Centre For Local Research into Public Space (CELOS)


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News and Commentary 2008

posted on March 14, 2009

New Toronto act, two years later

Published: December 28, 2008
Source: The Star

So, you don't like paying thousands of dollars to city hall through Toronto's land transfer tax? Well, it wouldn't be possible without the new City of Toronto Act. You object to a municipally imposed motor vehicle registration fee? Put it down to the act. You don't want to have to pay a nickel for a plastic shopping bag? Blame the act again.

Indeed, few pieces of legislation have had more impact on Canada's largest city than the new act, which came into force Jan. 1, 2007. It gave Toronto new autonomy and taxing powers.

But the framers of the act wisely included a provision requiring a review after two years.

We are now at that point. Oddly, however, both the city and province seem uninspired by the occasion. Instead of a far-ranging and public review of the strengths and weaknesses of the groundbreaking law and possible amendments, it will likely be a perfunctory affair – perhaps little more than a token meeting of civil servants from both Queen's Park and city hall.

Read more >>

posted February 4, 2008

ONE WEB SITE INTO THREE, THEN FOUR, THEN….

The cityrinks.ca web site has become the most frequently visited spin-off from the original dufferinpark.ca web site, at least during the winter. And now the www.celos.ca. web site is taking a lot of work and attention, as more and more of the research material gets posted. The cobinthepark.ca web site is branching off because it has so much material on its own. As for the dufferinpark.ca website, one of its most active areas is the neighbourhood services page, with a growing list of neighbourhood recommendations (and a few cautions) about roofers, handymen, book-keepers, schools, restaurants – everything. Have a look, and send in your favourites too.

From Dufferin's February news letter

posted February 09, 2008

INCREASED USER FEES AND THE CITY BUDGET: editorial by Jutta Mason.

The CELOS group (CEntre for LOcal Research into Public Space) has been tracking the Parks, Forestry and Recreation budget for some years. Last year we hired an economics researcher to find out the budget trends from before amalgamation to now -- no easy feat but not entirely impossible either. He wrote a paper that we published on the cellos.ca web site, and on Tuesday February 5, I made a deputation to the Budget Committee, drawing in part on that research.

CELOS has been trying to find out what has caused Parks, Forestry and Recreation (PF&R) to be so "cash-strapped." This year (for example) this department’s net tax funding will be around $235.5 million, and yet they say they need $84 million more (from user fees etc.).

Since payroll is the biggest expense by far, we looked there. Our budget researcher found an increase of 787 full-time-equivalent jobs over the last ten years. That's could certainly be one reason why the budget has gone up so steeply.

posted January 27, 2008

INCREASED RECREATION USER FEES: "EVERYBODY GETS TO PLAY"

Higher user fees proposed in a new report from Parks, Forestry and recreation staff, called "Everybody gets to play." Although a joke is already making the rounds, calling this approach “everybody gets to pay,” the report is not all about cost increases, but also about a proposal that all Toronto school kids are to get free swim lessons (grade three) and skate lessons (grade five). The main idea, though, seems to be the concept of “cost recovery,” with the aim of getting 50% of recreation program costs covered by user fees. This is a separate income stream from the Parks, Forestry and Recreation tax allocation (now just over $300 million from the city budget).

From the City's report: "Everybody gets to play (TM)"

P.3 “Basis for this report”: “In 2006, PF&R initiated, as part of the City’s program review process, a full costing and pricing study on selected recreation programs and services to provide information to support decision making on services, fees and subsidies”

p.4: “A Corporate User fee policy is being developed for Council consideration in 2008. Pending the new policy, divisions are to follow the 2007 directive on user fees which states that ‘where direct users can be identified, City user fees be established to recover the full cost of the relevant service and be increased by the rate of inflation, while ensuring that the most vulnerable are protected.’

January 28, 2008: Request to Chris Gallop, assistant to Councillor Adam Giambrone, to get the "Full Costing and Pricing Study."

Full Costing and Pricing Study: This is what the PFR user fee increase report is based on. The study is part of the Program Review Framework approved by Council June 26.

I also want to know who did the report. It was supposed to be "staff independent of the program" and it was supposed to "assess their continuing relevance to community needs and how well they achieve their intended results, based on established selection criteria."

So who were the staff and what were the "established selection criteria"? Perhaps they will be listed in the report.

posted February 18, 2008

User fee recommendations reduced:

From the minutes of the Feb.11 Budget Committee meeting

The following 2008 Budget Adjustments be approved: 20 Budget Committee – February 11, 2008 Decision Document (see item BU26.23, page 19)

1. That the recommended average increase of 21% over the 3% inflation-adjusted 2008 fee rates for recreation user fees and permits be reduced to an average of 5% over the 3% inflation-adjusted 2008 recreation and permit fee rates to support the base budget shortfall in Park, Forestry and Recreation, with all free permit policies and discount rate structures remaining in effect.

2. The User Fee Revenues included in the Parks, Forestry & Recreation Recommended 2008 Operating Budget be reduced by $4.164 million resulting in a revised 2008 Recommended Net Operating Budget of $239.658 million.

See the City Hall document: 2008 user fees adopted by City Council March 31 2008 (pdf)


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