Without federal or provincial help, Toronto will have to fire cops, shutter libraries and close subway lines

Without federal or provincial help, Toronto will have to fire cops, shutter libraries and close subway lines
TORONTO -- Mayor John Tory laid out in the starkest terms so far what it would mean if the higher levels of government dont come to the table with significant help for Toronto and Canadas other financially devastated cities.

In a news conference Friday, the mayor laid out a bleak picture of a city that would have fewer subway lines, less frequent transit service, hundreds fewer officers and less help for the citys most vulnerable residents.

Toronto is facing a best-case scenario shortfall of $1.5 billion in lost revenue this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The city would have to raise property taxes by an estimated 47 per cent in order to make up that shortfall, Tory said, adding that such a raise would be unacceptable.

In Canada, municipalities fall under provincial jurisdiction. Ontario law prohibits municipalities from running operational deficits, meaning the city cannot simply borrow money to make up for shortfalls in its budget.

Without help from other levels of government or a massive property tax hike, the only remaining option would be drastic cuts to city services.

Among the cuts, more than half-a-billion dollars would be slashed from the TTCs budget. That would mean service on lines 1 and 2 would be cut in half, while Line 3 (Scarborough) and Line 4 (Sheppard) would be completely shut down.

Service on the citys busiest streetcar and bus routes would operate only every 10-20 minutes and the city would provide 4 million fewer WheelTrans trips.

Millions would also be slashed from the police force, fire service and shelters. Recreation programs, libraries and city-owned long-term care homes.

In all, Tory said, some 19,000 city employees would lose their jobs.

The city would also be forced to cancel youth hubs that were set to open in September in order to address the roots of gun violence in the city.

The mayor has been pleading with Ottawa and Queens Park for weeks to announce some sort of relief for Canadas hard-hit municipalities.

So far, his pleas have mostly been greeted with silence.

Ive had a lot of encouraging words, but encouraging words dont buy child care and they dont buy transit and they dont buy help for homeless people; they dont buy anything, quite frankly, Tory vented Friday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said little about what help Canadas cities can expect. Premier Doug Ford, whose government is responsible for Ontarios municipalities, has said that help for municipalities will be a big ticket item and that Ontario cant help cities unless Ottawa comes on board.

Tory didnt rule out property tax increases, but said he doesnt believe they should be necessary if other levels of government come to the table in a proper way.

Asked for a timeline on when the cuts might be implemented, Tory said the days of reckoning are approaching and suggested that some cuts might have to be implemented by September without any reassurances of alternate revenues.

The mayor said that even if the projections are off one way or another, thousands of city employees would lose their jobs, a situation that would be devastating for the GTA.

You can cut it any way you want, you can use any number as the base number. The bottom line is this would be a disaster in terms of a working humane, livable city which weve created here and theres no reason for it, Tory said.

He said when the pandemic first struck, he was reassured that help for cities would come after individuals were helped, but there has been no word since then.

Plenty of other groups have gotten help from the other governments and Im very happy about that, Tory said. I supported that strongly and still do. But I think that cities, given everything they do to deliver on a lot of the services people rely on including the most vulnerable people are in need of that help now.
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