Click "Enter" to submit the form.

Toronto needs social infrastructure investments, and that means new revenue tools

Tim Maguire was at the City’s Executive Committee to discuss the City Manager’s recent report on Toronto’s fiscal framework. The City Manager reported that City Council will need to consider new revenue tools if it wants to build the City’s physical infrastructure. Tim argued that we can’t afford to neglect the social infrastructure delivered by members of Local 79. He also indicated Local 79’s support for new revenue tools to support good jobs, poverty reduction, and City services.


Dear Mayor Tory and Members of the Executive Committee:

RE: EX 10.22 – Discussion of Fiscal Framework

Thank you for this opportunity to discuss this very important report. My comments are a little bit of a work in process, having amended my comments based on the City Manager’s presentation, which we have just heard.

I want to say three things.

Toronto currently doesn’t have a sustainable framework for its budget and for the services it wants to provide.

Secondly, the City has already shown some leadership and a direction that it needs to go. I am referring to the Poverty Reduction Strategy, and we advocate, quite in line with the City Manager’s report, that continuing to show leadership, means we need to have a dialogue on revenue tools.

At a very basic level, we, as others have said, the City does not have a spending problem. The Institute on Municipal Finance and Government, housed in the Munk School of Global Affairs had said that Toronto does not have a spending problem. The former City Manager said that the City does not have a spending problem.

I want to refer to something the City Manager said earlier, which is that there has been a movement away from social toward hard services. We think the City should work on finding a better balance, which means investing in physical infrastructure but also moving further in the direction of social infrastructure.

While the instinct, as we approach another budget round, may be to continue down the road of seeking further efficiencies, it is worth recognizing we have already gone a considerable distance in that direction through service reviews, service efficiency reviews, and harmonization of services. While Local 79 doesn’t oppose looking for efficiencies – if we can find money in some areas to support service needs in others, of course we support that – it can’t just be about finding efficiencies, it has to be about improving services. As I say, we need to find a better balance to bring back in social infrastructure.

I want to point out one thing that I think is missing from this report. We want ensure that the City is able to deliver the services it needs to deliver to Toronto communities and succeed in the Poverty Reduction Strategy and other initiatives. The City would be better able to predict how to do that if it undertook a projection of the impact of the current sale of Hydro One and the potential sale, down the road, of Toronto Hydro. Without an honest projection of what that might mean in terms of the cost of providing services, whether it’s at the City itself or it’s agencies such as the TTC and school boards, estimates without a risk assessment of the impact of the sale of Hydro One and Toronto Hydro will be off. 185 municipalities in Ontario have taken positions against the sale of Hydro One and the City has to do an honest analysis in order to project forward.

As I said earlier, we compliment the City on its leadership in the Poverty Reduction Strategy. Local 79 has been heavily engaged in that process. We think that the City should, starting in the 2016 budget cycle, have a poverty reduction lens with respect to budget-making and service provision through that budget. At the core of that lens, at the centre of that lens, it should have good jobs for Toronto’s communities.

Again, I compliment the City on its leadership, the strategy and the framework, but there needs to be a more definitive approach. Moving forward, what needs to happen is a dialogue here, dialogue with the province and dialogue with others about potential revenue tools.

I won’t go into the particulars of the tools available, but there is research from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and from CUPE.

We understand that while many Councillors may have been hesitant in the past to talk about revenue tools – it’s politically contentious and controversial – but if the City wants to maintain services and do things like the Poverty Reduction Strategy, it has to have that dialogue and make some decision.

You will have as a part of that exercise, a partner in CUPE Local 79. Local 79, under my leadership, in the past few months, has taken a resolution to work with municipalities and other levels of government on looking at revenue tools. It is now the official policy of CUPE Ontario, CUPE National and the Ontario Federation of Labour to do that. From community leaders I speak to – and I speak to a lot of them, because Local 79 has had engagement with community partners as part of its strategic plan – I hear that they would also be supportive of the direction, the leadership you would show in moving forward on revenue tools.

Our members are dedicated to Taking Care of Toronto, and we are committed to supporting Council in its efforts to adequately fund the programs and services Toronto’s communities need.

Sincerely,

Tim Maguire
President