Mayor’s Statement on the Capital Budget and the Toronto Economy|
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The growing economic crisis is having a profound effect on all of us. Many people have lost their jobs - over 66,000 in Ontario last month - and the markets have been nothing short of unpredictable.
The scope of what we are witnessing is unprecedented and world-wide and it requires action both locally and nationally.
People are worried.
They’re worried about keeping up with their rent and protecting their savings. They’re worried about their businesses, and the people they employ. And they’re worried about the services that keep our city working, like public transit.
I share those concerns. I want Torontonians to know that their city is taking action and that we’re ready to do more.
Today, I’m going to highlight the actions we have already taken as a City government and how, through the capital budget, we will continue to meet the economic challenges that confront all of us.
Together, we are making Toronto a city that is prosperous and liveable; a city that provides opportunity for all.
We have built on the strong compassion and respect we have for one another by investing in priority neighbourhoods, and in services that help those who fall behind to get housing and employment.
We have re-focussed our social service initiatives to place the emphasis on employment.
We have worked with our partners in the business community by cutting business taxes every year so they can stay competitive and stay in Toronto.
We have a long term plan that promotes and enables prosperity and we’re speeding up its implementation. We’re freezing development charges on residential construction to help stimulate that important job-generating sector. We’ve brought in tax increment equivalent grants to spur brownfield development. And we’ve created new initiatives, like Mayor’s Tower Renewal, to create green jobs in neighbourhoods across the city.
We’ve also hired the first ever chief infrastructure officer to better co-ordinate and expedite our infrastructure projects.
We have protected our public services by spending for impact.
This morning, Council will debate the capital budget. The 10-year, $25 billion capital program will create and protect 300,000 jobs while enhancing the infrastructure that is needed to support a vibrant, dynamic city.
Specifically, the 10-year capital budget will:
- Begin the construction of three new Transit City lines
- Purchase new buses, subway cars, and streetcars
- Invest in green technology and improve our environment to ensure the City’s long term livability
- Revitalize Union Station
- Rebuild roads, bridges, and sidewalks, while expanding our bike network
- Renew our public spaces like Nathan Phillips Square, where thousands visit every year to celebrate art, culture, and community
- Provide easy, one-stop access to city services through 3-1-1
With the support of city council today, we will get to work renewing our infrastructure and creating jobs. But despite this massive investment, we stand ready to do more…and we will.
Cities are uniquely positioned to maximize the partnership of the provincial and federal governments to quickly deliver on the kind of investments that create and protect jobs, build 21st century infrastructure and grow the local and national economy.
We are an urban nation and in Canada it is cities that drive the national economy. It is in cities where the most critical problems confronting Canada's future well-being can, and will, be solved.
The U.S. is moving to shore up their industries and have already implemented their first massive stimulus package…with a second one on the way. Canada can’t afford to be left out, or to fall behind. We have done many things as a City - but as in the U.S., there is a significant opportunity for our federal government during this very difficult time.
Investing in cities is the greatest single return on investment the federal government can make in an economic downturn.
As the federal parties return to Ottawa with what I and all Torontonians expect is a dramatically expanded stimulus package on January 26, Toronto already has the vision and the plan.
If the funds begin to flow, we will get started right away.
The City’s first priority for major infrastructure is public transit. If federal funds are to flow as promised, we would immediately accelerate capital projects that are ready to go, including:
• Purchase of 204 low-floor accessible light rail vehicles ($656M)
• Design and construction of the Eglinton Crosstown, Finch West LRT, and Scarborough Malvern LRT routes of Transit City
The $10.4 billion Transit City plan will create over 124,000 jobs, and stimulate further growth and development along the lines once they are built.
To prepare for the possibility of new federal investment, I will move a motion during today’s Council debate that will allow me to bring forward a revision to our capital budget plan immediately upon presentation of the Federal budget if it contains significant new investments for Canadian Cities.
This year will be a time of unprecedented uncertainty.
We need to act quickly, but we also need to exercise restraint and careful judgment. In February, I am committed to introducing a balanced budget that protects services, and targets investment to make sure that no one is left behind.
We will lead by example. I’ve already indicated my intention to freeze my salary and freeze my office budget. I have asked all city divisions, agencies, boards, and commissions to do the same. Our labour negotiations are ongoing, and we will have to work with our unions to achieve fair but affordable collective agreements.
While the inflationary pressures on the TTC are significant, Torontonians are also feeling the pressure of a weakened economy.
To help people keep working, I will be recommending a TTC fare freeze as part of the 2009 operating budget. We will also explore other initiatives like a renewed rent bank, to ensure that no one is left behind. More details will be forthcoming in the operating budget.
I previously announced we would do everything we could to keep a 2009 property tax increase to between 2 and 4 percent.
Finance staff and the budget committee will work diligently to meet that target. Toronto’s property tax rates, and our annual increases, remain just about the lowest in the entire GTA, and a property tax freeze would require massive cuts to the services people depend on every day which is not acceptable.
It would also hamper our ability to support the investments made in our capital budget like keeping buses on the roads and community centres open.
I am confident with the actions this council has taken to date. And I know that we can rely on the partnership of the Federal government in recognizing the work that needs to be done by joining us in proceeding with it quickly.
I was at an event with Minister Flaherty on Monday and he said he wants to see shovels in the ground.
I want to be clear…the City of Toronto not only has the shovels AND the ground, we are ready to start digging as soon the minister signs the cheques.
It is time to act in the best interests of Torontonians and of all Canadians.
To those who are understandably concerned and feeling uncertain, I want you to know that your City government is doing everything we can to help.
Together, we will get through this difficult period by protecting the services people rely on every day, and by maintaining investments that build a strong economy.
The City’s capital budget is an important part of a much larger strategy.
We will continue to work on behalf of Torontonians to see the City through this challenging time.