Mayor John Tory stands firm on low taxes in the face of massive budget shortfall, declining city services and debt
By Jennifer Smith 9 September 2019
The news reports, particularly those emerging from Toronto, have painted a grim picture of conditions across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) as the city continues its decline, facing a massive $12.9 billion deficit and with services that are in crisis.
Toronto is suffering from two problems. Government expenditures are out of control, with the lion’s share of what is spent on public services being allocated to policing. Meanwhile, housing costs continue to soar, particularly in housing-scarce areas of the city. The city is also in the midst of a crisis of leadership: Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders announced in June that he intends to cut 300 police officers through layoffs, and that it’s also considering the further closure of 12 neighbourhood police services and a cut in services that are essential to the functioning of the justice system.
The cuts are part of an austerity programme that has been in place since the beginning of the year and will continue for at least another two years. Chief Saunders has also announced that his department will launch a new “war-on-crime” strategy, in which, as the Globe and Mail reported last week, he would consider closing or reorganizing many of the city’s existing crime reduction units, as well as the police service’s dedicated unit fighting gun homicides.
The city’s public services are in crisis. At current rates, Toronto’s police force could face a $30 million deficit year over year, in addition to billions of dollars of annual operating costs, without any increases in staff or budget. The city has already announced that it will have to raise property taxes by 2.6 per cent in the coming year to shore up its budget and services.
Saunders has been given a mandate by the Ford government to cut 300 officers, and is expected to announce further cuts in October. At the same time, the city’s police budget has been slashed by tens of millions, with the elimination of two of the city’s four special constabularies, and the loss of 40 police officers, at a time when crime is on the decline and a number of murders have been reduced or resolved. In addition, the city is taking