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Mayor Gondek said it was ‘jarring’ to hear feds helping Toronto with city finances

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said they’ve been raising the alarm bells for years that cities need a new funding and financing formula but was startled to see the feds involved in working directly with the City of Toronto.

A news release regarding city budget consultations from the City of Toronto on Nov. 1 mentioned they’d be gathering ideas from citizens “to support discussions with the Province of Ontario and the Government of Canada to secure sustainable financing for Toronto.”

Another release goes on to say that Toronto has a projected $1.5 billion operating shortfall, and a projected $46.5 billion shortfall over the next 10 years.

“Urgent action must be taken to ensure a more stable and sustainable future for Toronto,” read the news release.

“That is why the City is at the table with the Province of Ontario and the Government of Canada to secure a new deal for the people of Toronto that will allow the City to build more affordable housing, improve the TTC and focus on Torontonians’ priorities now and for decades to come.”

Mayor Gondek said they’re working on making inroads with the provincial government but lack an equal partnership with the federal government.

“Hearing an announcement today that the federal government is interested in working with the City of Toronto, to address their municipal funding gap was a little bit jarring for the rest of us in this country,” Gondek said at the 2024 Calgary Economic Development Economic Outlook.

“Considering as a group of big city mayors and municipalities across Canada, we have raised the alarm bells for years that we need a new funding and financing formula, it’s fascinating that the feds have gone to Toronto to make that happened. I’m waiting for our invitation.”

It does open the door, the mayor said

At least they’re taking steps to help with at least one city in Canada, Mayor Gondek said.

“Anytime there is an opportunity for a municipal government to interact effectively with the federal government and lay out the struggles that they have, it’s a good sign,” the mayor said.

She said they’ve provided a municipal funding gap report and presented it to other orders of government.

“Choosing who you’re going to engage with first without set criteria is a problem for the rest of us,” Mayor Gondek said.

“So, I’m happy for Toronto, you know, well done. I hope there’s some sort of plan or process whereby every municipality will be participating in the same.”

Last month the city indicated that due to provincial responsibilities being offloaded to cities, there’s been a $311 million annual gap since 2007.

Mayor Gondek said they’ve had to do this with only one primary funding tool: Property taxes.

“Absolutely one of the biggest things that we continually point out is our ability to survive as a municipal government is rooted almost solely in property tax revenue,” she said.

But she said it would be nice to have more funding for things like schools, hospitals and housing – especially given the pressures the city faces with an influx of immigration.

“The order of government that controls immigration at a federal level, needs to be coming and talking to us about the impact of that many people moving into our city,” the mayor said.