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Mayor Chow backtracks on police budget hike, will now support $20M increase

Mayor Olivia Chow and Toronto police Chief Myron Demkiw have 'mutually recognized the need to reduce response times, develop a plan for staffing,' Chow said in a statement Tuesday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
Mayor Olivia Chow and Toronto police Chief Myron Demkiw have 'mutually recognized the need to reduce response times, develop a plan for staffing,' Chow said in a statement Tuesday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

Mayor Olivia Chow will backtrack and support a council motion approving the full budget increase requested by Toronto police after rejecting the $20 million increase earlier.

Tuesday's about-face came after the mayor's $17 billion draft budget for 2024 was released earlier this month, which initially maintained city staff's recommendation of a $7.4 million increase. It did not include a $20 million boost that the Toronto Police Service requested to its nearly $1.2 billion budget.

Chow's move to back a council motion approving the full police budget increase will mean an additional $12.6 million on top of the initial recommendation.

In a news release Tuesday, Chow said she has been part of "promising conversations" with the federal and provincial governments about the unique costs of policing in Toronto. She said Toronto has secured hundreds of millions from federal and provincial governments but did not say how much of that will go toward the police top-up.

"We have now confirmed that there will be extra funding from the provincial and the federal government, which is good news," Chow told CBC Toronto.

"It means that we don't have to go and cut other programs in order to find the money to support the police … because that's not what I want to do."

Asked why she approved to meet the police's requested budget increase, Chow cited the federal government's recent announcement to provide police in Ontario $121 million to target gun and gang violence with a particular focus on the surge in auto thefts and carjackings in the GTA.

"It's just very recent that we are able to confirm some of the extra financial investment," she said.

Earlier this month, Chief Myron Demkiw said he was "disappointed" with the smaller increase, saying the force won't be able to hire four classes of 90 officers and "essential civilian professionals" this year.

"In speaking with Chief Demkiw, we have mutually recognized the need to reduce response times, develop a plan for staffing, and we will both actively seek further support from other orders of government," Chow said Tuesday.

Chow said she will also be supporting a motion to save windrow snow clearing, which is on the chopping block at the Wednesday meeting. Windrows are piles of snow that block driveways and are created by passing plows.

Ending the windrow plowing services for 262,000 homes was expected to save the city $16 million annually but some councillors previously said eliminating the service will adversely affect seniors, calling for the services to be saved.