Toronto City council passes 2013 operating budget

Christian Boyer interviews Doug Holyday at Toronto City Council Jan. 16, 2013. Listen here:

Day two of Toronto City Council’s budget meeting began Wednesday with over 160 Toronto firefighters showing up to protest cuts to emergency services.

And the show of force paid off. City Hall added another $3.1 million to boost hiring for the Toronto Fire Service, part of a last minute compromise that eased the approval of the city’s operating budet.

Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday (Ward 3) was strongly opposed to the additional spending and felt that taxpayers would be paying the price.

“I don’t support this budget at all,” Holyday told council. “The budget that should have been passed was the one that was proposed by the Budget Committee and amended by the Executive Committee.”

Holyday’s main issue with the revised budget was the stretching of municipal resources and dipping into reserve funding.

“We’re back into using reserves to pay our way,” he warned. “We’re trying to get out of using one-time funding to balance the operating budget.”

Holyday said increased spending to hire additional firefighters was a bit of a smokescreen:

“The taxpayers got burnt on this one. No one loses their job here, if you removed that station there are two more within 1.7 kilometres of there, they could cover for it, and the service there wouldn’t change.”

Watch Holyday’s impassioned speech on Rogers Television Jan. 16, 2013 podcast here: (Holyday is at 25 minutes in)

The 2013 budget also includes a 2 per cent property tax increase, despite calls for a 3 per cent hike by Councillor Gord Perks (Ward 14).

“We have a number of services that will be considerably worse this year than they were last year,” said Perks. “The only way we can improve services or maintain them at a good level is to raise property taxes.

“This budget does not keep up with inflation,” Perks said. “Meaning that we are going to have to cut services in the areas of transit and housing in order to balance our budget and that is not something I can support.”

Perks also mentioned the difference it would make had his 3 per cent property tax increase been approved.

“The annual difference to a household on what this budget does and what I proposed is $24 a year” said Perks. “I think that most families can afford 50 cents a week to make sure that we maintain good public services like transit.”