Featuring Sharmarke Dubow, City Councillor, Victoria, BC; Druh Farrell, Councillor, Ward 7, Calgary, AB; Émilie Thuillier, Mairesse, Ahunstic-Cartierville, Montréal, QC; and Kristyn Wong-Tam, City Councillor, Ward 13, Toronto, ON.
Cities in the Time of COVID-19: What are city councillors seeing at the local level?
A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation
1. Strengthening democracy at City Hall
Cities have suffered decades of underfunding and cuts, and now in a time of crisis, existing problems are magnified. As such, we need to democratize the economy and include the public in the municipal-budgeting process. “We all recognize that the budget is the apex of every single policy tool,” said Toronto City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam. Greater public participation in the budgeting process engages residents on municipal issues and holds higher-level governments accountable in their allocation of funding.
2. The ‘arc’ of the crisis
The crisis is an “arc.” In the beginning, there was tremendous cooperation and participation. Now, as municipalities reach the middle of the arc, people are exhausted, disillusioned, and questioning the efficacy of unprecedented public-health measures. The arc of the crisis has also highlighted differences in privilege, as “some want to have a haircut, and others cannot afford food,” noted Calgary City Councillor Druh Farrell. As well, there is a growing tension between those who want to return to normal, and those who recognize that the “old normal” is not good enough.
3. The role of the police
The discussion of police funding is important in a time when municipal budgets are stretched thin and in response to recent incidences of police brutality. Victoria City Councillor Sharmarke Dubow said there is no better time than the present for the public to rethink what policing can look like and to revisit the fundamentals of public safety, investing in preventative measures that have an impact on both crime and health. The City of Victoria, for example, took excess funding from cancelled events that would have required a police presence and used it to house people and improve public sanitation. “The social determinants of health are almost identical to social determinants of safety,” added Councillor Wong-Tam.
4. The nimbleness of cities
Councillor Farrell said that “austerity doesn’t work in a pandemic,” and cities are finding themselves having to be pragmatic in getting things done, but doing so creatively and nimbly, breaking the silos of jurisdiction. Councillors are finding themselves to be public health ambassadors, as key decisions right now must be approved by local public health authorities. Cities are tackling issues that usually are not within their jurisdiction, and “the little things that you couldn’t do, are now possible” added Montreal City Councillor Émillie Thuillier.
5. The tension between cities and provinces
Limited by the Canadian constitution written in 1867, municipalities are creatures of the province and do not have the fiscal autonomy necessary to tackle COVID-19 and as well as recovery. The councillors spoke about their municipalities’ relationship to their provincial governments and how intergovernmental support impacts crisis responses. Councillor Druh Farrell pointed out that the City of Calgary and the Province of Alberta have had differing views on aspects of the COVID-19 response. The City of Calgary, for example, had arranged to rent hotel rooms to house those in the shelter system, but the province intervened and overrode that decision, preferring to continue housing homeless and underhoused people in shelters.
The Star analyzed 31,000 anti-panhandling tickets. Forty-six people received more than 100, with one man ticketed 467 times, Emily Mathieu, Andrew Bailey, Cameron Tulk, The Toronto Star
Enough is Enough, The Urban Strategist
Retool the tax system to help pay for COVID-19’s cost, Patrick Gill, Policy Options,
A Wealth Tax Is the Logical Way to Support Coronavirus Relief, Daniel Markovits, The New York Times
Note to readers: This video session was transcribed using auto-transcribing software. Manual editing was undertaken in an effort to improve readability and clarity. Questions or concerns with the transcription can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org with “transcription” in the subject line.
Mary Rowe [00:00:28] Hi, good day, everybody, it’s Mary Rowe, president and CEO of the Canadian Urban Institute. I just had a moment of chill looking at that holding slide that I think we’ve been using since the beginning of our candid conversation series, Cities in the Time of COVID. Just reminds me how long we’ve been at this, although I appreciate that. I think that was a shot of Calgary Councilor Farrell. And I appreciate that you have been known to have snow at this time of year. I don’t think you’re having it today, but I’m hoping it’s.
Druh Farrell: [00:00:54] Not quite.
Mary Rowe [00:00:55] But I’m hoping it’s not snowing anywhere at the moment. But it still could, as we know. But it’s also just a reminder of how long we’ve been at this, how long have we’ve been having these conversations? I think we’re in our 11th or 12th week of lockdown. And these CityTalk conversations have been really instrumental, I hope, in trying to make sense of what’s going on. We originate these broadcasts in Toronto, which is the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Annishnabec, and the Chippewa and the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples. And it’s now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Meti peoples from across Turtle Island. Toronto is also covered by Treaty 13, which was signed with the Mississaugas of the Credit and the Williams treaties signed with multiple Annishnabec nations. I think this is a really poignant moment for us in Canada, in Canadian cities, trying to come to terms with. And I think reckon with our history and the way in which the way in which our cities have formed up and reflected various components of that history, good and bad. And I’m sobered by what cities around North America are dealing with this week and last week. And that is happening here in Canada as well. And how fortunate we are to have these city council members come and talk to us about what they’re seeing on the ground during COVID, what they anticipate need to be the changes that COVID may bring about in the way that we make. I mean, the way we make cities and the way we live together, we always acknowledge that the crisis isn’t over. And there are thousands and thousands of Canadians still engaged in first line response. Many of them work for municipal governments. Many will be constituents of these four, saving lives, trying to keep people safe. So we never want these conversations to supplant that. But we always ask that these be candid conversations. It’s hard, I think, for a city council person because they have a constituency to which they are accountable. They have council colleagues and they work in a particular kind of governance system. But we’re asking you to be as candid as you can. These sessions are recorded and we have a very active audience that participates in the chat function. And we also, just for those of you that are posting in the chat, you already know this. We we print the chat. We post the chat afterwards. We post the video of this conversation and we pull out key, key takeaways. So we hope everyone will do that. And we hope you’ll share your insights and your observations and what you where you’d like to participate in this ongoing conversation about cities in the time of COVID. You can do that at #citytalk.
Mary Rowe[00:03:27] So, as I suggested, this is a I think it’s a somber moment. We at CUI had put up some platforms during COVID to try to highlight the smart things that municipal governments were doing that citywatchcanada.ca And also the resourceful things that community leaders and institutions were doing and that citysharecanada.ca And those continue to live on and continue to be populated by volunteers. But now I think all of us are watching on social media and on television and we’re listening to the radio. However, we’re getting our news and we can see the fractures that were evident in urban life before COVID now completely being exposed and people just expressing their unwillingness to tolerate the kinds of things that have not been working in urban life for lots and lots of people. So I’m interested to have these council members join us and give us their perspectives literally on the ground, what they what they’re observing, as I suggested, and what they’re anticipating. So we all start these things with the sort of 90 second opening. I’m conscious that two of our council members, English is not their first language, and I am a horrible, fast talker. So I will try to not do that. But it’s really your turn. All you folks to talk so you can talk at the speed at which you’re comfortable in English. And we appreciate you joining us. So, Councilor Farrell, I’m going to start with you. I hope you’re right. If I call you Druh and you’re in Calgary and just talk to us about what you’ve been seeing in Calgary and the challenges that you’re facing right now. Thank you.
