The financial repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to have an enormous impact on the City of Toronto’s budget – lost revenue from reduced TTC ridership, increased costs to shelter the growing number of people experiencing homelessness, and so much more.
During the 2021 federal election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau personally committed to help Toronto through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Toronto needs the Federal government to provide its promised support of $235 million for the City’s 2022 COVID-19 impacts, to match the Province’s commitment. Without federal support, City funding for future frontline services will be affected.
The COVID-19 pandemic has meant reduced ridership revenue, and increased costs to shelter the growing number of people experiencing homelessness.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the TTC, the third largest public transit system in North America, has experienced significant reduced ridership.
The City ensured reliable transit service throughout the pandemic by increasing the net funding for the TTC from $790 million in 2020 to $959 million in 2023. This meant people could continue to get to work, benefiting the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area and contributing significantly to the provincial and national economy.
Ridership is projected to reach only 75 per cent of pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023.
As a result, TTC fare revenues will cover barely 42 per cent of TTC operating costs in 2023. Before the pandemic, the fare box covered approximately two-thirds of TTC operating costs.
The City’s shelter system has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the national housing crisis.
As the largest shelter system in the country, and with more shelter beds per capita than any other municipal shelter system, Toronto currently accommodates approximately 9,000 people every night.
Since the start of the pandemic, the City has expanded the shelter system more than 30 per cent but even with this increased capacity, the shelter system is full most nights.
The City recently received $235 million in funding from the Province of Ontario for the City’s pandemic-related 2022 Budget shortfall. In addition, the Province committed to providing additional transit funding of $37 million.
These provincial commitments result in a remaining 2022 Budget shortfall of $454 million.
At minimum, the City has requested that the Government of Canada provide a matching $235 million contribution to offset the remaining 2022 Budget shortfall.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City has identified more than $2.5 billion in City-led offsets and mitigation efforts.
In 2023, the City introduced the largest residential property tax increase since amalgamation.
In addition, the City has increased other taxes and fees such as the Municipal Accommodation Tax and TTC fares, and has introduced a Vacant Homes Tax.
The City does not have additional resources or revenue tools available to address the unprecedented financial pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike the Provincial or Federal government or other major cities around the world, the City is legally prohibited from levying income or sales taxes, which automatically grow with the economy unlike property taxes.
More than 97 per cent of the City’s reserve funds are committed to legislated, contractually bound or Council-directed commitments, or is required to support the 10-year capital and operating plans, leaving just $290 million available to respond to unforeseen emergencies such as extreme weather events.
It takes the City many years to build up reserves. Use of the one-time emergency funds is a one-time solution and once depleted the City will no longer have emergency funds available for future COVID-19 impacts or other emergencies.
The complexity and diversity of the City and the services it delivers, such as transit and shelters, means that the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will continue in 2023 and beyond. A continued partnership with the Government of Canada and the Province of Ontario is absolutely necessary.
Beyond this immediate support, Toronto City Council has called for a new fiscal framework that recognizes the City’s complexity, diversity and significant contribution to the success of the region, province and country.
Contact your Member of Parliament and stand up for Toronto! Urge the Federal government to match the Province and provide the promised support of $235 million for the City’s 2022 pandemic impacts. We’ve made it easy! Use our automated system to send a letter. Or contact your MP directly. Search by postal code to find your MP’s contact information on the House of Commons Canada Members of Parliament webpage.