Toronto is getting the big investments in affordable housing and transit it wanted in this year's federal budget, but transit riders are losing a tax credit than can be worth hundreds of dollars.
The federal government unveiled its new budget in Ottawa on Wednesday, including $11.2 billion over 11 years for a national housing strategy and $20.1 billion for transit projects across the country over the same timeframe.
- LIVE BLOG | Highlights from the 2017 federal budget
However, it is also cutting the Public Transit Tax Credit, which was likely used by many in the GTA and was worth some $200 for those paying upwards of $113 per month for transit. The government deemed the credit was "ineffective in encouraging the use of public transit and reducing greenhouse gas emissions."
Here it is! The next step in our ambitious plan to make smart investments & build a brighter future for Canadians. https://t.co/Dt13nlj78d— @Bill_Morneau
The budget also includes $7 billion over 10 years for new child-care spaces, beginning in 2018. That investment will likely be welcomed by parents in this city, who are currently paying the highest daycare prices in the country.
Mayor John Tory, still on a trade mission in India, issued a statement saying the budget "will ensure a stronger Toronto" and praising the federal government for embracing its role in building up the city.
In addition to major infrastructure funding, Tory said new money for innovation, skills development and child care will be important steps for residents of this city.
Affordable housing money welcomed in Alexandra Park
Kiley Fleming grew up in downtown Toronto's Alexandra Park neighbourhood and now works as a youth worker there.
While she doesn't know how the new money will be spent, she said it's important for the city to maintain its affordable housing.
For individuals, she said, it's important to have a place to call their own. But it also matters for the city as a whole.
"If we don't have affordable housing and people leave the city, then what happens? Do we lose our diversity? Do we lose our face of being this multicultural space and place to live?" she said.
Coun. Ana Bailao, the chair of the city's affordable housing committee, said the federal funding will make a major difference for Toronto's affordable housing system.
"Toronto is not alone. There is clearly a federal government that is saying. 'Housing is an issue' and that is willing to come to the table," she said, adding this is something that hasn't happened in years.
Bailao said the city, which has some 90,000 households on a waiting list for social housing, now needs to work with the province to get that money flowing quickly.
The government will also spend $202 million over 11 years to make surplus federal lands and buildings available to housing providers at low or no cost to develop affordable housing.
City could get $5B in transit funding, TTC chair says
TTC Chair Josh Colle said he's "thrilled" with the transit funding, which could total some $5 billion.
Although the federal budget doesn't state exactly how much money will flow to Toronto, Colle said this city should take a lion's share of the funding due to its ridership numbers. The new funding is expected to be applied to "Phase 2" of the city's transit plans, which include long-term projects like the Scarborough East LRT, Downtown Relief Line and Waterfront LRT.
Colle said he doesn't know how many people were availing of the transit tax credit, but said its elimination could hurt some people.
"Anything that puts pressure on people using transit is a concern," he said.
People who use Uber and other ride-hailing services should also expect to pay more, as those companies will now be forced to pay GST.
Parents could get some relief
During Toronto's budget process, parents paying the highest child-care rates anywhere in Canada staged several protests, warning the cost was becoming too much. Some mothers said they were forced to quit their jobs, as it was cheaper to stay home and not work rather than pay for daycare.
While the budget features new money for child care — as well as an option to extend maternity leaves — it's unclear how much it will save parents in this city when the money kicks in next year.
Coun. Janet Davis tried to break down what the city would be getting on Twitter, but said more details are necessary.
Fed budget commits $7B over 10 yrs for 40,000 child care fee subsidies. ON promised 100k over 5. Time to negotiate agreement w TO at table. pic.twitter.com/Mmur0AKqsc— @Janet_Davis
Budget Chief Gary Crawford called the funding "critical," but echoed the need for more details.
Toronto's budget chief welcomes new money
Crawford praised the budget as a whole and said it shows the Canadian government recognizes Toronto's importance. Crawford said the long-term nature of the investments will allow the city to better plan major infrastructure projects.
"We can start plugging some serious numbers in," he told reporters.
While billions are on the way, Crawford also said it's crucial for the province to match the federal funding. Ontario is set to release its budget later this spring.
The city has some $33 billion worth of infrastructure projects to pay for.
One last thing
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