Toronto City Council approves $15B budget for 2022

By Brandon Choghri

Following hours of debate over various motions and amendments, Toronto City Council has approved a nearly $15 billion operating budget for 2022.

Although the budget has been finalized, a $1.4 billion shortfall due to pandemic-related financial impacts could still force the city to cancel multiple planned capital projects and state-of-good repair work.

Municipalities cannot run deficits in Ontario, so the city is counting on additional funding from both the federal and provincial governments in order to offset losses.

Federal Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland announced Thursday morning that Ottawa would provide municipalities across the country with $750 million in funding to address transit-related losses during the pandemic, but it’s not clear how much of that money Toronto will receive.

If the shortfall isn’t addressed, city staff say approximately $300 million in capital projects would have to be cancelled, along with over $1 billion in state-of-good repair work.

Homeowners in the city will face a 4.4 per cent property tax hike, the largest during Tory’s tenure. The increase includes a 2.9 per cent inflation-based residential tax increase and a 1.5 per cent increase to the city building levy as approved back in 2019.

The combined tax increase will cost the owner of an average home assessed at $697,185 an additional $141 this year.

Before Thursday’s council meeting, Mayor John Tory defended the final budget of this term, calling those who said the budget didn’t have enough ambition “out of touch.”

“I compared it to …a ship that was in very heavy seas. Very heavy seas because of a huge storm called a pandemic.”

Tory says the city’s ambition was to get that ship to shore, and believes the 2022 budget will help Toronto weather the storm through the remainder of the pandemic.

University-Rosedale Councillor Mike Layton says the city needs to step up on behalf of residents.

“I think if you ask any Torontonian on the street if things have improved over the last couple of years …I think they’d probably find it a challenge to point to one particular thing.”

Despite heated debate and continued calls from residents to defund the police, council approved more than $1.1 billion in funding for the Toronto Police Service in 2022, an increase of $25 million this year.

Parkdale-High Park Councillor Gord Perks proposed a decrease to the police force’s budget to help fund the office of the housing commissioner and rent supplements.

“I think that it is more important to give the police 99 per cent and to house an additional 1,000 people than it is to give the police 100 per cent of what they ask for,” Perks says.

Those motions were ultimately voted down.

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