Welcome to Budget Month In Toronto
Jan 11, 2023
Another year and another battle at city hall over dollars and cents and where to spend and how much more we need to see from other levels of government! While this may seem so dry and boring for many it does in fact affect us all everyday, so why not take a few minutes to hear the basics! And at this point it really is the basics because once it was first brought to council yesterday there is now a month of consultations and discussions before the final version (but lets be honest, not much will change). So for this week lets talk about a few things that came out in these early discussions and then lets talk about a ski hill built on a pile of garbage and a dairy farm that became a park!
City Council Budget Overview (while a start at least)
The Toronto City Council Budget was released yesterday and I have included the links to the city information page and to the presentation slides shown yesterday during the meeting so if you are like me and want to know every detail you can (and if you are not that is totally okay too)! As I mentioned above more details will be released and in a meeting tomorrow council will go line by line but without that info available now; I am just going to speak very generally today.
What I can say is that homeowners in Etobicoke will be paying more property tax this year as it has been raised to 7%. In the news Mayor Tory has been adamant that the actual increase is only 5.5% and that the other 1.5% is on a different line on the tax bill so it should not be reported as part of the property tax, but the reality is it is on the same invoice and adds up to 7%. What that means is an increase for homeowners from last year and it is more than the rate of inflation and this is why the mayor keeps over explaining the break up on the bill, its about the optics to show an increase below inflation which was in his election platform!
Another item that came out of the meeting was that here in Etobicoke we have been having mechanical leaf collection services and that we are the only area that has this, so of course it is going to be discontinued this year. Apparently, this process is a remnant from pre-amalgamation that had a very long-term contract attached to it. I will be honest, I am not exactly sure what this collection looks like compared to the rest of the city BUT I am impressed with the business plan of the private company who drew up the contract. It may not have been good for the city but one business knew how to take care of themselves. This may only impress me as I went to Business School after I graduated high school and I am a bit of a geek when it comes to stuff like this!
Some other numbers in the budget show that there will be money to hire more in both Police, Fire, and Paramedic services. What we don’t know is where the new members will be placed. Also there is funding for a newer program that is in its early stages, the Toronto Community Crisis Service to assist with mental health emergencies. We can discuss this team further in another edition.
Honestly, the most important take away to come out of yesterday’s announcement was that this is just the opening of the budget process and that there will be many discussions to come over the next 5 or 6 weeks. Now is the time to watch and learn and make your concerns heard before it the budget becomes reality around the 14th of February.
Next week we have a really great opportunity here in Etobicoke to meet with budget staff and ask questions that relate to how the budget will affect individual residents and give suggestions on what we want to see in our city!
The presentations take place at:
The Etobicoke Civic Centre
399 The West Mall
Wednesday January 18, 2023
There will be 2 sessions that day and I will send you a quick post next week with the times. I do believe I saw that there will be a session in the afternoon around 1pm and another at 6pm but I will confirm that on our social media channels and in a post.
Also the city has provided information for residents who want to officially have their comments sent through to the budget committee for consideration and below is that information.
I will make it out to the evening session and will report back next week what I learn and if you have questions or concerns and can’t make it out let me know what you want to ask and I will try and get you an answer!
You can leave your questions in the comments or email me at TheEtobicokeVoice@gmail.com .
Speak to Budget Committee on Tuesday, January 17 and Wednesday, January 18, 2023.
To register to speak email email@example.com or call 416-392-4666. Please register by 4:30 p.m., Monday, January 16, 2023.
Registered speakers will be provided with instructions about how to join the meeting.
The meetings will stream live on the Toronto City Council YouTube channel
Submit your comments and feedback to Budget Committee by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail: Toronto City Hall, 100 Queen St. W., 10th floor, West Tower, Toronto, ON M5H 2N2.
You can also reach out to your local Ward Councillor:
Ward 1 Etobicoke North - Vincent Crisanti
Ward 2 Etobicoke Centre - Stephen Holyday
Ward 3 Etobicoke- Lakeshore - Amber Morley
TTC Surface Routes in Etobicoke
In Etobicoke we have about 27 surface routes with the TTC. These routes are a lifeline for many who live in Etobicoke as our geographic area is very large in a more north to south direction which means that the subway system only covers the very west end of line 2 from Kipling to Old Mill. Its great to get to other parts of the city but not so much if you want to get from Steeles to the Lakeshore!
This week we have been learning about the 2023 budget for the TTC and how it will affect fares, route changes, and safety measures.
It looks like we should expect an increase in the cash fares of about 10 cents. As an adult already pays $3.25 that will go to $3.35 per ride.
I was really keeping an eye on the route changes because many of our routes here in the west end have already dealt with service reductions in 2020 that have not come back to pre-pandemic levels.
I tweeted an example a couple of days ago of my own experiences with the Bloor West route in Etobicoke-Centre. The route has about 3 or more buses during the rush hour but during the day it is reduced to only 1 vehicle. The frequency once upon a time was 15 minutes during non-rush times the current frequency is now 30 minutes. If you miss it you are in for a long wait!
