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2014 Budget: Aren't we worth it?

TEA Statement on the 2014 Toronto Budget
by Franz Hartmann, Executive Director

Do you know of anyone who has said “No, I’m against improving transit because I want more traffic congestion and dirtier air” or “No, I’m against investing in better infrastructure because when climate change really hits I want more basement flooding and power outages -like we had in July.” It’s difficult to find people who argue against investing in services and programs that improve environmental and human health and save us money in the long run.

So, it’s surprising that the city’s proposed 2014 budget effectively guarantees no reductions to traffic congestions and air pollution and no help in getting Torontonians ready for the regular severe weather events that will come with climate change. For the third year in a row, the city budget simply maintains the status quo. Yes, there are no significant cuts to existing environmental programs but there are also no new investments.

There is no new money to get city infrastructure ready for climate change, especially severe storms like the July storm that cost Torontonians a billion dollars. In January we heard about the new climate change study on what Toronto’s climate would be like by 2040: significantly more hot days and significantly worse storms. Then, in July 2013 over 120 mm of rain fell in the space of a few hours, a sample of what will become a regular occurance in Toronto by 2040. We found out later the cost to residents and the city was $1 billion.  There is no new money to help residents avoid future basement flooding by dramatically increasing permeable surfaces in the City. There is no new money to support energy conservation initiatives that will reduce the strain put on our old and fragile electricity system. There are no new resources for the City’s Environment and Energy Office to coordinate city wide efforts.

Nor is there any new money to improve air quality. We know people will keep their cars at home if TTC service is improved and affordable. But the 2014 budget proposes to invest less in TTC operations and services today -per rider- than in 2010.  This is in spite of the fact that a World Health Organization (WHO) report in October confirmed our worst fears: toxic chemicals from vehicle exhaust increases the chances of getting cancer. To make matters worse, the 2014 budget has no new money to follow up on Local Air Quality Studies (like the ones in South Riverdale and South Etobicoke) that clearly indicate that Toronto’s air quality is hurt by transportation emissions that kill us.

And there is no new money to support improving waste diversion. The 2014 budget does nothing to help Torontonians. There are no real investments in public education and support for residents living in apartment buildings to improve our use of Green Bins and Blue Bins. There is no new money to build another composting facility that the city will need once more people put more organics in Green Bins.

Think of the city like a house. Any homeowner would know the wisdom of replacing a roof before it started leaking because once the leaks have started, the damage and costs of repairing the damage get worse, very quickly. We need a new roof (better environmental services and programs). We already have lots of evidence that the roof is leaking (eg. bad air kills people; massive flooding that costs us dearly). So, it’s time the City’s budget invests in our future.

Have your say! Get involved in the budget process at City Hall.
Learn how on TEA's informative 2014 Toronto Budget Page.