John Tory amps up pressure on province as council set to debate budget

City council will begin debating this year’s budget Wednesday, but Mayor John Tory is focused on pressing the provincial and federal governments for more funding in the future.

Councillors set to debate 2017 budget during back-to-back meetings

Toronto Mayor John Tory used his Empire Club of Canada speech to call on the provincial government to provide more money to the city in the future. (John Rieti/CBC)

City council will begin debating this year's budget Wednesday, but Mayor John Tory is focused on pressing the provincial and federal governments for more funding in the future.

Tory issued five new demands to the Ontario government at a Monday speech to the Empire Club of Canada, including a call for the province to pay for repair and maintenance work on the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway — especially because it rejected the tolls on the city-owned highways that could have helped pay for that work.

"The very same people that said 'no' to that have to be the ones that say 'yes' to supporting us in different ways," Tory said.

"Even if they made a contribution ... I would think that's a step forward, but at the present time they contribute basically nothing," he said.

The mayor's new requests, however, won't change the budget in front of councillors during two scheduled days of budget debates.

Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell has vowed to fight a proposed cut that would see 10 fewer workers at city shelters, while Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti told a crowd of hundreds earlier this week that he'd take on a number of measures in this year's budget.

Coun. Pam McConnell said the city needs to restore funding for several anti-poverty measures in this year's budget. (John Rieti/CBC)

Tory expects the budget to pass, but said he will welcome debate on issues like shelter staffing.

"I don't take any decisions lightly to change any arrangements," Tory told reporters.

Mayor issues list of demands

Many critics have blasted this year's budget throughout the months-long process, saying it makes life less affordable for Torontonians. But Tory has disputed that criticism, saying the budget includes millions for anti-poverty measures, public transit and affordable housing.

In the future, he's calling on the province to match federal funding for transit and housing projects, and actually wants the federal government to require cost-matching.

"It would be a stiffer requirement on the part of the federal government," Tory said, adding he feels quite confident Ottawa will deliver on its funding commitments.

The mayor also asked the Ontario government to provide several pieces of land, at no cost, so the city could develop affordable housing projects on them. And he wants the government to commit to helping with flood protection measures in the Port Lands — an area where the province has already provided $16.5 million.

The city is also awaiting provincial approval to implement a hotel and short-term accommodation tax.

About the Author

John Rieti

John Rieti covers city hall and city issues for CBC Toronto. Born and raised in Newfoundland, John has worked in CBC newsrooms across the country in search of great stories. Outside of work, catch him running or cycling around, often armed with a camera, always in search of excellent coffee.

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