Mayor John Tory defends new spending on police, 10-cent TTC fare hike on Metro Morning
Tory says many residents, business owners have pushed for bigger police presence in city
Toronto Mayor John Tory on Friday defended his plan to spend nearly $50 million more on the police budget this year, saying he "campaigned openly" on a pitch to improve safety in the city and the funding boost is part of that effort.
Tory told CBC Radio's Metro Morning he has heard from many residents and business owners who want more police officers in their communities.
"It's not that police alone are going to be the answer to the safety challenges we've been facing in the city" but more officers and additional money for "kids and families," as well as bail reform, are all part of the equation, Tory said.
Some critics of the move, like former Toronto Police Services Board chair Alok Mukherjee, have said there is little evidence that bigger police budgets mean more safety.
"You can look at police budgets, police expenditures from around the world. There are much bigger forces in other places ... but there is no evidence they have contributed to greater safety," Mukherjee told CBC Toronto last week.
WATCH | Mayor John Tory pressed on proposed spending increases for police:
In response, Tory said he and "the people of Toronto" disagree with that position.
"The best study I participated in lately was an election," Tory said, noting he won a strong mandate in the October 2022 municipal vote.
"I have the evidence of people telling me" they want a larger police presence in the city, he added. "I'm not going to sit here and apologize," he continued, saying there will be a debate about the budget in council.
Some activists who have called for defunding the police service argue more officers "means more peril" for vulnerable people in the city.
LISTEN | Tory explains why he believes the police budget needs a boost:
An expansive study published by the police service last year found it has disproportionately used force against Black, Indigenous and other diverse groups compared to their share of the population. Former police chief James Ramer made a formal apology to those communities in the wake of the report's release.
Tory said he takes those concerns seriously, but that the question of "how we police is a different question that how many people you have policing."
"The police are on a path to reform themselves, to modernize that and earn back trust that's been eroded there. But that to me is a separate question to how you make the resources available to keep neighbourhoods safe, to keep businesses and the downtown healthy and alive, and that's what I made a decision to do," he said.
Tory announcing measures before release of budget
Tory, along with his budget chief and close council ally Gary Crawford, is scheduled to release his proposed spending plan next Tuesday, when the budget committee has its first meeting of the year.
But the mayor has already been busy this week making announcements about some of his top line priorities for the budget, already drawing criticism from some councillors and advocacy groups.
On Tuesday, Tory said he wants to increase funding for the Toronto Police Service by $48.3 million, pushing the force's total annual budget to more than $1.1 billion.
A majority of the money would be used to hire hundreds more officers and improve 911 call service and response times, he said, while roughly 38 per cent — or about $18 million — will go to scheduled pay raises for police under existing collective agreements.
Councillors opposed to the funding boost for police say the money would be better spent on social programs and services geared toward preventing crime.
TTC fare increase unavoidable, Tory says
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Tory announced that TTC fares would increase by 10 cents per ride and that the city would also invest $53 million in additional money, with some of that directed at improving safety on the network.
Tory told Metro Morning guest host Jason D'Souza that dramatic increases in costs paired with sagging ridership from the pandemic mean a fare increase was unavoidable.
"I'm not sure we have a choice, to be honest," Tory said, noting that inflation has put severe financial pressures on the transit agency.
He said that the planned fare increase comes after two years of freezes. Averaged over that three-year period, it represents annual increases of about one per cent.
"Which I think is pretty fair," Tory said.
Critics of the decision to increase fares say the system needs to be more affordable and accessible to get more riders back on transit. As of last summer, ridership was about 57 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
They have also said that the TTC budget will reduce services and result in some 10-minute wait times for subway service.
On Thursday, Tory pledged $2 billion in gross spending to help address the city's housing crisis.
He says the budget will propose $616 million drawn directly from the city's tax base for housing to build on the mayor's Housing Action Plan, passed by city council in December.
The spending increases pushed by Tory this week come as Toronto faces a deep financial hole. According to a letter sent to the federal and provincial governments in November, the city is heading into 2023 short by $1.489 billion due to COVID-19, inflation and the rising cost of fuel.
Tory noted Friday that after commitments from the province, the city needs roughly $500 million to fill its financial gaps for 2022. The mayor said he is in continued discussions with the federal government for further contributions.
City council will vote on the final budget document in February, though it is likely measures spearheaded by the mayor will survive the debate process. With the recent introduction of "strong mayor" powers, two thirds of council need to vote to override the mayor's proposed budget.
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