2021 Budget Consultations

February 12, 2021

The Honourable Peter Bethlenfalvy

Minister of Finance
c/o Budget Secretariat
Frost Building North, 3rd floor
95 Grosvenor Street
Toronto ON M7A 1Z1

RE: 2021 Budget Consultations

The Federation of Urban Neighbourhoods (Ontario) Inc. (FUN) provides a provincial voice for residents’ associations in Ontario’s cities. Residents’ associations are engaged with their municipal governments in land use planning and development, transportation and advocacy regarding policy and priority setting for services provision, and revenues. FUN believes that sustainable urban regions are characterized by environmental balance, fiscal viability, infrastructure investment, and social renewal.  

FUN recognizes the significant fiscal challenges facing the Government of Ontario, especially in light of the current and continuing Pandemic. We also believe that investing in and maintaining physical, social and health infrastructure, all the while addressing the Climate Emergency are critical to the future well-being of all Ontario residents. And protecting green space improves mental and physical health, and moderates future health care and long term care costs.

Recognizing this, our organization offers the following recommendations for inclusion in the 2021 Ontario Budget.

Urban Infrastructure:

High functioning infrastructure is a key requirement to attracting and keeping businesses in Ontario. The provincial government should provide increased funding and support for urban municipalities to maintain and enhance their facilities, with an emphasis on “green” infrastructure.

Public Transportation:

With the growing impact of climate change, the need is urgent to shift public resources away from cars and roads towards integrated public transportation systems, including subway, light rail, intercity rail and buses. Urban/suburban sprawl, with its proliferation of private automobile-based transportation, is unsustainable. We must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Major new funding is required immediately to maintain and improve our public transportation systems, with an emphasis on replacing fossil fuel use with electric vehicles. The provincial subsidy for electric automobiles should be reinstated.

At the same time we need to make judicious decisions in our choices about public transportation. Burying the Eglinton West LRT will cost an extra $1.8 billion and may serve fewer local riders! Not good planning or a wise use of resources!

Active Transportation:

The Pandemic has led to a massive increase in residents’ interest in walking and biking for recreation, health and utility reasons. The Province needs to support and encourage this trend with a provincial strategy to make active transportation a full partner in provincial transportation policy. 

GTA West Highway (413) and Holland Marsh Highway (Bradford Bypass)

The Government created the Greenbelt around Toronto to preserve the land and protect the watersheds. The proposal to build a new highway from Vaughan to Milton through the Greenbelt and prime farmland would devastate the Greenbelt, foster increased reliance on automobiles, and promote sprawl. This is diametrically opposed to the intensification policy which the Government says it strongly supports as a way to reduce costs and protect agricultural land. This proposed highway should be scrapped and the $1.1B saving redirected to repairing infrastructure, improving public transit and reducing the deficit. Similarly the Bradford Bypass would carve through the Holland Marsh, which is the best market gardening land in Ontario.

These new highways would cost billions of dollars, to be paid for by Ontario taxpayers (only) as the federal government will pay for public transit and active transportation, but not for highway projects[1]

Affordable/Assisted Housing:

The deterioration of public housing stock in Ontario and the lack of affordable family housing in our municipalities are urgent problems that must be addressed. The Ontario Government must work with the federal and municipal government in a coordinated plan to address affordable housing. The range of housing options should be increased through the use of non-equity co-ops as a sustainable long term resource for affordable housing.

Toronto as the largest city has the most serious shortage of affordable housing in the province. The recently announced HousingTO 2020-2030 plans to produce 40,000 affordable housing units at a total cost of $23.4B. The provincial share of this is $7B; of this Ontario has committed only $148M to date.  The provincial government needs to meet its obligations as a full partner, along with the Federal government and the City.  

Climate Supportive Revenue Sources

The Province should permit Cities to develop newrevenue sources that are climate policy supportive like tolling (new or old) roads with revenues directed back to the City.

If handled appropriately this could serve to address the unacceptable levels of congestion on Highway 401 which is mainly due to trucks not using Highway 407 in order to avoid toll charges.   

Wasteful Climate Unfriendly Policies

The Province should cease wasteful climate unfriendly policies such as:

  • $35M in pursuing a law suit against the federal Carbon Tax which on average actually returns more funds to residents than it takes.
  • $230M in cancellation fees for wind and solar projects and
  • an unknown cost for cancellation charges to the three bidders for the Hamilton LRT
  • requiring gasoline outlets to place Anti-Carbon Tax stickers on gas pumps

Inequitable Revenue Treatment of Toronto District School Board (TDSB)

The TBSB is unable to collect Education Development Charges (EDCs) from developers who have been cashing in on the development boom in Toronto. EDCs are charged to developers to offset the impacts of development on the education system. For over two decades, the TDSB has been exempted from collecting education development charges (EDCs) under provincial rules despite ongoing pleas and a recent court challenge by the TDSB. Meanwhile, the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) collects fees to pay for its growth. This support for one system is inequitable and unfair. Also the province should amend the rules for all boards so that the money can be spent on construction and other capital costs, as was allowed before 1998.

The Federation of Urban Neighbourhoods of Ontario looks forward to working with the Ontario Government to improve our future. Our Member Associations from across Ontario are able to provide insights into policies and legislation being considered by the Government and are pleased to cooperate with the Government and staff in its consultations on such matters as we have done in the past.

Respectfully submitted,

Geoff Kettel
President

c.c. Premier Doug Ford, Andrea Horvath, MPP, Steven Del Duca, and Mike Schreiner, MPP


[1] Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced plans on February 10 2021 to spend almost $15 billion over the next eight years on public transportation projects across the country. He said funding could go to subway extensions, electrifying transit fleets, walkways, cycle paths and rural mobility needs (but not highways) https://pm.gc.ca/en/news/news-releases/2021/02/10/new-public-transit-investments-build-strong-communities-fight-climate