What You Need to Know About Toronto’s 2017 Water, Waste, and Parking Budget

Toronto actually has multiple City budgets! Think of this as the secret one that no one talks about.

When people talk about the City budget or the budget process, they usually mean the tax-supported budget. But there’s another budget—or, rather, there are three. The water, waste, and parking budgets are funded by people paying fees for the services they use (and only the services they use). They make up the rate-supported budget, which […]


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Toronto City Council Preview: November 2016 (SmartTrack, Ward Boundaries, and Flood Protection)

Every month, Torontoist reads the Toronto City Council agenda details so you don’t have to.

On this month’s busy agenda: SmartTrack, redrawing Toronto’s wards, service animals, skate parks, and more. The Big Ticket The people want SmartTrack. SmartTrack, SmartTrack, SmartTrack. A major transit report on the City’s commitment to a development process and funding for SmartTrack comes to Council this month. There are many unknowns, untruths, and potential snags. Read […]


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Four Ways that SmartTrack Could See More Problems

It has political support, but it’s still an unfunded plan with billions in questionable assumptions.

After Executive Committee unanimously approved the recommendations in the key transit report released earlier this week, the item will go to City Council for debate next week. If it passes there as well, does that mean SmartTrack is a done deal? No. This is just the first step in a long process, and through the […]


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We Annotated Toronto Council’s Transit Report So You Can Follow Along

We make sense of the report with billions of dollars’ worth of implications for Toronto’s transit future. (You can suggest your annotations too!)

Dang, Toronto’s transit planning is confusing. Unfortunately, the language in staff reports that’s used to inform decision-making doesn’t always help, either. Sometimes it can be verbose, or you need lots of institutional knowledge to appreciate the context and underlying issues they’re referencing. So we here at Torontoist have annotated the recent staff report on the […]


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Hot Take: Private parks set a perilous precedent

Look. I love nature and public space and all, but parks funded by private donors set a very bad precedent.

First, it reinforces the idea that parks are “extra”, not something that the City itself should invest in. It makes the creation of new parks (and the resources allotted to them) dependent on the whims of wealthy donors and not solid urban planning principles. It’s unpleasantly reminiscent of local improvement charges, i. e. rich homeowners paying to spruce up their own neighbourhood.

I’m afraid this will continue to marginalize places that aren’t tourist hotspots, scenic landscapes, or up-and-coming neighbourhoods. Not every park can be as exciting as the Don Valley or Rail Deck Park or whatever they’re calling Under Gardiner. Not every park has to be. Parks shouldn’t just be attractions people visit on special occasions, like the zoo. They should also be a part of everyday life.

Green space is an urban amenity as essential as libraries and clean water. Aside from parks’ importance for health and the environment, they are valuable in their own right as public space. They’re places where you can loiter, sleep, relax, exercise, cool down, picnic, socialize, drink covertly, collect beer cans…all without having to buy anything. For many city dwellers, parks are our backyards.

Public-services-as-philanthropy leaves less glamorous needs by the wayside. Currently playground equipment is only replaced every 30 years (up from 60). Not to mention other things than parks, as Danny Brown notes on Twitter. No one is donating to reduce the TTC or TCHC SOGR backlog.

The whole thing is part of a larger trend towards valuing public services only insofar as they make money. Financial worth may seem more tangible, but it is not the only kind of worth. There are many things—public transit, parks, and more—whose value can’t be measured in dollars. They should not have to turn a profit. People freaking love parks and libraries. It should be possible to fund them sustainably, by increasing the City’s main source of revenue—property taxes—instead of relying on occasional windfalls.

In this pared-down vision of city government, services that cannot pay for themselves must be shuffled off to beneficient private donors, corporations, charities, or non-profits. It’s not because these things would be better off in someone else’s hands. It’s just an attempt to make it Someone Else’s Problem. “Screw you, I got mine.”

It’s a small, mean, insular way of thinking and I hate it. Enough said.


Refined from Twitter. Thanks to Ed Keenan for the shout-out!