The mayors of Canada’s largest cities are not getting a big bump in their municipal budgets.
But the results are more mixed than they were in the past.
On the one hand, the Canadian Institute for Policy Alternatives (CIPSA) reports that mayors in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area have seen their local budgets increase by an average of 0.5 per cent over the past five years.
That’s less than the 1.4 per cent growth in the national average of 3.1 per cent.
The big winners in this area are mayors who have increased their revenues from the federal government, the report says.
But there are other notable outliers, too.
Ottawa’s mayor is getting a boost from a $20-million federal grant that will help him bring in more revenue from property taxes.
The Canadian Association of Municipalities (CAM) reports Toronto’s Mayor Rob Ford has a 0.7 per cent increase in revenue from his office and the city’s mayor’s office has a 2.6 per cent boost.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has the most robust increase, but the province’s chief planner, John Baird, says the city is doing well.
The mayor’s revenues have increased over $30 million in the last five years and by almost $10 million in 2017-18, compared to a 5.1-per-cent decline in 2018-19, he said in a statement.
(The city’s chief planning officer says the increase reflects “the implementation of some of the City’s new services” such as bike lanes, the “increase in the number of staff and equipment being brought into service” and the “dedicated efforts” of police and emergency response teams.)
Toronto’s chief financial officer, Paul Akins, told CBC News the city has more than doubled its annual spending on the police force since 2010-11, with an average annual budget of $1.2 million.
That spending has increased by $40 million annually over the same period, according to the city.
Ottawa is the largest municipality in Canada and has the second-largest economy in the country behind Toronto, with a GDP per capita of $17,890.
But while the federal Conservatives have made it a priority to reduce the federal share of municipal revenue, Ottawa has made it harder for its largest municipalities to meet their targets.
Akins said the city could increase its budget by $500 million, or 20 per cent, in 2019-20, with other spending cut by 10 per cent or less.
“That is a huge challenge for us,” he said.
Ottawa and Toronto have faced budget pressures over the years because of a lack of revenue from provincial and federal transfers, Akins added.
The two municipalities are currently battling a bitter campaign over the issue.
The federal Conservatives say Ottawa is siphoning off billions of dollars from taxpayers through the Canada Infrastructure Bank, a fund that provides loans to provincial governments.
The Liberals say Ottawa wants to raise taxes and use the funds to build new roads, bridges and transit lines.