'It is a no-brainer' Tory continues push for federal funding amid $1.5B revenue hit from COVID-19

Mayor John Tory says that he remains “optimistic” that other levels of government will ultimately come forward with millions of dollars in needed funding to help the city avoid a series of devastating service cuts.

The city stands to lose about $1.5 billion in revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic and without the ability to run a deficit; it is expected to face some extremely difficult choices.

On Friday, Tory laid out a bleak picture that would see fewer subway lines, less frequent transit service, hundreds fewer police officers and less help for the city’s most vulnerable residents but he stressed that the scenario can be averted if Ottawa and Queen’s Park come to the table.

Speaking with reporters on Saturday afternoon, Tory said that he has since spoken with Premier Doug Ford who assured him that he is working with other premiers to press the federal Liberal government to provide some sort of bailout for municipalities.

He said that he also planned to speak with some federal officials later this afternoon as he ramped up his campaign for emergency funding to offset COVID-19 related losses.

“I am optimistic because I think they (the feds) know that a strong recovery is going to be rooted in cities and if cities are in trouble and unstable financially that will not be in the best interests of the country,” he said. “They will get their money back many times over from more people working, more people buying things and more businesses doing well because they are the people who get the income tax, the sales tax and the corporate tax. This is the best investment they could ever make. It is a no-brainer.”

On Friday Tory said that without government funding the city would have to raise the property tax rate by an “unacceptable” 47 per cent or introduce a series if draconian service cuts that would forever alter life in the city, including slashing subway frequency on Lines 1 and 2 in half and suspending service altogether on Lines 3 and 4.

Altogether, Tory said that approximately 19,000 city employees would also lose their jobs.

“I put out these numbers yesterday because those were the real consequences. Not made up, not imagined, not inflated. These are the real consequences,” Tory warned Saturday. “Thousands of jobs lost, many services lost, the transit system cut in half.”

In a statement provided to CP24 on Saturday, a spokesperson for Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark said that given the “national scale and magnitude of the shortfalls facing Canadian municipalities” it is important that the federal government join the province in developing a plan “to help our municipalities recover from the impacts of COVID-19.”

The statement, however, did not indicate whether funding from Queen’s Park would be forthcoming.

For his part, Tory said Saturday that he reached out to Ford just to make sure that he is “on the job.”

“I wanted to know that he is doing exactly what he is doing, which is working with the other premiers to get some who might not have come to the cause as quickly as he did to get with the cause,” he said.