Making "Cents" of Toronto’s Budget

Every year, the City of Toronto embarks on a lengthy consultation process to review our budget. This is where we decide which programs to fund, including the Toronto Police Services, the TTC, housing and shelters, and youth and recreation programming, and how we intend to pay for them. A budget expresses our values. It should reflect a commitment to real community safety. 

When COVID-19 hit, the pre-existing cracks in our social safety net were laid wide open.  Much more needs to be done to create healthy, safe, inclusive neighbourhoods that work for everyone and the city budget can be a gateway for equitable access to programming. Since COVID-19, the City of Toronto is facing a substantial financial deficit and our desperately needed social programs are at risk of being cut altogether. These are recreation programs that keep our kids safe, and reduce violence. These are shelter beds, and support programs to house and help our most vulnerable residents. We cannot afford to lose them. 

Why Budgets Matter

While Toronto looks to rebuild and recover, these conversations are critical in ensuring that no one is left behind. Now, more than ever, we have to be specific about how we direct our finances. How do we determine the health of our communities? How can we make sustainable investments in our future? How can we help take care of ourselves and each other? Community revitalization is not just about bricks and mortar. Successful community revitalization is one where both the physical infrastructure and social development receive equal commitment and focus. Looking towards the future, this is how we can make our priorities known.

In anticipation of the upcoming Toronto City Council budget season, Councillor Wong-Tam hosted a series of virtual panels from September to November 2020, which discussed critical issues facing Torontonians through a budget lens. Through a series of five virtual panel events featuring subject matter experts and community organizers, we unpacked the budget process and explained how investing in community supports sustains healthy neighbourhoods. 

View the Panels

More information, including speaker information, a recording, and a transcript for each of the five panels, is included below. We look forward to continuing to generate conversation about critical issues facing our community and coming together to use our Toronto municipal budget to create change. Now is the time to stand together for a recovery for all. 



There are currently no speaker series scheduled. Be sure to check back soon!

Past speaker series

The Aftermath: COVID Recovery

Since the pandemic began in mid-March, the City of Toronto has experienced significant financial impacts in the form of both added costs and revenue losses as a direct result of COVID-19. This pandemic has exposed and brought attention to a number of gaps in the system, and has applied significant strain on our social programs and community supports. We cannot look to recreate the same systems that failed us before the pandemic. We must emerge and create a new path forward, with an economic and social recovery that leaves no one behind.

In the fall, Toronto begins its budget planning process for 2021. We know that the City of Toronto is under immense financial pressure because of COVID-19. For our final panel held on Monday, November 23rd, we looked to the future and discussed a vision for our city that works for everyone. Building on each previous panel, we took what we’ve learned and considered what recovery looks like for the City of Toronto. What have we learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, and how can we move forward creating a City that works for everyone? How can our municipal budget evolve to support the creation of this new vision for our City? This panel explored these questions and more, as we look towards a recovery for all.

Below, find a recording and transcript of the Aftermath: COVID Recovery panel event.

Click Here to Download the Full Transcript

Equitable Cities

In 2019 we successfully campaigned for the creation of an Intersectional Gender Equity Strategy and Gender Equality Office, which was finally approved and funded as part of this year's budget. The Gender Equity Strategy and Gender Equality Office participates in our City budget process by analyzing and evaluating the budget through an intersectional budget lens. This work is important, but there is more we can do to ensure our city works for everyone. Throughout the pandemic we have received report after report after report which shows that marginalized and oppressed communities are experiencing the brunt of the issues related to COVID. When all members of our communities aren’t adequately supported, we all suffer.

On Monday, November 9th we came together to learn more about how and why it is important to apply an equity lens to our municipal budget, and where our municipal budget can address gaps in equity planning in our city. Joined by experts in the field and panelists with lived experience, we asked what an equity lens is and how it can be applied to our municipal budget, why an equity lens is critical to the budgeting process, and where our current funding gaps exist in the system and how we can fix it.

Below, find a recording and transcript of the Equitable Cities panel event. 

Click Here to Download the Full Transcript

Housing & Homelessness

Before the COVID-19 global pandemic, Toronto was already facing a homelessness crisis of massive proportion. During the pandemic, the crisis has become more visible and incredibly more acute. Advocates and frontline workers supporting encampments continue to ring alarm bells about inhumane conditions. Residents who live adjacent to the encampments and shelters are demanding that the City do more to find more appropriate and permanent housing solutions for people who are underhoused. Chronic underfunding and failed policies have created the housing and homelessness crisis that is before us. The homelessness emergency is a public health crisis that requires an intergovernmental funding response, and concentrated efforts to invest in permanent affordable and supportive housing. 

On Monday, October 26th we learned from panelists with a range of expertise and backgrounds about housing and homelessness. This panel discussed how our municipal budget can be used alongside provincial and federal funding to end the homelessness crisis and increase long term investments for permanent affordable and supportive housing in the City of Toronto.

Below, find a recording and transcript of the Housing and Homelessness panel event.

Click Here to Download the Full Transcript


Community & Youth Services

Community centers and youth services are critical for building safe and healthy neighbourhoods. We know that investing in sports and arts programming prevent youth from engaging in violence, and help them prepare for a promising future with youth education and employment opportunities. With the City of Toronto facing a huge financial deficit, many youth programs, and centres designed to keep kids off the streets, and out of gangs face massive cuts to funding. Now more than ever it is critical to ensure that the City of Toronto budget reflects the needs and values of our communities. 

On Tuesday, October 13th we discussed how investments in our municipal budget create and sustain community and youth services. Our community and youth services offer vital supports which have been proven to reduce gun violence and gangs in young people. Some of these services provide employment opportunities, recreation, peer to peer mentoring and food security in downtown neighbourhoods. These programs have historically been underfunded despite their role in crime prevention and poverty reduction. Through a panel of experts and advocates, we asked how the municipal budget can prioritize supporting our most vulnerable young people, the impact of policing on black and racialized youth, and the role community and youth services play in keeping our communities and young people safe.

Below, find a recording and transcript of the Community and Youth Services panel event.

Click Here to Download the Full Transcript


Healthy Neighbourhoods

Everyday we walk through our own neighbourhoods and local streets, visiting parks, friends and businesses. We each travel the city in different ways; walking, cycling or taking public transit. What makes us feel safe as we visit friends, and businesses in our neighbourhoods? How do we get to our local coffee shop? Is there a public green space we can explore? If we feel sick, is there a nearby clinic? When we ask these questions, we consider the social determinants of health, including disability, food insecurity, access to healthcare, housing, gender and gender identity, to name a few. All of this and more contributes to our own wellness and that of our neighbourhoods. 

On Monday, September 28th we learned how our municipal budget can be used to create healthy neighbourhoods. What do healthy communities look like? What do our streets look like? How can our budget reflect the needs of our neighbourhoods? With a panel of experts, we examined how the City of Toronto budget can impact the health, safety, and wellness of our communities. 

Below, find a recording and transcript of the Healthy Neighbourhoods panel event.

Click Here to Download the Full Transcript

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