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Toronto bailout waiting on Justin Trudeau, says mayor
Nov. 16, 2022

Mayor John Tory is increasingly optimistic about a provincial bailout of Toronto’s pandemic-ravaged budget, but says he needs a signal that the Trudeau government will also help rescue Canada’s biggest city.

Tory told reporters Tuesday he is heartened by new comments from the Ontario government opening the door to desperately needed financial aid to prevent major service cuts and tax hikes in Toronto -- if Ottawa steps up too.

Toronto needs $815 million to balance this year’s budget and almost $1.5 billion to fill an expected shortfall in 2023 due to decreased TTC revenues, increased spending on public health and seniors homes, and other pandemic costs.

In a statement Monday, after Premier Doug Ford’s economic statement failed to mention Toronto’s budget woes, his spokesperson said: “Ontario is ready and willing to contribute more to support municipal partners” but needs “the federal government as a partner” to ensure municipalities can keep delivering services.

Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy told Newstalk 1010 on Tuesday: “We continue to have conversations with the mayor and his office, because there are some lingering COVID costs, and we’ve been there before, we’ll be there again.”

Taking questions after officially opening a supportive housing building in East York, Tory said now it’s up to the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to join talks on how to fill the massive budget hole.

“Yes,” Tory said when asked if Ontario has gone further than Ottawa in answering his plea for help, following past bailouts to balance the 2021 budget.

“I take that as a pretty firm statement of intention to act,” the mayor said of Bethlenfalvy’s comments, adding: “It’s not a definite thing until the federal government signs up …

“I’m confident those governments will be there because I think that they understand that the health and well-being, and the recovery of the city, is essential to the well-being and recovery of Ontario and Canada.”

Last week, Tory escalated pleas for a financial lifeline, saying Toronto needs commitments by Nov. 30 to avoid “massive” tax increases for residents and delayed capital projects that will eliminate thousands of construction jobs.

On Monday, a spokesperson for Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, a Toronto MP, reminded the Star of past federal support for the city but concluded: “The provinces have a particular responsibility to support their municipalities.”

On Tuesday six of downtown Toronto’s biggest neighbourhood merchant groups wrote to Freeland and Ford urging them to rescue Toronto’s finances, saying it’s well known that the core’s economic recovery is lagging that of other cities.

They “urgently” requested funding commitments to the city to foster that recovery and ensure that Toronto remains “an internationally competitive destination.”

Tory is also lobbying the provincial and federal governments for funding commitments to ensure some World Cup 2026 games can be played in Toronto. In public comments, Ford has sounded unenthusiastic about the expense.

The mayor said he continues to sell Ford on the benefits of hosting “the greatest sporting event on Earth” and “if that requires us being more precise about what the province’s cost there will be, that’s the kind of thing we’re talking about.”