Toronto could face 'extreme' service cuts, tax hikes without financial aid: Tory

Toronto Mayor John Tory appealed to the provincial and federal governments for immediate financial help on Thursday, warning that without it the city could face "unprecedented" tax hikes and "extreme" service cuts.

In a letter to Premier Doug Ford and federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, Tory said the city needed financial commitments by the end of the month to address COVID-19 pandemic-related shortfalls.

He said Toronto faces a $815 million operating budget deficit this year directly related to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, he said the city could face budget pressures of nearly $1.5 billion next year before accounting for any property tax increase or funding commitments from the other orders of government.

"Given our limited options to raise revenue, and our inability to run budget deficits, we do not have the fiscal capacity to absorb these massive shocks to our system," Tory wrote in the letter, dated Wednesday and shared publicly Thursday.

Tory noted the city has received upwards of a combined $3 billion from the provincial and federal governments since 2020.

Over that time, the city had also introduced $1.6 billion in "savings, cost mitigation efforts, and other offsets," Tory said.

But without more help, Tory warned the city could also face cuts to programs and its capital budget, which he said could "eliminate thousands of jobs" and "threaten" the city's economic recovery.

In the letter, Tory pointed to campaign and budgetary promises made by both governments to offer municipalities COVID-19 financial support.

"We urgently require a commitment from the federal government and province to support our continued recovery from the pandemic," he wrote.

This year's pandemic-related budget shortfall is a combination of lost revenue from transit and increased shelter costs, along with lower returns on other streams such as parking fees and hotel taxes, Tory said.

Representatives for Ford and Freeland did not immediately respond to request for comment on Tory's letter.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 10, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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