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Toronto gives some residents a choice with participatory budgeting

There’s a new way forward for residents to have a direct say in improving some neighbourhoods in Toronto.

'What do you want us to build with this money today?' asks Ward 33 Coun. Shelley Carroll

Coun. Shelley Carroll says this new pilot project encourages community involvement. 4:59

There's a new way for residents to have a direct say in improving some neighbourhoods in Toronto.

A pilot project launched in May puts projects in the hands of residents by allowing them to vote for initiatives they support.

"What do you want us to build with this money today?" asks Ward 33 Coun. Shelley Carroll, who's behind bringing the participatory budgeting (PB) project to Toronto.

In three communities, residents are voicing their reasons to support projects in their own neighbourhoods. Oakridge already voted on a project last weekend, Rustic followed suit Saturday and Ward 33 is concluding their vote today.    

Carroll says the new project gives residents plenty of food for thought on how things get built in cities as well as the power to impact real change in their community.

"They learn how municipal government works by engaging in developing projects and then the whole ward, from the age of 14 and up, whether you're a citizen or not, comes and votes on how we spend the money. That's PB."

Ward 33 Coun. Shelley Carroll says participatory budgeting allows residents to see how municipal government works. (CBC)
Carroll says in the "age of disgruntlement," many are eager to find holes in new ideas and quickly shoot them down. With community involvement, that morphs into more of a discussion.

"They build the ideas," the councillor says of residents. "There is no 'no' with participatory budgeting. Here is some money, which thing do you want to say yes to?"

The councillor says this project puts the onus on residents to ask themselves what they'd like to see improve in their neighbourhood. Of course, there are some conditions.

"It has to be capital, a thing you build," she says, not long-term projects that would require ongoing funding.

Carroll says this initiative allows residents to learn more about their community and city staff to better understand the wants and needs of their constituents.

If all goes well, there's a chance the project may spread to other parts of Toronto, which has happened in other big cities such as New York City and Chicago with some success.  

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