Hole in city budget puts some construction jobs at risk

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There was no relief cheque in sight for the city as a budget shortfall forces Toronto’s municipal politicians  to consider delaying $300 million in capital projects.

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Mayor John Tory’s influential executive committee will deal with a report Tuesday highlighting $260 million worth of projects — still short of the total by $40 million — that have been paused or can be reduced, including $87 million in TTC capital projects, $87 million in transportation infrastructure rehabilitation, $34.2 million in real estate state-of-good-repair initiatives and $27.7 million on mainly park rehabilitations and repairs.

The city is short between $815 to $875 million in its 2022 operating budget.

Don Peat, a spokesperson for Toronto Mayor John Tory, said the mayor has raised this issue in meetings with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford during the past two weeks.

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“These were incredibly positive discussions and the mayor will continue to advocate for this emergency support that will make sure several capital projects — and the construction jobs they support — would go forward this year,” Peat said in an email. “The mayor’s advocacy to the other governments has been incredibly successful over the course of the pandemic and has secured billions of dollars in emergency support for the city, for which we are most appreciative.

“We know the province is committed to providing additional funding to the city in partnership with the Government of Canada and those discussions are continuing non-stop,” he said.

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The Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing said in a response to questions about its willingness to fill the city’s budget gap noted the provincial government has already provided municipalities with over $1.3 billion in financial relief during COVID-19 in addition to $4 billion through the federal-provincial Safe Restart Agreement.

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“The City of Toronto has received over $2.7 billion to address its pandemic-related impacts to local services such as transit, shelters and public health,” a ministry statement says.

Ontario also recently committed to jointly fund with the federal government $632 million to municipalities to support COVID-19-related impacts for transit and shelters, and $47 million of this money will go to Toronto, the statement says.

“We continue to call on the federal government to provide additional support that matches Ontario’s total investments to date,” the statement said.

One of the big losses driving the red ink at City Hall has been reduced TTC ridership due to the pandemic.

Toronto also absorbed extraordinary shelter costs.

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