Druh Farrell [00:05:00] Oh. Calgary has been going through what we know as the crisis arc. So we saw this during the 2013 flood where the initial response to the crisis was kind as people helping each other almost a sense of not euphoria, but cooperation and participation. And then we see a downturn in the public mood. Sort of a disillusionment, and I think we’re in that point now where people are getting exhausted, expressing a significant amount of anxiety. We’re having interesting conversations about what kind of city we want when we recover. What does a recovery look like? And should we look back to normal? I think you’re seeing it as a tension between people who want to return to normal and people who are recognizing that normal wasn’t good enough. We need to build back better. And so we’re having that conversation now and it’s a difficult one. And then you marry that with the stresses that we’re seeing in the states. And we saw one of the biggest protests aside protests I’ve seen on the streets of Calgary. Black Lives Matter and the whole discussion around equity. And so these are uncomfortable conversations, but they’re absolutely necessary. And we need to look forward. Thank you. And thank you for having me today.
Mary Rowe [00:06:29] No, no, we’re we’ve been appreciative. You know, the Urban Institute, we say we’re in the connective tissue business and we’ve been really intentional and trying to make sure we have voices from across the country as best we can. We don’t have the Atlantic region today its hard. You’ve only got four slots to get the whole country represented.
Druh Farrell [00:06:44] But I do want to acknowledge that we are on Treaty seven land. I’m one treaty seven land original name Moh’kinsstis, which means where Two Rivers meet.
Mary Rowe [00:06:54] And you’ve been a council member for how long?
Druh Farrell [00:06:57] Nineteen years.
Mary Rowe [00:06:58] Wow. Good for you. You’ve stuck it out. All right, let’s hear from. There’s some thumbs up from people that appreciate and admire your patience, Druh. OK. Kristyn Wong-Tam. Let’s hear from you, if we could, from Toronto.
Kristyn Wong-Tam [00:07:12] Thank you very much, Mary and its great to be on the panel. I would say, you know, with respect to what’s happening in the City of Toronto, everything is just magnified. Toronto is obviously an economic and cultural heart of the city. It’s also an incredibly dense city. We have many people who are tenants who live in high rises. I would say probably 50 percent of our population are immigrants. We are all born from abroad. English is also not my first language, but over the years, obviously. I’m OK, but I think it’s important for us to just see that in big cities, oftentimes we becomes regional magnet for other social social ills and not necessarily that they’re all necessarily coming from other cities that sort of ring around Toronto. But we are seeing what I think is sort of a regional dump taking place in Toronto. It’s not to say the Toronto didn’t already have challenges around homelessness, around housing, around social, health, economic inequalities. But all of that is certainly magnified as as we’re seeing the pandemic take its toll. Challenges that we’re seeing is no different. I think in other parts of the country, but in Toronto, there is a big scare around Main Streets and what happens when our small businesses collapse. And we know that they’re already adapting to this new environment around e commerce and the onslaught of a big box retail. But all of that has come to bear in a tsunami effect. So those are some of the big concerns, not just around homelessness, not just around whether or not are main streets will survive, but there is, I would say, largely to what Druh was just pointing to quarantine fatigue. And the quarantine fatigue is that people have been very patient. They have all made the hard sacrifices and they’re hoping that they can come out of this. But the challenge before us is what do we come out to and what is the new Toronto reality look like on the heels of what happened in in the US, especially in Minneapolis and the murder of George Floyd. We also had a very unfortunate incident and a loss of a young black woman. Twenty nine years old, Regis Korchinski-Paquet. She died exactly two days after Mr Floyd saw his unfortunate demise. And over this past weekend, literally five thousand people took to the streets in Toronto to protest anti black racism. They asked for systemic change. So I would say that probably magnifies up and becomes much louder. And people are are are just itching to to have social connection. They’re itching for a dialog. And. And clearly, all those all those breaks that we saw in the safety net that was magnified under this pandemic. People now want to address it urgently, which is not a bad thing.
Mary Rowe [00:10:11] Sharmarke, you need to umute yourself. There we go, we’d love to hear from you.
Sharmarke Dubow [00:10:15] Thank you so much. You have to get up early at your earliest. We always acknowledge that you’re just having your first cup of tea, whereas these folks from central Canada are a little more highly caffienated needed so to tell us about your experiences in Victoria. Thank you so much for having me. My name is Sharmarke Dubow, City of Victoria. I am now at City Hall, which is located on the homeland of Songhees and Esquimalt people. As some of my colleagues already have said that, you know, our communities are dealing with the spread of the public health. This is a time where all the community members and the business and the business members are really looking at local governments for what actions we can take and also what type of recovery we will have, not only to protect the safety of all residents, but also to ensure the well-being and the local economy. And we know that very well in cities across North America, inequalities in enriched our society are an and and only is going to exacerbate. And we’ve seen that how this public health brought the forefront of things that might have not been visible before. But now, because of all these emergencies, we were able to see that. And we we’ve seen and Black Lives Matter and all around North America, which is actually an opportunity to reflect the historical and contemporary realities of black people and people of color and Indigenous people in this country and in cities and communities. And what is that reality? And someone who is a former refugee, I’m a benefactor of the freedom movement that paved the way for an equitable treatment in this country. So I as a city leader and what I’m seeing is very familiar to me because this week is my anniversary week been in Canada, eight years as a former refugee. So I’m familiar when it comes to uncertainty and I’m familiar when it comes to the new norm because, you know, refugees, they move from place to place and restart over. So to me, this is very I’m comfortable with this, but it is how do I communicate that with the rest of the community as there is so much in distress and fear because a lot of people have lost their jobs. People are not able to pay their rent. Businesses shutting down. Now restaurants are opening. So, yeah, all this uncertainty. How do you assure the public and the community we are all in this together and we’re going to move and pull each other? So this is as a local government. And one other thing I am seeing is the communication with intergovernmental. And I think this is the time that all other levels of government invest in local levels so that they invest on the everyday people. I leave to that for now.
Mary Rowe [00:13:54] Thanks, Sharmarke. Interesting your comments about refugees being more familiar with with uncertainty and having. And there are good sides and bad sides to that. I’m sure it’s triggering all sorts of horrible trauma memories for people. But as you suggest, there’s more familiarity that that these journeys can happen where there are lots and lots of Canadians who have never experienced anything like this. And they’re young perhaps, and they don’t have parents. My parents are dead, but I certainly they lived through World War II. I heard about the depression. I heard about challenges. Many, many people have no experience of this in their direct lives. Now they do.
Mary Rowe [00:14:32] OK, Emillie, we’re going at the end to you. So we have three folks here for whom English was not the first language. Isn’t that fantastic? Druh, unless you’re holding out on me. I think you’re an Anglophone.
Druh Farrell [00:14:42] Sadly.
Mary Rowe [00:14:44] Its alright. All right, Emillie, let’s hear from you in Montreal.
