toronto covid

The COVID-19 pandemic will cost Toronto at least $1.5 billion this year

Toronto Mayor John Tory announced today that impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will cost the city about $1.5 billion in 2020 — and that's the best case scenario.

Speaking at the city's daily press briefing, Tory said the lack of revenue from things like the TTC, permit fees, land transfer taxes and the Toronto Zoo coupled with the added expenses of responding to the virus are costing the city big time. 

"City finance staff have been working hard throughout the crisis to understand the financial impact on the city which is the first step to solving this problem — you have to quantify it," he said

Finance staff had previously determined that the COVID-19 pandemic is costing the city government $65 million a week, with the largest driver of this "burn rate" being the more than $20 million a week in revenue that is not coming in to the TTC.

At this rate, based on a three-month lockdown and six-month recovery period during which time neither revenue nor expenses can be expected to return to normal, it could cost the city $1.5 billion. 

Tory said that while he hopes to be able to make the lockdown and recovery period as short as possible, we have to go on the assumption that they're going to last at least as long as that and possibly longer. 

On the other hand, Tory said the cost of a nine-month lockdown and a 12-month recovery period would cost the city $2.76 billion by the end of this year and even more in 2021.

He said he believes residents are getting the message about staying home and social distancing, and it's important for people to realize that these actions will help save lives and lessen the financial impact on the city. 

"The shorter the period of the time that we're dislocated by the pandemic, the less the damage to the city's finances," he said.

"But even assuming we beat COVID-19 as soon as possible and move the restart the city as quickly as we can, we are looking at as much as $1.5 billion by the end of this year. This is one of the greatest financial challenges this city has ever faced. And so, we will have to rise to that challenge."

Tory added that while the city will do everything possible in the face of this economic challenge, Toronto will undoubtedly need help from both the provincial and federal governments. 

He said he's been speaking regularly with both governments about this and has made it clear that Toronto will require substantial assisstance to handle these costs. 

"This is a national issue and it is a major provincial issue in addition to being an issue for the city of Toronto and all of the cities in Ontario of Canada," he said.

"Cities are on the front lines of helping to combat COVID-19 and they will be on the front lines of rebuilding and recovering our economy. Our city led Canada's economy before this crisis, and we will have to lead it again."

Lead photo by

Fareen Karim


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