Mayor Chow to support motion approving Toronto police $20M budget increase

Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow attends a news conference with Ontario Premier Doug Ford, not shown, in Toronto on Monday Nov. 27, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Mayor Oliva Chow announced she will support a motion approving the Toronto police’s requested $20-million boost for its 2024 operating budget — a day before council is set to finalize the city’s budget for the year.

This comes just weeks after Chow unveiled her $17-billion budget draft, which didn’t include the police service’s recommended operating budget for 2024. Instead, it maintained city staff’s recommendation of a $7.4-million increase, a move that police Chief Myron Demkiw called “disappointing” and said would “significantly impact public safety.”

In December 2023, the Toronto Police Service said its proposed net operating budget for 2024 was $1.186 billion — a $20-million increase from the 2023 approved budget.

However, following criticism from Toronto police, Chow announced Tuesday that the service will now receive its full budget increase. Chow’s reversal to back a council motion approving the full police budget increase will mean an additional $12.6 million on top of the initial recommendation.

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In a news release issued Tuesday, Chow said she’s had “many promising conversations” with the federal and provincial governments about the “unique” costs of policing in Toronto.

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“Our city is at the centre of an increase in auto thefts; we host large local, national and international events every year, and we have nearly 100 consulates,” Chow said.

She said these conversations have been “ongoing and have been very promising.”

“This has allowed me to support a motion to provide an additional allocation to the Toronto Police Services Budget that will match the request of the Toronto Police Services Board.”

Earlier this month, Demkiw told members of the media that it’s a “critical point in history” for both the city and the police service.

He noted that not only has the city grown exponentially but also calls for service and crimes are up 19 and 18 per cent, respectively, this year.

Demkiw said that without the requested funding, his command team would have to make some “very difficult choices” to ensure that there are enough officers available for emergency responses.

He said the service would have to evaluate and determine which essential services it would have to “degrade or cut altogether” to ensure that all core service needs are met, “in particular, our ability to respond to the residents of Toronto when they need us the most.”

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Chow said that in speaking with Demkiw, they have “mutually recognized the need to reduce response times and develop a plan for staffing.”

“Mayor Chow and I remain in contact, and we have a shared commitment to ensure the safety of Torontonians. If our budget request is approved by full Council tomorrow, the Toronto Police Service will be able to move forward in addressing emergency response times, hiring and training more police officers for deployment and we will proceed with our multi-year hiring plan to assist us in adequately and effectively policing our growing city,” Demkiw said in a statement.

Jon Reid, president of the Toronto Police Association, echoed a similar sentiment.

“We’re pleased to hear this update from the mayor, and we look forward to watching the outcome of tomorrow’s final meeting on the City Budget.”

Chow added that they will both actively seek further support from other orders of government.

City council will finalize the budget meeting at a meeting on Wednesday.

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