Mental health supports and investments in social services must be prioritized.
One of the most common themes in this year's budget was the Toronto Police Service (TPS) with the Mayor's proposed increase of $48 million to the TPS bringing the total budget to $1.1 billion, the single largest expense to the city each year. The increase was juxtaposed with the reluctance of City Council to fund 24/7 warming centres for the city's most vulnerable.
At the meeting, Councillor Alejandra Bravo moved a motion to reallocate 0.09% of the police budget towards the provision of drop-in spaces for individuals experiencing homelessness. This would have left an increase of over $47 million to the Toronto Police, and would have given people currently sleeping on the street, or on the TTC, a safe and welcoming alternative - the same folks the police are being asked to remove from TTC premises.
After learning that TPS management has spent over $300,000 on a podcast series and that 86 senior command officers have fully covered company cars - costing $700,000 per year - I believe that this reduction could have been easily accommodated.
I supported this motion but unfortunately it was defeated at City Council by a vote of 17-8.
Toronto is a caring city and I will continue to support an approach to community safety that prioritizes mental health supports and investments in social services.
Learn more about the 2023 city budget here.