something they can say no to.”

Pasternak said he acknowledged that $235 million was a large sum of money, but Torontonians were just asking Trudeau to keep his campaign promises from 2021.

George said the city hoped that with Torontonians reaching out to their MPs will help secure the promised funding.