Toronto’s Chief Administrative Officer is Trying to Fix the $30-Billion Operating Deficit

Mayor John Tory stands firm on low taxes in the face of massive budget shortfall, declining city services

“This is a hard place to be.”

By Steve Paikin

5:00am, February 7, 2018

There’s nothing quite like the challenge of facing the possibility of a bleak future head-on.

If only there were more people who took that challenge head-on. Unfortunately, some in this city appear to have failed to do so.

The city of Toronto faces a $30-billion operating deficit this year – far more than any other year – and the chief executive of the city is determined to find the source of it.

Toronto’s Chief Administrative Officer Jennifer Keesmaat has been working since January to create a new operating model that could fix the city’s long-term financial problems.

“We’re at a difficult juncture in city funding and we want to act fast,” Keesmaat told CBC News.

Keesmaat explained the process of getting to the operating deficit and the resulting challenge when explaining why the city can’t “sit on our hands” while it waits for the province to pay its bills.

“I have to say – not that I don’t respect the way they are doing it – it is a painful way to run a city,” she said.

“This is a hard place to be.”

Keesmaat said she’s learned to look past the “pain” and to look at the possibility of a long-term solution.

“It’s a long-term problem because these are unsustainable,” Keesmaat told journalists, responding to criticism from Mayor John Tory that city spending is on the rise and the budget cannot be sustained by growth alone.

Keesmaat said the new operating model is “about making sure we can continue to grow, but not in a deficit model.”

“We need to build revenues,” she said.

She explained the operating model includes revenue neutral spending and revenue enhancement spending that are designed to increase efficiency and revenue to make up for the gap between what the city currently gets through property taxes and property transfers and the money provided by the province

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