Emilie Thruillier [00:14:49] Thank you very much for having me. From Montreal, as you said, really, I think cities are in the frontlines of this health crisis because we are in direct contact with the population. The local organizations and the small businesses that make the life of the city. But at this moment, almost all decisions need to be approved, but by public health authority. It’s a great change in our way to make decision. And cities are not responsible for the public health messages. Yet the pandemic really highlighted the importance for the city councilors are as us mayor, as public health ambassadors. We’re talking about public health every day. And then cities are not responsible for many facets of social housing, economy, homelessness. But we had to find a solution quickly to address really growing concerns in the city because we live in it than we see it. And people want solutions. So we have to work. We will work in close collaboration with the public health agency. But as a city, we would put a lot of resources and money. But human resources, too. To have this problem solved. But LA life continues and democracy continues. So we at City Council of Montreal, where a 64 and we meet by Zoom and we take decision and we are a Lifestream. And in my borough, I made two webinars to inform the population about ongoing projects. It’s important to continue the link that we have with people. We are we are creating more bike path and pedestrian roads so people can can get around in the city safely with the sanitary measures. And now we are looking how we can reopen municipal facilities. It’s not easy. We need some help perhaps from the government and we are seeing forwards. What kind of city we want. I heard that from other person, too. And it’s clear for us that, well, we we are thinking for a city for everyone. And this includes housing, urban agriculture, strong local commercial street, sustainable mobility. And it’s time now to think of these things for the life today, but for the life after COVID, too. Thank you. [
Mary Rowe [00:17:54] So you’ve raised so many interesting points, folks, this idea of a crisis arc. Druh, I’ve not actually heard that. It’s it’s almost as if there are it’s almost like Kubler-Ross stages of dying. You’re saying here is a euphoric for every kind of chimes and then there’s the disillusionment and are we moving to that resignation phase? I don’t know. It doesn’t feel like that to me. It feels like we had a new surge of almost outrage that is being manifested in a certain kind of way to this point that Emilie just raised about public health, that you had to work so closely with public health. And how do you folks think that your municipal councils have functioned? How effective have you been when so much that’s going on actually isn’t under your jurisdiction or control? Thoughts on how you. I don’t think very many municipal workers have spent any time saying, oh, we can’t do that emergen…. We can’t meet that emergency because it’s not in our jurisdiction. My sense is that you’ve just been doing whatever needed to be doing eh.
Emilie Thruillier [00:18:54] Yes. And we counted on municipal employees to engaged. And so they wanted to help and they they did. You know, some some little things that never can be done because it wasn’t possible. Well, it was possible now. So really, the creativity, the work that it’s so encouraging. And I think that we have to say it because people and population probably they don’t see how much work is done by local employees. And it’s so important. And with the government at some point we said, but OK, perhaps we it’s not to us to do it, but we will do it. We will we will help. We have some local resources that we will put on this issue, because if not, it will just not get worst.
Mary Rowe [00:19:54] Yeah, I’m just gonna encourage people in the chat to direct your comments to all panelists and attendees. There’s a toggle switch at the bottom of the chatbox that lets you do that. And so then everyone sees what you’re saying. That’s people like you. Steve Winkelmann, if you could put your comment on panelists and attendees. So can I hear from some of your colleagues, other councilors here about the extent to which you feel that your has your level of government, your order of government been able to do what it needs to do? And now of course, you’re short of dough we’re hearing that Kristyn do want to take it from here. [
Kristyn Wong-Tam [00:20:22] Yeah. I’d like to add something to that. I mean, and certainly, Emilie, I recognize that cities are responding and we’re doing it in ways where we just have to, whether it’s because of provincial or federal downloading over the years or some unequal payments and perhaps underfunding, cuts of services. Just been through the years of decades of just sort of coming down on cities. I know that the City of Toronto, which isn’t you know, we don’t generally get involved with mental health services. We would not necessarily get involved with supportive housing, not in a in a front loaded way. We are now having these conversations about delivering different types of health care, different types of mental health supports, trying to get in front of the housing problem. That is really unsustainable for any city unless you have federal provincial participation. And. And the big challenge that we have in the City of Toronto, I think, is that a lot of folks know not necessarily want to give Toronto a lot because the we generally are viewed as this economic engine, which we are. But at the same time, like I mentioned at the very beginning, is that we’ve become this regional draw, this regional magnet. So it does feel like right now our Board, our Board of Health, and I happen to be the vice chair of the Board of Health. We are responding to every single crack in the social safety net. And a most recent motion that was moved from our Board of Health meeting almost read like a laundry list of requesting the province and the federal government to literally do their job. Item after item was citing the things that we needed in order for us to deliver our service, the things that we were hoping that they can invest in in order for the city to sort of get to a better equitable outcome to help people with respect to, you know, whether a safe supply for or for those who are dependent on drugs or whether it’s about making sure that there’s adequate mental health supports. It just kept going back to we are struggling to do so much as a city. And yet, if we don’t have that meaningful, sustainable intergovernmental cooperation, that has to extend post-COVID, that everything that we have now learned and that has been magnified under the pandemic is going to get that much worse if we think that right now things are bad. I think the recovery is going to be worse if we don’t have all orders of government getting together and really engaging, deep, meaningful dialog and a structural rethinking of how do we work too with one another. And if they don’t necessarily want to do the work, then I think that we need to reset the formula maybe in cities, large cities like Montreal and Toronto that have to really get involved with the mental health services. Same thing with supportive housing. If they don’t want to necessarily do it or they think it’s a Toronto problem or Montreal problem. Calgary problem, big city problem. Then give those big cities more power, more ability to to respond to our local communities and definitely the tools that allow us to to perhaps raise some additional dollars.
Mary Rowe [00:23:28] You know, Kristyn, there’s an argument. Some folks are talking about it in the chapter about why wouldn’t cities take those responsibilities on? Because they do. And as long as they as they have a funding source to do it, because the dilemma for a citizen now or a resident, because we’re not citizens or residents in an urban environment, is if things are screwing up. It’s very difficult to know which level to hold accountable because you all do tend to blame each other, just saying so, and it’s a question of how and how willing are you as city council members probably are you to be empowered then take the responsibility and be held accountable? Druh, I’m sure this is a very spirited conversation in Calgary because you have a particular dynamic at the moment with your provincial government and and with the federal government. So can you tell us a little bit about how Calgary has been navigating this relationship with public health and all of the jurisdictional challenges you’ve already got there?
Druh Farrell [00:24:19] Well, I think our relationship with with public health has been very collegial and cooperative. We do have an austerity provincial government right now. And as we as we have learned, austerity doesn’t work in the middle of a crisis. Right now, we really know why government is important and that is antithetical to the philosophy of our provincial government that they’re forced to respond. I think that City of Calgary recognizes that we know what our citizens need and would love the ability to help them, but we have very limited power to do it. What we are noticing now when we saw this during the 2013 flood is the ability for the city to respond in a really creative way, super nimble. We forget about the silos and just fix things. And what we see is we we are learning so much. There is often a push to your bureaucratic response very quickly and you snap back and we we need to resist this. And so what.
Mary Rowe [00:25:23] How do you do that I mean, Emilie was saying things that were seen as impossible all of a sudden. Hey, funny how how do we how do you keep that nimbleness that you’ve been demonstrating? I wonder any thoughts on encountering? Are you going to keep it?
Druh Farrell [00:25:37] I think it’s a tough one because there’s a there’s a real desire to to go back to normal in which after we sort of recognize that normal isn’t isn’t that good anymore.
Mary Rowe [00:25:49] And I wasn’t wasn’t wasn’t working for a lot of people. I mean, that’s part. And isn’t it. Right.
Druh Farrell [00:25:56] Yeah. And not everyone is suffering from this differently. Some people are want to get a haircut and other people are you don’t have food on the table or don’t have a home. And so I, I, I think that’s going to be the struggle is how quickly certain elements of our society want to push back to the old normal. And we need to we need to resist that. It is going to be a conversation. I hope we have as a nation is what is the role of cities in in Confederation? Because we’re dealing with a rural farm based constitution. And cities do not have the ability to raise their own revenue and deal with your own problems. [00:26:41][45.4]
Mary Rowe: [00:26:43] How many of you have laid folks off because you have each of your municipalities laid folks off? I know Calgary has Toronto. You didn’t hire recreation workers, I think, and contracted workers. What about you, Sharmarke? Did you did did Victoria lay people off?
Sharmarke Dubow [00:26:57] As of now we only there was casual workers that on call workers those. We’ve given them two week’s pay. But we we’re going to have a discussion about that weeks coming. So as of as of now, we haven’t laid off. But I really want to add to the point to that we were talking about working with all levels of government and the British Colombia. The we have a good relationship when it comes to provincial government. And particularly I want I want to talk about a case where there was a lot of unhouse people in our parks, because of the the housing crisis was way before the COVID-19. The overdose was also there before this crisis. And then the province really acted immediately and took an action. And that was really good move in terms of much needed response for unhoused community members. And hopefully that will lead to permanent housing in the future. So there were two Bundoora. There was this street near the city hall and there was a particular park which is called Topaz Park, but also there was other parks and but the province only concentrated two areas. And the challenge was on the concern I particularly had was the order to house the people what was a public safety order. So which seemed punitive and slowly to respond to different from a health safety order, because, as we know. Public safety order and will reinforce criminalize the people who already criminalize their unhouse and the homeless people and open this up to greater risk. And that was always my biggest fear. So the level then other people were left at other parks. What we did is at the police budget and there was an allocated money that we did and the police didn’t use, such as nightlifes or events, rallies and things like that. There was allocation for funding for that, the police that didn’t use. So we took some of that funding then allocated to house unhouse people and sanitation and other things to support folks who are the most vulnerable in our community.
Mary Rowe [00:29:47] Emilie did you have you lay people off in Montreal?
Emilie Thruillier [00:29:51] We tried not to. So perhaps some seasonal personel, but we really wanted to keep all our people. It was important for us. It’s a decision we made and we are having a plan to reduce it a bit. The budget of the municipality. One hundred, one hundred and twenty five million dollars. But we cut a little bit, as it was said before, not to the people working and not the essential needs or even service to resident. So the things we try to cut, things that we will not do in this year because of the COVID, it’s it’s a difficult effort. But we think that we have to to do this, but not so much because we have to receive some some help from the government, because, as you know, a city cannot have a disequal budget. We have to go to the year and to be at the same level of municipal taxes. And this is quite difficult. And some people perhaps don’t really understand that because we are seeing federal and provincial government announcing programs and programs and so many money. And it’s important. But we at the municipal level, we cannot do this. We don’t have this financial power. We don’t have. So we have to do other things.
Mary Rowe [00:31:35] Yeah. I mean, it is a weird kind of state. You know, if someone from outer space came and watched the way that the Canadians live and saw that eighty three or four percent of them lived in certain environments, but that the resources available to make that quality of life in that environment were not actually under the control of the people that were governing it. I think people would say it’s kind of weird, you know, and here. Here you go ahead, Kristyn. I mean, here you’re in a situation, folks, where you you are on the front lines. You’re needing more resources and you’re having to you’re having to line up behind every other specific group in the country for some kind of what’s being characterized as a handout or a bailout. It’s a strange thing. Kristyn, go ahead.
Kristyn Wong-Tam [00:32:21] It is. And I think, you know, coming back to the point of, you know, who’s responsible for what service, who’s responsible legislatively, you know, if we don’t have accountability from the other orders, the government to do what they’re supposed to do, then all of that is going to fall into neighborhoods and parks, into under the bridges. This is just a reality. One principle that I think that, you know, is this worthy of exploration is this is something as a school of thought that comes out Indigenous community, and that is that it’s an Indigenous child is in need of housing, shoes, food. Whoever finds that child feeds that child, puts clothes on their child’s back, educates a child and houses them. So then we sort out the bills and we sort out the components afterwards. And I think that, you know, so much of our our sort of intergovernmental bickering comes from who’s responsible. The City of Toronto operates obviously the largest public transit system in Canada, one of the largest ones in in North America. We are forecasting about a five hundred twenty million dollars shortfall between now and Labor Day, obviously because of the fall of ridership, because of the cost of maintaining the service. And we hear from the federal provincial governments that it’s their fault, is their problem. Somebody else should go pick up bill. And so we’re we’re kind of we’re going to be stuck with a potential best case scenario, deficit of one point five billion dollars to potentially two point eight billion dollars at the end of this year simply because of our COVID response. We’re not in a position at this point in time while lives are at stake, while we’re trying to defend people from falling into further homelessness, a state of precarious unrest. We’re not going to be able to sort out who was responsible right now because because of this, because of this activity, all we need to do is make sure that we keep our citizens, our residents safe, housed, that they have the food that they need and that and that we are going to not abdicate and walk away from our responsibility, but rather step up and do more. So I do think that, you know, if we don’t get to the other side of the pandemic where we have this conversation about what does the new world order look like, what does democratizing the economy look like with real people involvement, getting citizen to help co create the solutions? Get us out of the COVID-19 induced lockdown recession. We’re not going to be able to look at Canada as a prosperous, well-to-do nation because we will have actually brought ourselves down by not getting together to get to a solution on moving forward and becoming globally competitive again. And these are really challenging conversations that cities can’t do it by themselves. And when I get together with councillors, you know, just like just like these these fine colleagues, we usually nod in agreement of what we need. We all know what we need. You just don’t necessarily get the same level of support in know in Ontario’s case. You know, I just love the fact that Victoria’s got support from the provincial government to help them address their homelessness. Premier Ford in Ontario hasn’t. Has barely said a word around homelessness and hasn’t put in any additional money around homelessness. So the fact that the B.C. government is going into work with Victoria directly. Wow, that’s that’s amazing. Good for you. But that’s not our reality here. And that means that we have to respond to the 90 encampments that are happening across the city. The city just has to do the job and we have to sort out the bills later.
Mary Rowe [00:36:06] And there’s an argument, I know that that’s encampments diminishing the economic viability of the city as well as being those particular individuals at total risk. There’s concern. I was speaking this morning with a business leader who was lamenting this. And the dilemma is who has got the resources and the tools to create the solution to these challenges? Where are you going to say something? [
Sharmarke Dubow [00:36:28] Yeah, I, I, I really appreciate 17 Kristyn said in terms of the transit because we know that when. The public, community, our constituents, community members want not access opportunity. There is two things. There is financial cost and there is environmental cost. So now we see the revenue of the area for the transit fallen and the ridership because our regional because I’m on the Regional Transit Commission and I’m on the commission and it was free of fair free until 1st of June. So that means we’ve lost a lot of revenue. So the question right now is the federal government. What are they going to rescue? Are they going to rescue dying businesses or things that will really is in the future? And also will help everyday people find a sense for the transit. Transit will also help us at the local level to do a good local plan in decisions such as bus lanes. And if we have a good, reliable, fast and convenience transit, people won’t rely. A lot of people won’t rely on cars. So that limit is how much of road maintenance will do. That will also save some money for the cities, but also it will increase the well-being in the house. So and also would increase the opportunities a mother could take and her children to playground or to school. Seniors will visit their friends. So the problem is, what would the federal government put money in and what are they going to support? Because if they really invest at the local government local level, they invest in everyday people.
Mary Rowe [00:38:30] Just the dilemma is what Druh and hinted at here earlier is that the terms of the Constitution make it difficult for the federal government to actually do that. I’m I’m interested, folks, in your talking about the city we want and you’re talking about the constraints you have at the moment to actually achieve the city we want. There are some areas where you do have authority, and one of them that surfaced on the chapter early on is very much in people’s minds right now, is policing. And how how does policing need to change? Am I not right that this is actually something that is in your jurisdiction and that you do have the you do have the powers to impact?
Druh Farrell [00:39:12] No, I think there is a limit to. We have a provincial police act, in Alberta. And so a city council can’t interfere on how the police deploy themselves. We can really only determine their budget. Thankfully, Calgary has quite a civilianized police service and we use the word service proudly, not force and with a pretty good relationship with Calgarians. But I think it’s all. It’s the largest. And I’m surprised if other cities wouldn’t be the same. It’s by far the largest part of our operating budget is the police service.
Mary Rowe [00:39:54] And can you do you imagine? Do you have a window? No. I mean, there are people you’re asking about defunding police. They’re asking about how you can prioritize different kinds of efforts and capacity and resources within your police service. Any other thoughts on how you’re imagining that? Yes, go ahead, Sharmarke.
Sharmarke Dubow [00:40:10] Yeah, I. I’m new on council. I got elected in 2018. But the question I have is when we define public safety, we have to go back and visit that what public safety is and should define that. If we invest youth at risk and preventative things, is that public safety? So I think that is what we need to do on For…. In a sense. As I said earlier, we took some money which were for night and nightlife and things like that. Some money that the police didn’t already use are over allocated for sanitation. On unhouse people. So for me, I am for this sort of revisit what policing look like. And I look in the whole system.
Mary Rowe [00:41:13] I mean, there obviously there maybe the way, you know, I think people are are hungry for it. You were saying itching, Kristyn, for dialog. I think people are hungry for leadership that’s suggesting what this better normal could be. And I’m wondering if you, as city councilors have if you’re at a vantage point where you can provide that leadership and if in addition to policing. Go ahead, Emilie. Would you want to comment on that?
Emilie Thruillier [00:41:38] Yes, I said what I said. We we have our regards on budget. But as city councillors, we cannot tell the police to do so, to do one thing or another. So it’s there is always a line that’s a bit difficult to manage with. And we have to be. There are things that we can do and others know. But what we did in Montreal since Valerie Plante, the mayor of Montreal is there. We opened the security commission. We have some commissions and we have one on public security and we open it. We have 10 public sessions a year. This wasn’t really the case before. So we as city council are, but ask the public, too, can discuss with police from different aspects, different subject. Almost once a month. And this is really helpful because we can discuss some difficult subject sometimes between the tension, for example, the relationship between the police and the neighborhoods and people. Yes. Go ahead, Kristyn.
Kristyn Wong-Tam [00:43:00] Yeah. Thank you. And I really appreciate what my colleagues across the country are saying. So absolutely it is. It is. And we all recognize that politicians don’t get to necessarily direct the police. But at the same time, there is some direction that’s given. So, for example, right now we know that a lot of our officers are going out to a basically police in public spaces around physical distancing. This is something that the mayor has asked them to do. And so they’re off doing that, you know, with respect to what can we do to build safer communities. We recognize that the social determinants of health are almost identical to the social determinants of safety. So we invest in communities the best in youth. We invest in in neighborhoods. We can build safer cities. I think that the challenge for us at this point in time is that put the police budget has become a highly politicized debate. It is it is not neutral. When I hold a budget town halls and oftentimes I get I get 150 residents come out talking about how they want to spend their money, how they want city council to spend their money. They often talk about investment in youth employment. They talk about making sure that the communities have recreational social services so that they can support themselves and become resilient and strong. And when I talk to frontline officers or neighborhood officers are the ones that sort of patrol the area. They sort of build relationships ongoing with community members. They will say, councillor, we would love to see more money go into mental health support. They have said they want to see more money go into housing, more money go into supportive housing. But there’s a there’s a position around the police, especially for the higher up and with the brass and the association, is that it becomes extremely combative. And if we can bring more residents into the discussion around the budget and the budget process and how we make the decision, we’re actually going to get better budgets and then budget processes at the city, and this is where it’s critical to have citizen involvement, as when they come out and participate in those budget discussions. There’s a very good chance that we’re going to get different direction as opposed to left with the political actors all on their own in the council chamber, which is why I also times want to pursue and push the conversation further around democratizing our economies, because we need to have more people involvement in our financial decision making. And we all recognize that the budget is the apex of every single policy tool. Everything every single planned service strategy has to have a budget line. And so, Mary, you raise a point. Do we have a lot to say? Yes. Well, obviously, we have a green button, a red button. We all to push it multiple times. But if we don’t get more citizens involved, then it really is only twenty five people in the City of Toronto council chambers that have a say. And I would rather have three million residents telling us how we should go about doing our business and with their active and sustained involvement.
Mary Rowe [00:46:13] And, you know, I wonder if COVID gives you an opportunity to really bring home to people how critical the municipal services are that they rely on. They may not even have realized prior that it was the municipality that was providing a service or or if a particular outcome isn’t there, if there isn’t enough affordable housing in your neighborhood. Who do you actually hold accountable for that? That’s one of the dilemmas I think we need to. If you want to democratize the economy and citizens and residents need to understand why it matters that they get engaged. Right.
Kristyn Wong-Tam [00:46:45] It also allows other governments. And I’ll just stop at this point. It also allows other governments to to participate in a much more accountable way. And I think that’s one of the key things that are missing, is that we all turn to one another and say it’s your fault or your responsibility. But by democratizing the economy, it actually allows us all to sit at the table and to participate as equal stakeholders. In some ways. So therefore, is not cities going to the province where the federal government for this bailout, but rather how do we actually co design our solutions to the problems that we all inherit that are all before us together? And it’s way more accountable and transparent.
Mary Rowe [00:47:29] You know, the interesting thing about this. Well, there’s so many things, but the pandemic has affected every community. It’s a global event. And so it’s not confined by geography. But then everybody’s experience is so different, as we’ve suggested. And if we were to imagine an order of government that’s going to have the best intel, the best information about what the actual impacts are. It’s actually you. Right? You’re actually now the data source for what it really looks like on the ground. And as you. Spend your next. Know, the 19th of June is is 100 days of COVID, and we’re going to mark that with those series of consultations across the country to try to get a sense of what’s going on in places, as you sort of imagine the summer months. Do you have a sense of what your priorities are going to have to be to the next phase whenever the next crisis arc is? Why don’t we ask you first, Druh, do you have a sense of what the summer bodes for Calgary and for your involvement, leadership in it?
Druh Farrell [00:48:29] Well, I think there are a whole bunch of areas that we’re going to have to pay attention to.
Mary Rowe [00:48:36] Do you have a priority when you pick a few or no?
Druh Farrell [00:48:38] Well, I, I my area is the downtown as well. We have to choose a whole bunch of priorities because they are all inter intermixed and interconnected. We we are starting to ease restrictions. There a worry about a second wave. We need to be prepared for that. There is a real concern that we’re going to lose those small businesses and retailers that that really help define the character of our city. How do we how do we help them and ensure that they they can survive and hopefully thrive into the future? When we were students first entering into into at an isolation, we the city had arranged a number of hotels for people in the homeless shelters to move into the province over overrode that and and chose some shelter situation which which thankfully we haven’t had significant outbreaks. We need to talk about, about our seniors and and long term care and how how we can help that situation.
Mary Rowe [00:49:45] But that’s a perfect example where, I mean, the government had it who ostensibly had the best vantage points at a solution and the provincial government over called you. So it will be interesting illustrations that potentially municipal governments will be able to draw to say here’s where our lack of autonomy or lack of authority or lack of resources prevented us from doing the right thing. Mm hmm.
Druh Farrell [00:50:05] So I think the deep inequities of our our political system really been exposed it as like the inequities of our citizenry. And I will. Well, we have the bravery and the guts to do anything about it. I certainly hope so, because if we just go back to the way things were, then we’ll have failed as a society when the inequities have been so, so exposed to us.
Mary Rowe [00:50:31] Yeah, no turning…ignore them anymore. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. No turning back Emilie. And then I’ll come to you others.
Emilie Thruillier [00:50:37] Yes. I would talk about things for the summer that we and Quebec. Everybody is moving on the 1st of July. Well not everybody. And it’s difficult in Montreal for housing to see an affordable housing. And with the pandemic, it’s a little bit complicated, more so. We asked for five million dollars for the government of Quebec to for a plan for help us. But we did some we had a plan at the city how to deal with it. So we have a hotline and we have people that are working with the people that see there will not be able to have their house on the 1st of July. So we are really engaged on a plan for this moving day, and it’s really important. And on the other side, we think that maybe people in Montreal will stay in Montreal for the all the summer. So we are implementing a plan with bike lanes and pedestrian street to linked all the great parks in Montreal, because we have a lot of great parks in Montreal and we want people to discovered all these parks in sustainable transportation. So going by bike or on the public transportation to. So we have local parks and we do something in local parks and we will reopen some municipal facilities. As the government said, we can open it. But we had this plan that this plan of two hundred and fifteen kilometers of new bike path or pedestrian street. We have also some commercial pedestrian street that that the merchants, they they wanted to do it in their streets. So we are working so with some association that want it to to do it, to experiment, to live this thing in the summer. So we we are working so people can get. A summer, an exciting almost summer in Montreal. We want people to. There will be some animation and some some art in these, a bike path, for example, going from a park to another so people can do tourism in their own city. And to be free, to be safe and working at the same time with local businesses to see how they can survive this pandemic with local people going to to to their to their commerce. So we have this plan of Montreal. This this summer.
Mary Rowe [00:53:46] It’s I don’t know if people across the country realize that the lease system in Quebec is that every leased least residential lease is turnover on the same page. July 1st, I learned that from friends who were university years ago. So it has an extra challenge for you. And also this leadership that you’ve been able to take to connect your assets. All these wonderful neighborhood assets that you have into a network to encourage a staycation. In English, it’s called a staycation. And isn’t that interesting to you? And I wonder if any of that may actually be end up being more permanent. Maybe it won’t just be temporary.
Emilie Thruillier [00:54:22] Oh, I think so. Perhaps.
Mary Rowe [00:54:24] Yeah. Interesting. Interesting. OK. Sharmarke and we’ll come to you then. I want to go to Kristyn and back to Druh. Go ahead.
Sharmarke Dubow [00:54:30] Thank you very much. So for us, we’ve deferred the property tax and we will hear and receive in August. So a lot of our programs in the city, strategies that we had from housing to an equity framework from from infrastructure. So that will be referred to August. And we will be discussing it for now. We’ve taken quick measurements, such as having Victoria’s recovery reinvention, innovation, resilience, also have an open air recovery and supporting full restaurants and cafes in public spaces, supporting the recovery, arts and culture sector, which I wouldn’t go to details, but also increasing physical distance for pedestrians in public spaces and neighborhoods. Because, you know, most of our sidewalks is is designed for two people. So now we have to think about how to increase that. Then also extending for the parking commercial zones and business plan on recovery grant programs. After school programs, one of the things we did is a food security program as well as and safe, supervised and indoor. And for folks unhousing and also we were working closely, the hospitality industry and also the cooperative for for low carbon [ ]. So we we’re doing all this and until hopefully August. Then in August, we would visit and all the other bigger projected we had done and we’ll see how things fall.
Mary Rowe [00:56:33] So it’s it’s it’s interesting sometimes to imagine what it would be like if money weren’t constraining you or if you had your own capacity to raise the money and be accountable directly for it. What would you be doing? Thanks Sharmarke. I hear you’re interested how many of these things you guys are going to try? You may end up finding a way to make it OK. Kristyn?
Kristyn Wong-Tam [00:56:53] Well, Toronto’s not exactly in the clear yet. We still are disproportionately having active cases that are continuing to be reported. Last count is by eleven thousand three hundred thirty eight. You’ve got. That’s that’s that’s our today’s number. We also have one hundred and forty nine active outbreaks and long term care facilities and other places in congregate settings. So I don’t think we’re we’re going to be we’re going to be cautiously watching and I think we’re going to be monitoring to make sure that we can be responsible and slowly life the veil on the economy and be able to bring people back.
Mary Rowe [00:57:34] Can you explain for a national audience why Toronto has been not as adventurous, let’s say, as Montreal, in terms of, or Calgary, in terms of opening streets and if some people perceive Toronto as to have been quite slow in that? Can you give us a sense of why?
Kristyn Wong-Tam [00:57:47] Yeah, I mean, we’re following the advice of our medical officer of health and today that that team is working with the emergency operations center at the City of Toronto. They’re working extremely closely with. Province and I think, you know, there are probably Ontarians that would call probably want Premier Ford to take a more regional approach. But Toronto is remaining to be an active sort of place of community transmission. Obviously, it’s disproportionately placed in congregate settings. So until our medical officer of health says, you know, this is the best advice to us, you know, everything that we’re doing is actually through that public health lens. And so it’s not necessarily my decision. I was one of the early ones out in March, so we need to open up the streets. I’m a big promoter of active transportation. I’ve been running with my friends the Open Streets program in Toronto for seven. This is our seventh year. So this is not something that I necessarily fully agreed with. But at the same time, she didn’t want to necessarily send out mixed messages to Torontonians. And we have seen some results where, for example, thousands of people gathered in Trinity Park, a very popular park downtown, where there was zero physical distancing. And any you know, there’s there’s some anticipation that, you know, those type of events would set us back. So I think Dr. De Villa, our medical officer health, is giving us the very best advice. And that advice sort of has to guide us through as we take take the attempts to reopen the economy. And, you know, as Emilie is talking about the two hundred and fifty kilometers of cycling lane in Montreal, I can just like my God, that’s exciting. In the city of Toronto. Of equal proportions of excitement, I guess by Toronto standards. This is a city that loves cars and and so our car loving city. And our car loving council just approved twenty five accelerated kilometers of cycling lanes to be installed this summer. And for the city of Toronto, that brings us to a grand total of 40, 40 kilometers this year. And I’ll tell you, that is historic in this city. So it’s a different environment. I work with an amalgamated city. Montreal, has been amalgamated. Guys get to respond more nimbly. I think if it was only the city core of Toronto, we could probably, you know, match your numbers. But because we work in a big amalgamated city with seven seven former cities and boroughs coming together, I have to please a lot of suburban colleagues as well. So we’re going to be watching and carefully, I think, opening the economy. And and, you know, we have to do this with the advice of our medical officer health. And there are some businesses that have been just crying because of the phasing effect that, you know, I cannot do curbside delivery, for example, of an atmosphere in a bar or nightclub. I represent the gay village in Toronto. A lot of the things that we do are in congregate settings. That’s where money comes together. That’s how we gather and safe spaces. And that is not going to happen. And some of those businesses are in the basement. Some of them don’t have second floor access. And they are not to have the ability to curbside access, nor will they have the ability to create participate in the in the patio cafe culture that we’re hoping to accelerate this summer. So we have to be able to figure out how to open the economy that allows for more participation to think about those businesses and those individuals who are left behind. And that requires, I would say, again, almost a block by block, a block by block input. And so citizens can come out and actually do more with their streets if we gave them more of that power, which is what I have been advocating for for almost all my time at council.
Mary Rowe [01:01:32] Very quick last word to you, Druh in Calgary.
Druh Farrell [01:01:36] I think we’re seeing some bright lights of really creative ways that citizens are responding and sometimes cities just need to get out of the way and let them do their thing. We’ve seen curbside concerts and photographers doing porch trip photographs on people’s porches. So I think we need to draw on that creativity. And the sharing of streets is something that cities have been talking about for so many years and now we’re being forced to do it. What we can keep at the end of this is, I think, what will help define us. And I really love what Kristyn is saying about democratizing the economy. We need to look at at what kind of society do we want when this is over? And it’ll take a while for it to actually be over, if it ever really is. And so there’s there are lessons here. And let’s let’s keep our minds open and learn from them.
Mary Rowe [01:02:35] Well, thank you. Thank you. All four of you for sharing from your perspective, as we suggested on the ground perspective, you have constituents to whom you’re accountable. You have colleagues that you work with. You have a framework, a constitutional framework from 1867 in which you have to operate. So thank you so much for a number of things. You’ve said serious things, inspirational things, things for us to pay attention to, what’s going to stick. And as you just suggested there, Druh and others have echoed what happens now is going to define us. It’s going to define the cities that we want collectively. So I just and on behalf of all of us, we thank Emilie, Sharmarke, Kristyn, and Druh for joining us from your seats. And we look forward to having conversations with you as we continue to live cities in the time of called it. On Thursday, we come back to city talk and we’re going to talk about the powerful role of art and culture. And then on Friday, I’m with the mayor of Ottawa. So I really appreciate people coming in and tuning in and look for us online. It’ll be posted later. Thanks again, everybody. Really glad to have you.
Druh Farrell [01:03:38] I enjoyed every new ideas. Thank you.
Sharmarke Dubow [01:03:41] Thank you.
Mary Rowe [01:03:42] Bye bye.
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12:01:41 From Canadian Urban Institute: Folks, please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.
12:03:42 From Canadian Urban Institute: You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our webinars at https://www.canurb.org/citytalk
12:04:08 From Andre Darmanin: #BlackOutTuesday
12:04:10 From Canadian Urban Institute: Keep the conversation going #citytalk @canurb
12:05:25 From Emily Wall, CUI Staff: Today’s panel:
Sharmarke Dubow, City Councillor (Victoria)
Druh Farrell, Councillor, Ward 7 (Calgary)
Émilie Thuillier, Mairesse, Ahunstic-Cartierville (Montréal)
Kristyn Wong-Tam, City Councillor, Ward 13 (Toronto)
12:06:33 From Lester Brown: In light of what has been happening south of the border, is there any consideration of taking up Black Lives Matter request to de-fund or have a careful look at Police budgets. The money may be better spent on other services.
12:10:01 From Andre Darmanin: @Lester Brown It has been a issue as long as I can remember. 6 years ago a council candidate raised the issue about lowering police budgets. There are many more priorities for our cities.
12:10:06 From Alan Kan: More radical elements have simply called for defunding or even abolishing the police. What are your thoughts on that notion?
12:12:34 From Lester Brown: One issue is the change in Public Space use i.e. away from autos in Toronto. I fear that the extension of private patios will just change private use. Can we just have chairs and tables in the street like in Berzky Park or Gould St. We have to look at making the City better for all not just for private interests. I am a strong supporter of supporting local, however.
12:16:20 From Lester Brown: @andre Darma do you mean that we should be reducing police budgets to meet other priorities? Now is the time to do it while on the radar.
12:17:16 From Andre Darmanin: @lester. Yes
12:17:43 From Jennifer Roth to All panelists: Agree, reduce police budget. Why do local police need armoured vehicles?
12:17:45 From Beate Bowron to All panelists: Kristyn, regarding Councillors’ communicating – your newsletters are the best of the bunch. Thank you for always finding the right tone.
12:18:03 From Andre Darmanin: I should correct… a Mayoral candidate. Kristyn would remember.
12:18:15 From Gabrielle Langlois: Maybe Charter Cities/cities keeping a larger percentage of the taxes collected, would help make managing these type of crisis easier/faster to manage.
12:18:20 From Canadian Urban Institute: Welcome new joiners! Just a reminder to please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.
12:18:21 From Steve Winkelman to All panelists: Bravo Montreal!
12:19:32 From Lester Brown: @Gabrielle Charter Cities are no different than the Toronto Act or having a similar thing.
12:20:22 From Steve Winkelman to All panelists: How much harder is it to get your work done while working from home and potentially facing municipal staff layoffs?
12:20:37 From Mick Malowany: @Alan Kan Imagining cities without police is a critical and essential thread in this discourse. It forces us to confront the disparity between what police services do and what they are supposed to do. Ballooning police budgets and militarization of police forces are symptoms of an institution that is woefully out of touch with its purpose.
12:20:52 From Steve Winkelman: How much harder is it to get your work done while working from home and potentially facing municipal staff layoffs?
12:23:45 From Andre Darmanin: Charter cities are not the same as the Toronto Act. Charter cities give independent taxation powers without the interference of the upper levels of government
12:23:54 From Andre Darmanin: or limited intereference
12:27:42 From Lester Brown: @andre It has to be negotiated like it was in the Toronto Act. That Act does give the only tax powers the Province gave to Toronto, and that is the power for property tax, alcohol and tobacco (may be others) but with a Charter they also have to be negotiated. The province can deny them whether they are requested in a Charter or an Act.
12:28:05 From Feroza Mohammed to All panelists: Kristyn Wong-Tam, What happened to the funds that the fed invested towards housing, directly to the city of Toronto?
12:28:14 From Gabrielle Langlois: I think Toronto, for example, gets less than 10% of the taxes it generates/gives to Prov/Feds. If more of those resources are kept where the larger populations resided in cities, then cities would be able to address the pressing needs of city residents.
12:30:47 From Andre Darmanin: Druh speaks the truth. The problem is that the Constitution was based on agrarian times. Cities are much more powerful now.
12:31:12 From Andre Darmanin: Toronto’s budget is greater than the whole province of PEI
12:31:15 From J. Scott: From my deputation to Toronto’s Infrastructure and Environment Cttee Jan. 21/20: I am disappointed that in the safety and security budget line, not the poor, the indigent, the homeless see their needs a bigger slice of the budget pie but the police are again greedily siphoning off a whopping per cent to their already bloated budget. Last year, I mentioned my concern that the additional $30 million might go to harassing people on the street. That appears to have been the case and instead of taking into account the safety and security of these most vulnerable members of our society, last year officers were using that extra money to go after panhandlers looking for change with an unconscionable $200 fine. Are we returning back to the dreadful Dickensian times when poverty also meant being thrown in jail?
12:32:25 From J. Scott: Part 2 of above: According to the Toronto Star, 31,000 tickets were handed out. If the process for each incident took one-half an hour that’s 15,500 hours of an officer’s time at whatever rate they’re being paid. That’s just not a good use of expensive personnel in my opinion. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2019/07/08/the-star-analyzed-31000-anti-panhandling-tickets-forty-six-people-received-more-than-100-with-one-man-ticketed-467-times.html
12:35:16 From Jennifer Roth: How many of the tickets were even paid?
12:35:56 From Abby S: How do we also avoid loading these coming deficits on the next generation? Do we need to overhaul the tax code? Do we need a one time wealth tax?
12:36:07 From Jennifer Roth: Hamilton had a fellow who was made famous because he a huge number of tickets, and the public was ticked off. His multiple $1000 debt was eventually cleared because of public outcry.
12:36:36 From J. Scott: Transit: a key to recovery or a COVID-19 pathogen incubator? It’s deeply concerning that with our province’s decision to re-open society and the economy, Ontario hasn’t taken into account the likely contribution that poor and insufficient transit in large urban centres has made to the spread of the novel coronavirus. With the news that the TTC is reducing service by 50% on some routes this situation becomes much more troubling and of great concern.
12:38:04 From Andre Darmanin: hey @abby. Nice to see you again. There was a recent IRPP policy options article that discussed overhauling tax codes. Wealth tax is needed. As well, congestion pricing is needed.
12:40:13 From Mick Malowany: @Andre Darmanin Can you post a link please? Would be interested in reading that article!
12:41:04 From Andre Darmanin: @JScott In my last blog post (http://urbanstrategist.ca/enough-is-enough) I talked about my experience on the Jane 35 bus on a Saturday. Less service. Packed buses. Paranoia surrounding physical distancing. The majority of passengers are people of colour like myself. It is a concern and a social justice issue.
12:41:09 From J. Scott: I think Toronto police receive 10% of city’s total budget.
12:42:18 From Andre Darmanin: Mick and everyone https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/may-2020/retool-the-tax-system-to-help-pay-for-covid-19s-costs/
12:42:20 From Mick Malowany: @Sharmarke Dubow is spot-on: we need to revisit the fundamentals of public safety and how police serve/threaten that outcome.
12:42:55 From Abby S: While a US analysis, worth considering,
12:42:56 From Abby S: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/21/opinion/coronavirus-wealth-tax.html
12:43:16 From Abby S: There is also a very interesting podcast interview with him on this subject.
12:43:18 From Andre Darmanin: Abby… connect with me on Linked In
12:43:28 From Lester Brown: Yes, @emilie Thuillier, leadership matters and I wish we had you mayor in Toornto.
12:43:49 From Abby S: 👍🏻
12:45:04 From Lester Brown: @kristyn Wong-Tam yes, we need to invest in communities.
12:46:03 From Abby S: With regard to public safety, we need to educate people that investments in public safety are longer term…everyone wants a short term fix and are not prepared to look at long term solutions…which may have choppy results in the short term. We suffer at every level from short term (election cycle) thinking
12:47:23 From Lester Brown: In New York , they actually allowing voting on the budget. The voting is only in some wards but is open to everybody i.e. citizens or not and I believe everybody over 14
12:49:17 From Canadian Urban Institute: You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our webinars at https://www.canurb.org/citytalk
12:53:12 From J. Scott: Toronto should create a park down by Lake Ontario where Sidewalk Labs walked away!
12:53:59 From Rosemary Lambie: Merci Emilie – thanks everyone. This is encouraging.
12:54:14 From Steve Winkelman: Bravo Montreal. Protecting health and the planet!
12:55:00 From Canadian Urban Institute: Keep the conversation going #citytalk @canurb
12:55:19 From Andre Darmanin: J Scott. You forgot about the Raildeck park project?
12:56:13 From J. Scott: Andre Darmanin good YOU remembered! Thanks for reminding me.
12:56:26 From Andre Darmanin: NP
12:56:46 From mario mammone to All panelists: More people in parks…Please add more garage cans in Montreal parks…I find walkers and joggers and bikes did NOT mix well on bike paths. They MUST be wider to accommodate everyone. I find this a problem in MONTREAL. Better planning will be needed with increase traffic on paths.
12:57:18 From Andre Darmanin: We do need more park space and also more affordable housing down in the East Bayfront area.
12:58:28 From Andre Darmanin: Yes 40 KM of open streets is not enough!
12:58:34 From Emily Wall, CUI Staff: Please help CUI improve its CityTalk programming with a short post-webinar survey – https://bit.ly/370MxQM
13:02:45 From Rick Byun: Nice work, @canurb. Good leadership to connect on imporant issues. COVID-related and otherwise.
13:03:04 From J. Scott: If Toronto businesses aren’t open, we need more port-a-potties (even in “normal” times these were needed) otherwise people may not be able to use the outdoors and be physically distancing.
13:03:45 From mario mammone to All panelists: For affordable housing to work someone has to take responsibility to build it and managed it. Someone has to take accountability for all the vacant lots and put a suitable plan on every level of government and build sustainability not just a band aid solutions.
13:03:46 From Oriana Nanoa: Thank you!
13:03:47 From Debra Nyczai: Thank you; great webinar!
13:03:48 From Aqsa Malik to All panelists: Thank you, informative and timely discussion !
13:03:53 From Abby S: Thank you!
13:04:01 From Abby S: Stay safe
13:04:01 From J. Scott: MERCI. THANKS EVERYONE!
13:04:03 From Feroza Mohammed to All panelists: Thank you for a great conversation
13:04:08 From Kirsten Frankish to All panelists: Thank you very much for another fantastic webinar!
13:04:10 From Lester Brown: Thank you all.