Toronto disappointed with Ontario's lack of budget for transit and social housing

Apr 28 2017, 2:06 pm

John Tory was disappointed with this year’s Ontario budget, and he is making it clear.

The Toronto Mayor said that Premier Kathleen Wynne and her government had a chance to stand up for Toronto transit and housing, but that in the 2017 budget, they “turned their backs.”

The 2017 budget was an important chance for the provincial government to signal its intention to address Toronto’s real and pressing needs as home to nearly 3 million Ontario residents,” said Tory in a statement. “The provincial government appears to have missed an opportunity to partner in the historic investments made by the federal government in much needed future transit expansion and repairs to our vital social housing.

Leading up to the release of the budget, Tory made public appearances to pressure the province into committing to Toronto’s relief line.

TTC Chair Josh Colle said that the budget didn’t indicate a clear enough commitment to match Federal contributions to future transit projects, adding that it’s “essential to have all three levels of government at the table to deliver transit to the region and relieve congestion.”

Tory said he will be advocating that the province be required to match historic federal investments in transit and social housing.

The Ontario budget was released on Thursday, announcing the province’s first balanced budget since the global recession.

Some of the key points this year includes the new OHIP+, which will provide free prescription drugs to youth aged 24 and under, regardless of family income. Other highlights include:

  • Lowering household electricity bills on average by 25 per cent, beginning this summer;
  • Helping 100,000 more children access affordable, quality licensed child care;
  • Transforming the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) to make average tuition free for more than 210,000 Ontario students and reduce the cost for many more;
  • Providing better supports for families and caregivers
  • Introducing a Fair Housing Plan to increase affordability for both buyers and renters and to support stability in the housing market.

While the province is moving forward with a Fair Housing Plan, it did not address community or social housing in Toronto.

“Ontario’s Fair Housing Plan includes many important actions to help make rental and ownership housing more available and affordable,” said Councillor Ana Bailao. “It’s concerning that there was no acknowledgment/mention of matching funds for the long-term housing commitments the Feds a month ago.”

Bailao said she is disappointed that there continues to be no real acknowledgement of the province’s shared responsibility to help improve Toronto’s social housing.

“New affordable housing will not replace the social housing units that we have in Toronto,” she said.

Meanwhile, Tory said that, along with city staff, he will continue to analyze the commitments that have made in the budget – including a new hotel tax, making available surplus provincial land for affordable housing and important investments in heath and child care.

By 2017-18, the province said it will support access to licensed child care for 24,000 more children up to four years old through new fee subsidy spaces and support for new licensed child care spaces in schools. This will reduce waitlists, better ensuring that parents with low- and middle-incomes can benefit in a variety of ways, according to the budget.

As for transit, the budget outlines that through the gas tax program, Ontario helped cities and towns improve their transit systems in 2016–17. This included $170.8 million for the City of Toronto.

But that’s not enough for Tory.

“Strong provincial partners are not measured in dollars already spent,” he said. “We must be building for the future of Toronto.”

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