The City of Toronto’s updated Long Term Financial Plan and an accompanying staff report released today recommend actions for consideration at a special Executive Committee meeting on Thursday, August 24 and a subsequent meeting of Council.
The Executive Committee agenda is available on the City’s website.
As detailed in the 2023 Financial Update and Outlook report to Council earlier this year, the City is experiencing a significant immediate and long-term financial crisis: an estimated $1.5 billion starting pressure for the 2024 operating budget and $29.5 billion in capital needs, which both form part of a $46.5 billion shortfall over the next 10 years.
Even with the actions recommended by staff, immediate and sustained support from the Government of Canada and the Province of Ontario is needed to prevent significant tax increases, service level reductions and/or cancellation of capital projects that align with shared goals, including housing, transit and climate action.
The Executive Committee will hear speakers, ask questions of staff and consider the staff recommendations to enhance revenues, reduce capital expenditures, optimize asset management and improve budget planning and financial oversight. The Executive Committee’s recommendations will then be considered by Council.
City actions taken to date
The City has already taken significant action to promote financial sustainability but provincial legislation limits City revenue options almost exclusively to the taxation of property and its related uses.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the City has found more than $2.5 billion in savings, offsets and mitigation strategies. In 2023, Council introduced the largest residential property tax increase since amalgamation (5.5 per cent) and supported a 1.5 percent annual increase to the City Building Fund Levy for priority transit and housing projects, which is expected to generate a total of $5.3 billion over the next 10 years.
The City has also increased other taxes and fees, such as the Municipal Accommodation Tax and TTC fares, and has introduced a Vacant Homes Tax. However, these actions to date are not enough to address the 2024 Budget shortfall and beyond. The City faces real and urgent consequences starting next year if additional actions are not taken by the City, the Government of Canada and the Province of Ontario.
Toronto steps up
As an immediate first step, the Executive Committee will consider:
The Executive Committee will also consider directing staff to develop the following new revenue sources and financial measures and report back during the 2024 Budget process with implementation plans:
In addition to these actions, the Executive Committee will consider:
Property taxes cannot fund provincial and federal responsibilities
On an ongoing basis, the City delivers key services that are extensions of federal and provincial responsibilities, such as child care, long-term care, employment and social services, public health and refugee response. Approximately $1.1 billion, or 22 per cent, of the City’s annual property tax revenues reduce the financial burden for other orders of government and benefits the greater region.
Consequently, in addition to these proposed solutions within City authority, the Executive Committee will consider informing the Province of Ontario:
Toronto is Canada’s economic engine but is not funded that way
While the Toronto region contributes to more than 20 per cent of Canada’s GDP and 53 per cent of Ontario’s, Toronto receives limited funding from the provincial and federal governments:
Left unchecked, the City’s financial challenges will result in reduced investments, job losses and reduced income taxes, which will have a negative ripple effect across the region, province and country.
To address this imbalance, the Executive Committee will consider requesting the Province of Ontario authorize new revenue tools, including those tied to economic growth, such as a municipal sales tax on the purchase of goods and services in Toronto.
In the absence of a new funding model, Executive Committee will consider informing the Government of Canada and the Province of Ontario that the City will be required to reduce essential service levels and cancel capital projects that benefit the region, province and country and contribute to priorities shared by all orders of government such as housing, transit, refugee response and climate action.
Torontonians encouraged to step-up and have their voices heard
Toronto residents are encouraged to participate in this process. Comments and feedback may be provided to Executive Committee in person, by video conference or in writing, and to Members of Council in writing.
The Executive Committee will hear from Toronto residents in person as well as by video conference during its meeting on Thursday, August 24. Speakers can register by email (email@example.com) or call 416-392-7033 by 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 23. Written comments can be submitted to the Executive Committee by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail: Attention Executive Committee, Toronto City Hall, 100 Queen St. W., 2nd floor, Toronto, ON M5H 2N2.
Comments can also be provided to Members of Council in writing. Council contact information is available from 311 or 416-338-0TTY (0889), or on the City’s Members of Council webpage.
The gap between City revenues and expenditures was identified in 2016 and has been a significant part of each Budget cycle since. Related reports are available on the City’s Long Term Financial Plan webpage.
The updated Long Term Financial Plan is available on the City’s website.
The Executive Committee meeting will stream live on the Toronto City Council Live YouTube channel.
“Toronto is stepping up to meet our financial challenges and build a safe, caring and affordable city where everyone belongs. Torontonians deserve a city where they can rely on the TTC to get to work on time, where a young family can find housing they can afford, and where small businesses and communities can thrive. These targeted solutions are an important start, but we cannot do this alone. We need our partners – the Government of Canada and the Province of Ontario – to also meet this challenge and step up for people of Toronto, the region, province and country. Only by working together can we realize our shared goals on housing, transit, refugee response, climate and more.”
– Mayor Olivia Chow
“When you kick the can down the road long enough, eventually you run out of road. The risks and challenges identified in the City’s first Long Term Financial Plan are no longer in the future—we are facing them now. These challenges have only been intensified by the sustained impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and market volatility and are now affecting our budget in 2024 and beyond. The City is stepping up and taking action, but we cannot address these challenges alone. Toronto is the economic engine of our province and our nation, and it is time for the Government of Canada and the Province of Ontario to step up and give us the tools we need to build a financially sustainable city.”
– Councillor Shelley Carroll (Don Valley North), Chair of the Budget Committee
“The City’s unsustainable financial situation has long been identified and the time for action is now. Staff have assessed the opportunities identified in the independent third-party report on the Updated Long Term Financial Plan and have made recommendations on these options, some of which are expected to realize financial benefits as early as 2024. We focused on criteria that included ease of implementation, who would be impacted, potential revenue generated, timelines and the approvals required. But the City cannot do this alone and other recommendations call for new partnerships with the provincial and federal governments to ensure Toronto remains a great place to live, work, play and learn.”
– Paul Johnson, City Manager
Toronto is home to more than three million people whose diversity and experiences make this great city Canada’s leading economic engine and one of the world’s most diverse and livable cities. As the fourth largest city in North America, Toronto is a global leader in technology, finance, film, music, culture and innovation and climate action, and consistently places at the top of international rankings due to investments championed by its government, residents and businesses. For more information visit the City’s website or follow us on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.