More than 80 speakers representing the arts, business, labour, cultural organizations, cyclists, social service agencies and other interests got their chance to show their support for or opposition to Toronto’s proposed $8.7-billion operating budget at city hall yesterday.
The budget is to be finalized by city council March 31 and April 1, with several public meetings planned before that. Here are some highlights:
• Toronto Board of Trade president and CEO Carol Wilding urged council to fashion a multi-year budget to improve long-term planning.
• While police and ambulance services have been allowed to increase their staff since amalgamation in 1998, Toronto Fire Services has seven fewer firefighters than it did then, Scott Marks, president of the Toronto Professional Fire Fighters’ Association, pointed out.
• Keegan Henry-Mathieu, of the Toronto Youth Cabinet, asked the city to “reconsider spending $1 million on planting 57,000 trees in a city that, according to Statistics Canada, has more green space than any municipality in the country,” and redirect some of that funding to their projects.
• Cameron Bailey, co-director Toronto International Film Festival, chose to simply remind council that the cultural sector is an economic engine that drives prosperity in the city.
• The land transfer tax was an often-mentioned topic.