Dear Members of the Toronto City Council Executive Committee:
I am writing to ask you not to freeze the 2017 City budget at 2016 levels. As you realize a ‘freeze’ actually means a decrease in spending on budgetary items including important social services – due to inflation.
I am part of a grass-roots group of people called Commitment 2 Community who meet from time to time with Torontonians who are living on the economic margins of this wealthy city. I and my church – Danforth Mennonite Church, 2174 Danforth Avenue, Toronto, have supported all of the meetings and activities leading up to the City Council adopted Poverty Reduction Plan. We continue to advocate for more revenues to be allocated to this plan so that it can carry out its mandate to reduce grinding poverty among our neighbours, including children and their families. We also signed the recent open letter urging Council to reject a budget freeze, and instead fully fund the city’s commitments to improve affordable housing, transit, child care and reduce poverty.
I made a deputation at the budget sub-committee meeting held at the East York Civic Centre in January 2017. My main point was that we need to move away from ‘user fees’ to fund most needs including community centre programs, TTC and many more. Even working families cannot afford ever rising user fees. I included the proposed highway tolls put forward by Mayor Tory at the time as a unaffordable user fee for many people.
What I advocated for then and still do, is that the City and even the Province and Federal governments, must find a way to access wealth. Many home owners in Toronto are now holders of undreamed of wealth – in the value of their properties. Others have wealth in investments of various kinds. Canada’s capital gains tax, taxes only 50% of investment gains and 0% from the sale of Primary residences when sold. Canada does not even have an inheritance tax. There is huge potential for small wealth taxes that would allow a necessary increase in the City budget. There is huge economic inequality between those who have more wealth than they can ever spend and our neighbours who essentially have nothing.
All of the research done on economic disparity tells us that where there is more equality there is greater health, less crime and more happiness in general. Isn’t this what we want? Therefore City Council must find a way to access even a small portion of the wealth that exists in Toronto.
Please find a way to ’thaw’ the 2017 budget as we ’thaw our hearts’ and make life bearable for all of our neighbours.