The arguments I have heard in favour for the lack of buses have included suggestions that riders just need to plan better but this is unfair! Why, because those who work hours outside of the “rush” deserve to have reliable service too. Also many elderly adults and those with physical difficulties should not be forced to wait longer and be forced to take more crowded vehicles just because they need to travel or prefer to travel outside of the rush!
I hoped to have more information on what routes in our area may be affected but it became clear that the TTC and most of its board did not want to be transparent with this information. So because of that I am holding off on reporting more about our routes and will take some time to do the research and create a proper series on why our routes are the way they are, what are the issues residents have with these routes, what the current routes will look like with all the new development being planned, and what suggestions our community would make to the TTC and City Council to make the system better and more rideable here in Etobicoke.
What I will suggest is that you keep an eye on the routes that you use and to let the TTC and its members know how you feel. There is a local Etobicoke connection to the TTC board at the moment as Ward 2 Councillor Stephen Holyday is now a member.
Also if you feel strongly about anything to do with the TTC in Etobicoke you should try to attend the Budget Presentations at Etobicoke Civic Centre on Wednesday Jan 18, 2023 or reach out to the councillor’s office directly.
Centennial Park Ski Hill
In 1967 Etobicoke Centennial Park was opened as a Canadian Centennial project to celebrate the country’s 100th birthday. Projects like this were created all over Canada and Etobicoke created a huge park on a piece of land that was once a dairy farm! Yes, again a farm, if you have been reading The Etobicoke Voice from the start you will know that almost everything here started as a farm!
One of the most well known parts of the park is the large ski hill which is a great place to also walk when the weather is nice and dry. For those like me who enjoy plane spotting it's a great place to watch the planes land and take off from Pearson International. But was this a natural hill that just fit so well into the planned landscape? It was man-made! The ski hill was an actual garbage dump that once full was turned into the beautiful landmark we know today. If you look closely you can see pipes in spots on the hill and at the top.
Since its opening Centennial park has been a much loved home to the outdoor enthusiast and has been able to keep residents busy during all 4 seasons. Over the years many locals have had the opportunity to learn to downhill ski at the hill and take advantage of living near one of only 2 ski hills in the city limits. I remember when I was kid in the 80’s always seeing the hill full of snow from December to at least early March and loved the sight of it even though I didn’t actually ski myself. At school there would always be stories of friends who went against the rules and took toboggans on the side of the hill and that it was the best run in the area (better than the actual sledding area on the other side of the park over by where the bike park now is)! I always thought it so unfair that my parents would not let me go there to sled too, but then I would hear about the broken wrists and ankles and well, I understood, I didn’t really like the idea of broken bones.
However, in recent years anyone in the area could see that the ability to get out on the slopes has been less and less each year. The park is located just south of the 401 and so the snow that may fall just a bit further north seems to miss us and the lake affect snow that hits Burlington, Oakville, and sometimes as far as Port Credit doesn’t reach us often either. We need good downfalls and those don’t seem to come very often. When it does, it may bring great weather for a week or so but then a mild spell goes and melts it. Making snow is obviously needed in these situations but if you go through a mild spell, the fake stuff just won’t work well either. It seems the city’s park department see the same thing and if you have watched the news this week it is official, Centennial Park will no longer offer downhill skiing. It truly is the end of an era but it also is the start of a new one.
While the lift will be dismantled the open field area at the bottom is about to be re-imagined and turned into to skating trail! The old ski chalet is going to stay and be updated which is great for that building as it can be used for various community programs. If you still want to ski, consider cross country skiing, the park is huge and when we do get a good snow fall lots of residents take advantage of the open space. If skiing is not your thing perhaps grab some snow shoes, I have done this a couple of times and it really is fun!
The winter will come and go but the park continues into the warmer months and will eventually see enhancements to the playground and wading pool. The current water play area is the same one I loved to play in and everyone thought it was so cool because of the multiple parts and the walkway part in the middle, but that said, maybe its time for an update! There are new paths coming to the hill and trails and a whole lot of other things that will make the park worth rediscovering. I could talk about all the amenities for hours so I will stop here but the city has a great deal more of the details on their website.
I remember in the 90’s being able to rent paddle boats at the pond and I will be the first to say that I would love to see those return and while that may be just a great memory we need to remember that the end of skiing will not be the end of the park. I know change is difficult but this time I think that better times are coming and Etobicoke will always be home to such a wonderful hidden treasure; even if it began as a farm and a local garbage dump!
Now as if the city knew that I was writing about the park this week I just received an email in regards to the Phase 1 changes which includes the skate trail and a new community meeting to discuss this plan in more detail. The meeting will be virtual on Thursday Jan 26 from 6:30pm to 8pm; use the link to register if you are interested in taking part and learning more from those who are involved in this process: City Of Toronto Public Meeting - Centennial Park
Thank you for all your support and I am so happy to see the new subscribers that have been joining over the holidays!
I hope you get to know Etobicoke a bit more each week and if you have a topic you would like us to explore please feel free to leave a comment or if you prefer you can send an email to TheEtobicokeVoice@gmail.com
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Until next time,
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