Torontonians have their say on city budget

Toronto residents lined up to express their views about the city's proposed budget on Wednesday - including one woman who came away with a $1,000 cheque.

Coun. Doug Ford cuts a $1,000 cheque to help one school's nutrition plan

Budget deputations

11 years ago
Duration 2:03
Taxpayers give councillors an earful

Hundreds of people — 348 to be exact — were hoping to have their opinions heard about Toronto's 2012 budget, but fewer than half got a chance during a 12-hour session on Wednesday.

A total of 154 people had their say, leaving almost 200 people to speak during the final 12 hours of deputations Thursday.

The city's nutrition program, which feeds more than 10,000 students, was a major topic during the later hours of the meeting at city hall — so much so that one woman walked away with $1,000 from Coun. Doug Ford.

Jennifer Lawson-Tozzi, co-ordinator of the student nutrition program at St. Maurice Catholic School in Ford's Ward 2, pleaded with council not to take away her school's nutrition program. 

Ford cut her a cheque for $1,000 and said he'll also make up any further difference if the city decides to go through with $380,000 in cuts to the program, which gives thousands of elementary students in Toronto a healthy snack.

Many voices

The school nutrition programs were just one of many topics that came up during the marathon session. Many people spoke out against the cuts contained in the proposed 2012 budget.

Earlier in the day, residents from a shelter for men in the city's east-end asked the budget committee to spare their home.

"This place is unique," resident David Smith said during his time.  "It's the only one of its kind."

"If you want to look at the cuts don't look at us, we're senior citizens, we've put our time in our country, we've paid our taxes," he said.

Elizabeth Magner of St. Mattias Church, spoke on behalf of the women at Bellwoods House, a long-term shelter for 10 women over the age of 50.  It too is slated to close.

"[The women] definitely can't go back to their homes or their families," she said, asking the committee to spare the facility.

Some, like Elisha Param of St. Stephen's Community House, warned of the impact of cuts.

Param told the commitee it could "bring back the vehicle tax, or use the surplus to save community services." 

Opal Sparks, who arrived more than two hours before the meeting started, said she was concerned about the future of the WheelTrans service for commuters with mobility issues, which she uses regularly.

"During the winter time if WheelTrans doesn’t pick me up, I’m housebound," she told CBC.

But not all of the speakers were against the mayor's plan.

The Toronto Real Estate Board said the city needs to move even faster and get rid of the land transfer tax on home sales.

"It's not good, it does not solve a problem," said TREB president Richard Silver.

The Toronto Board of Trade lauded most aspects of the budget and agreed with budget chief Mike Del Grande's warning that if cuts are taken off the table, another program must be identified to offset it.

For Del Grande it appeared to be an exercise in frustration. "Everyone is saying, don't touch this, don't touch that," he said.

He said the committee has some difficult decisions to make.

"Up to this point in time, [we are hearing] we want you to continue the [current] spending level, but we don't have any suggestions for you.  You figure it out."

Mayor Rob Ford announced the draft budget on Nov. 28. The budget will curtail city spending and calls for:

  • A 2.5 per cent property tax increase.
  • Closure of two outdoor pools  and five wading pools
  • A 10 per cent TTC fare increase and service reductions on 56 bus and six streetcar routes.
  • Closures of certain arenas during midday.
  • Reduction of more than 2,000 city staff positions.

Ward 33 Councillor Shelley Carroll said the deputations are more than political theatre.

"I think that councillors are starting to listen to the community, so deputations are more important now than they’ve been throughout this term of office," she said.

People who don't get to speak by 9:30 p.m. Thursday will be asked to submit their presentations to the budget committee in writing.

The final budget will be presented to council Jan. 12.