Mayor John Tory says that the response to the city’s request for provincial and federal funding to help cover an expected $1.5 billion shortfall in its 2021 budget due to the COVID-19 pandemic has been disappointing.
Toronto’s losses to date have been partly covered through $668.6 million in funding that it received from the federal government’s $19 billion Safe Restart Agreement to bail out Canadian municipalities.
But the first phase of that money can only be applied to financial pressures incurred between April and September of this year and Tory says that the city has not yet received any assurances about how much money it will receive as part of the second phase of the program, which would apply to financial pressures incurred up to March 31.
Perhaps more importantly he said that it also remains unclear how much, if any funding, will be available should the financial impacts from COVID-19 continue into this spring and summer.
“I will be honest with you the response to that so far has not been to my liking in the context that neither government has committed to having a restart 2.0 which will apply to some of the shortfalls we are going to experience in 2021, transit shortfalls just as an example,” Tory told reporters at city hall on Thursday, as his executive committee met to consider the rate-supported budgets for 2021.
Transit ridership dipped by more than 85 per cent of the outset of the pandemic, costing the TTC hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue.
While ridership has since returned to 31 per cent of its pre-pandemic levels the TTC has warned that it likely won’t exceed 50 per cent until “mass vaccinations begin,” something that could still be months away.
That has led to complications as the city plans its 2021 budget, which is scheduled to go before council for final approval in February.
Speaking with reporters, Tory said that he has been in conversation with government officials and does expect more money will be “forthcoming” to help balance the city’s books in 2020 but he said that more money will be needed to help cover the city’s losses in 2021.
“We will be pushing for additional help for the City of Toronto in 2021 and I will be releasing this morning a letter I have written to the Prime Minister and to the Premier asking them at the meeting they are having today to take up that mater, even briefly,” he said. “I would ask them to indicate to the public and to the cities across Canada now that they will be embarking on a series of discussions soon to provide for a restart 2.0.”
Photo credit: Collected
News source: CP24