Mayor John Tory says the recently announced federal funding for cities does not appropriately address the City of Toronto’s “real” financial needs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that the federal government is tapping into the Gas Tax Fund to send cities $2.2 billion in previously promised infrastructure funding ahead of schedule.
"We have been a great partner to municipalities as best as we could over the past years in various situations, in various crises," Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa on Monday morning.
"We know how important our cities and towns are for the success of Canadians, the success of our country's economy. That is why we are working with the provinces on figuring out ways that municipalities can be helped."
Mayor John Tory said while the cash advance will help "a little bit," it is not enough to assist the city in a significant way.
“We will get a check, as I understand it, which will not be for a small sum, but it is money that we were going to get anyway but on an accelerated basis,” Tory told CP24 on Monday morning. “That’s good, that’s helpful to us, but it is not the main event.”
Tory’s spokesperson Don Peat told CP24 the Gas Tax Fund advance will net Toronto about $166 million.
The dramatic decline in ridership on the TTC is estimated to be costing the municipality about $65 million per week and in total, the city has said it is poised to lose about $1.5 billion by the end of the year due to lost revenue and increased costs associated with the pandemic.
“We need to have new money to make up for the fact that we lost a lot of money we didn’t expect to lose on things like transit fares people didn’t pay, land transfer taxes not paid when real estate deals didn’t happen, and that kind of thing,” Tory said.
“It is not going to come through huge property tax increases, which people can’t afford, and it is not going to come from huge service cuts, which we can just ill-afford to make at this stage given that people are struggling right now and we are trying to help them.”
Tory said discussions are still underway about what else can be done to help the city with its financial hardships.
“There is much more that needs to be done in order to make sure cities can remain financially stable and can play the role they have to play in bringing about great recovery,” he said.
The mayor added that talks with the other levels of government have been “positive” so far.
“Our premier has been playing a positive role in those discussions with the federal government. They have been positive with me and other mayors. But we need a lot more help than what is being provided today,” Tory said.
“I’m not trying to diminish what they are doing today, which will help a bit. But we need a lot more help. They know that. It is crucial to the proper economic recovery of this country that cities should be healthy and not in a situation of financial instability.”
The prime minister acknowledged that the federal government will need to do more to assist cash-strapped cities in the future.
"We know that this is just an initial measure that brings forward money that the city was going to get six months from now anyway but there is a need right now for liquidity, for support as they deal with the COVID crisis," he said.
"We need to do more and we will do more but doing more needs to happen hand-in-hand with the provinces that have jurisdiction over the municipalities."