How Toronto Councillors voted on the 2018 public budget review process

For the launch of the 2018 Toronto budget in May of 2017, Toronto’s City Manager laid out the strategy for the year: Status Quo. Watch his presentation here. Part of this strategy was to exclude review of the budget by Toronto’s standing committees (committees which collectively oversee Toronto’s divisions and agencies on behalf of Council) over the summer.

To his credit, Councillor Michael Layton tried to introduce a public process in place of that. First in budget committee:

Source: Toronto Budget Committee agenda

… and then at the full Council deliberation of the 2018 budget launch on May 24, 2018:

Source: Toronto Council agenda

As the latter was a recorded vote, we can see who supports public deliberations and who doesn’t.

This was in spite of what appeared to be a Council direction in 2015 to have ongoing public standing committee review of service levels and priorities on an ongoing basis:

Source: Toronto Council agenda

My personal opinion is that promoting a status quo budget on the premise that no constructive outcomes are available without new funding is absurd, certainly with a $12B operating budget. Think innovation! Furthermore, suppressing public deliberation is undemocratic, with serious risks associated with such incremental disenfranchisement of citizens from their government.

The budget finalization process launched November 3 will allow for some public deputations, but given the size, complexity, and time and process constraints, it is well understood that few if any meaningful changes can be made at that stage. Decisions that have been made behind closed during the summer will stand.

Henrik Bechmann founded the budgetpedia project in 2015, and is currently the project lead (see budgetpedia.ca). The opinions expressed here are his own.

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