Now's the time to make your voice heard as Toronto City Council finalizes the budget for 2021 in the context of COVID recovery. Let them know we must #BuildBackBetter! Call or email your city councillor. You can find their contact information here. You could also weigh in in support of the motion brought forward by Jennifer McKelvie and Mike Layton to call for the swift phase-out of gas-fired electricity in Ontario. For Toronto to meet net-zero by 2050 goals, we need this phase out!
TO350 member, Christina Wang, spoke during the online budget deputations on Monday, January 25th. Listen to the deputation on Toronto City Council youtube and see a copy of TO350's submission below.
ClimateFast has also put together a list of recommendations. They suggest you ask councillors to support the following shortlist of amendments to the budget that are proposed by City staff:
1. Increase the budget for the Environment and Energy division by $2.5 million so that they can carry out the climate action necessary for Toronto to reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.
2. Increase Toronto’s property tax rate by an additional 1% so that $30 million can be restored for community services and programs, and climate action.
3. Create a dedicated fund for climate emergency action.
4. Shift spending from law enforcement to build the resilience of vulnerable communities (for example: housing, mental health, food security).
Good afternoon everyone,
I would like to begin by thanking the Budget Committee for taking the time to discuss the community’s concerns for the 2021 budget.
My name is Christina Wang and today I am speaking on behalf of Toronto350, a local, climate justice group whose members support TransformTO and an equitable, green recovery.
We are extremely disappointed in this year’s inadequately supported climate action budget and have serious concerns about the $2.5 million cut to the Environment and Energy Division. As others have mentioned, this decrease in funding does not match the urgency of action required to have the City of Toronto meet its goal of 2050 net-zero carbon emission.
So far global temperatures have risen just over 1 degree and have already caused extreme climate events such as drought, flooding, fires, and ice storms. Toronto cannot ignore these distressing events and believe itself insulated from the calamities of climate change. Presently, wildfire officials in Ontario are already advising the province to expect forest fires to increase in frequency and intensity. These warnings were the same ones given by Oregon wildfire officials prior to the violent 2020 wildfires in Oregon.
Toronto must be aware and extremely alarmed not only by the deadly effects of such events but by the financial costs that such severe climate events pose. Many will have fresh in their memory the frequent flooding that has occurred the past several years in Toronto. In 2020 alone, such floods cost $80 million to Toronto residents and insurers. By 2030, it is projected that flooding costs will nearly triple from the 2010 number in Canada to $6.6 billion, and will particularly affect cities and their urban infrastructure. With the current projections of temperature rise to be 4-5 degrees by 2100, the impacts of severe and frequent weather events would not only create increasingly devastating economic loss, but will make the world nearly uninhabitable.
The City has witnessed first-hand how disasters such as the COVID-19 pandemic can cause lasting economic harm and enormous budget deficits, such as the present estimated $1.6 billion budget shortfall for 2021. We must therefore act now to keep global temperature rise to a maximum of 2 degrees to prevent the existential threat and devastating economic costs of climate change.
In order to accomplish these twin goals, it is imperative that Toronto immediately and fully commit to meeting its aim of net zero carbon emission by 2050. The UN has projected that there is only a decade left to prevent “irreversible damage from climate change”. This next decade is therefore critical. There is no more time to make excuses and further delay the necessary climate initiatives and investments for another year. Toronto must immediately begin to massively accelerate divestment from fossil fuel use and investment in climate policies. We advise the City to take these five actionable steps:
- Do not cut the Environment and Energy Division Budget. The $2.5 million is absolutely essential to ensure the City delivers its delayed Climate Emergency commitments.
- Immediately cancel rebuilding the Gardiner Expressway and shift the savings from the cancellation to TransformTO. The Gardiner Expressway budget for the next decade is currently $2 billion, which is in stark contrast to the $346 million allocated to the climate emergency budget for the next decade.
- Shift the law enforcement budget of $1 billion to housing, health and crime prevention programs with sustainable infrastructure that advance the equity, health and resilience of vulnerable communities.
- Re-introduction of the Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) at a standard rate of $60 per year. This would produce an additional $55 million in revenue that could be used to fund TransformTO’s transportation goals, the city’s bike lane program and the express bus plan. This strategy would also be more equitable for the community. For the last decade, Toronto has given preferential treatment to vehicle owners over low-income users of public transportation by increasing TTC fares to fund the transportation sector. Such a strategy clearly negatively impacts and disproportionately places the burden of revenue for the transit sector on low-income riders.
- Increase the property tax in Toronto from 0.7% to 1.7%. This would generate $30 million in additional revenue available for investment. It is important to emphasize here that Toronto’s current property taxes are amongst the lowest of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, and therefore an increase is not only overdue but highly appropriate. Toronto must rectify the property tax regime, which puts homeowners before those more affected by the pandemic.
We urge the Committee to put a climate lens on all their budgetary decisions and to carefully consider the long-term and irreversible effects of their decisions. Toronto needs to take immediate bold and drastic action because this next decade is critical in keeping the world a habitable place for both current and future generations.
David Wells-Wallace “The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming”