Toronto mayor John Tory wants to boost police budget by nearly $50M



Toronto Mayor John Tory is proposing to increase police funding by almost $50 million for 2023, boosting the force’s total budget to more than $1.1 billion, but some advocates say the move won’t make for a safer city. 

The new money, pitched alongside chair of the budget committee Coun. Gary Crawford on Tuesday, would be used to hire 200 more police officers, Tory says. Over 80 per cent of the new hires will be sent to “priority response units,” with the remaining to be placed in “major case management” and neighbourhood community policing.

“These are investments which, in my best judgment, we must make now,” said Tory.

The move comes amid an apparent increase in violence across the city and on the city’s transit system, Tory says, that are causing “significant anxiety” for people in Toronto.

“A good number of crimes we’ve seen in the city, generally, are serious. And they cause significant anxiety for the people who live in the city,” said Tory.

“So we must do everything we can to address crime and to keep people safe.”

The latest proposal represents a 4.3 per cent increase to the police budget —  almost three times more than the average increase during his past two terms, according to Tory, and takes into consideration COVID-19 related costs, inflation and labour. The increases come as city council, many elected to the job for the first time, is tasked with closing, as of October, a $857-million gap in the budget.

The overall budget, which is set to be considered by council in February, will grow as a whole this year, Tory says, emphasizing increases to priority items like policing, housing and transit. Residents can expect a tax increase below the rate of inflation to come, said Tory.

The plan also includes 90 more special constables to “support front-line delivery,” a city news release says, and 20 more 911 operators to improve service and response times. About $2 million of the new funding will go toward youth and families in anti-violence programming.

The budget also includes around $12 million dollars toward the Toronto Community Crisis Service, which sees mental health experts instead of police respond to certain calls involving people in crisis, with Tory saying he intends to find more “effective ways” to support people in crisis.

The proposed plan will go to the Toronto Police Services Board for consideration and approval next week.

New budget in line with re-election platform

Tory said the average increase to the police budget sat at 1.6 per cent during the past eight years as mayor.

During his re-election campaign, Tory said he’d continue to pushback against efforts to defund the police. In a year-end interview with CBC Toronto last month, Tory signalled he would push for a bigger police budget, saying that a “fraying at the edges” of community safety make the move necessary.

New Toronto Police Chief Myron Demkiw said he too would ask city council to hike the service’s budget. Response times for calls are not where they should be, he said when he was sworn-in in December.

The proposed increase is what Toronto police have requested for its 2023 operating budget, which was made after consulting with the public in November, according to a separate release from Toronto police. $18.5 million or 1.7 per cent of the increase is needed to fulfil wage increases under collective agreements, it reads.




Move means ‘more peril’ for vulnerable groups: advocate

Many have called for reduced funding for the service in recent years in response to police killings, particularly after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn., in 2020.

The last city council rejected those calls twice, instead voting to maintain or increase the amount of money going to the Toronto Police Service. Last year, the $1.1 billion police budget made up around seven per cent of the city’s total annual operating costs.

Those calls came into focus this past summer after a report from Toronto police found the service has disproportionately used force against Black, Indigenous and other diverse groups compared to their share of the population.

When asked how the increased budget will help build trust in communities distrustful of police, Tory said the issue while related, is “separate” from the proposed police budget increase.

Advocates such as Desmond Cole disagree.

“An increase in policing on the streets of Toronto automatically means more peril — for homeless people, for Black and Indigenous people, for queer and trans people, for sex workers,” said Cole.

“Nine years of him supporting police in this way hasn’t increased safety in the city of Toronto, hasn’t stopped violence in the city of Toronto,” said Cole.

Cole said he’s disappointed but not surprised the move, and that the money could have gone toward priority areas such as childcare and mental health supports. Those kind of supports, particularly for young people, can lead to an increase in safety and wellbeing at a much lower price tag, Coun. Gord Perks says.

“I’m very concerned that he continues to go down the path of investing the lion’s share of the money in tools that are very expensive and don’t work as well,” said Perks.

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