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Mitchell says 2020 City Budget leaves services under-resourced

On January 20, 2020 — CUPE Local 79 President Dave Mitchell attended the City of Toronto’s Budget Committee meeting to present his views on the 2020 City Budget. He told the Committee that City services aren’t keeping up with a growing Toronto, pointing to enormous waitlists in services like recreation, child care and social housing.

Watch or read Dave’s Budget Committee deputation below.

Good Day,

I’m Dave Mitchell, President, CUPE Local 79 representing the city’s largest group of workers – along with our fellow members, we are the ones that make the city work.

Local 79 members were pleased to see that Council endorsed a tax increase that will see a large investment in infrastructure such as transit and housing. Our members at Toronto Community Housing are particularly keen to see what investments will roll out as they are currently in the middle of a major restructuring. However, this commitment is a half measure. There is not enough attention on the operating budget and the services that are funded out of it – many of which our members provide. This problem is acute. The city is spending $205 less per capita on services than we did a decade ago.

The property tax, and other revenue streams the city currently uses has proved inadequate. The union’s position is that the city must use more of the tools at its disposal to also make significant investments on the operating side of the budget. New tools such as a vacant home tax and, a new levy on high-end homes are options. It’s measures such as these that are reasonable responses to the needs of providing everyday services. These investments will not only provide cash for needs in places like housing but could be leveraged in other places in the budget. The union believes that dedicated program funding – such as real estate taxes for housing – could provide additional room in budgets to provide stable services and jobs. Without these commitments, there will be items left unfunded and a more precarious work environment for staff who support programming.

We have now had two reports by consultants that articulate the city is well run. However, they have also both put forward recommendations to privatize city services – such as childcare. If the city were to act on these recommendations, we would be undermining Council’s role in oversight, create more instability for workers, and risk resident resources.

This is a secondary concern for the union. Recently, we learned that the P3 (a type of privatization) Eglinton Crosstown will be delayed and overbudget; this after there was already litigation on the matter. Our members are concerned that future investments in infrastructure will be used in privatization schemes, such as, the P3 structure for the LRT. On the operating side, there has been high profile concerns around contracted services for forestry and road paving as well. The city reports it spends almost $2B on contracted services; obviously private sector service providers are necessary in some instances but are generally not subjected to the same levels of oversight and accountability that the public sector is. CUPE has seen this over and over again across the country; it is a foundational role of the city to provide services, and they should be done in the most cost effective and accountable way, which is primarily done by delivering and paying for it publicly.

I want to thank you for hearing our point of view today on the 2020 budget.

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