toronto budget shortfall deficit

Toronto is hundreds of millions in the hole and begging Ottawa for bailout money

The City of Toronto faces a worrying $703 million budget shortfall for the 2022 fiscal year, and Mayor John Tory is basically begging the levels of government above for more money to fill the gap.

Tory announced on Wednesday that the city had secured a provisional commitment from Doug Ford's Ontario PC government to help address a portion of the budget shortfall, while also cranking up the pressure on the federal government to pitch in to cover a shortage that the city attributes to the pandemic and its associated response plan.

Ontario's Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister, Steve Clark, eased some of the burden, penning a letter to the mayor committing to secure approval for funding to support up to one-third of the city's current operating deficit for the current fiscal year.

"This is hundreds of millions of dollars more than we had secured when I wrote to Premier Ford and Deputy Prime Minister Freeland three weeks ago," said Mayor Tory.

With up to one-third of the shortfall now accounted for by a commitment from the province, the mayor's statement calls on Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and the Government of Canada to step up and help foot the astronomically high bill for keeping the city relatively safe during its darkest hour.

Thanks to a spike in transit revenues, the shortfall is actually a $112 million improvement over the most recent projection, but it still leaves the municipal government deep in the red.

Not Detroit in 2013-level bad, but still pretty bad.

"I am incredibly grateful for this support to date as are I'm sure are the people of Toronto but now, we urgently need the federal government to join the province and provide further funding to help protect Canada's economic engine as they promised during their last election," said Mayor Tory.

"I hope we can deliver a strong message to Ottawa that the need is real, it is urgent, and it is necessary for the good of Canada's largest city and both the local and national economic recovery that we combine efforts and resources now – all three governments, working together, to protect capital investment and jobs and to support Toronto's complete recovery from the pandemic."

The shortfall may be the direct result of the costly pandemic response and loss of revenues through taxes and transit fares, but it hasn't stopped critics from pointing out that the deficit (or at least an earlier estimate) just so happens to cost roughly the same as what so far stands as John Tory's legacy project in the controversial East Gardiner rebuild.

In an opinion column published in the Toronto Star in mid-November, Matt Elliott argued that cancelling the Gardiner rebuild was the single most obvious solution to balancing the city's budget.

The Gardiner Expressway's share of the city's budget — an over $2 billion project in an era where most cities are tearing down their elevated waterfront expressways — is an easy point to linger on, but with contracts in place and work underway, nobody expects it to be stopped this late in the game.

So let's hope, for the city's sake, that Ottawa shells out some bailout bucks to keep the country's economic engine — and its stupidly expensive, lake-blocking highway — running smoothly.

Lead photo by

Jack Landau

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