Londoners share budget concerns in special meeting at city hall

City council will host its next public participation meeting on the upcoming multi-year budget in mid-February.
City council will host its next public participation meeting on the upcoming multi-year budget in mid-February. Matthew Trevithick / 980 CFPL File

It was a packed house in council chambers on Thursday as Londoners outlined what they want to see in the upcoming multi-year budget.

The meeting came less than two months before a finalized budget is due — a document that aims to cover municipal costs between 2020 and 2023.

City council, meeting as the strategic priorities and policy committee, invited Londoners to city hall and gave each speaker five minutes to discuss their budgetary appeals.

READ MORE: London 2020-23 budget talks resume at city hall

Climate change and how it connects to other issues were top concerns on Thursday, with many speakers suggesting councillors pull back on road-widening projects.

Among them was Daniel Hall, who spoke on behalf of London Cycle Link and Western Active Transportation Society, a pair of advocacy groups calling for a 40-kilometre expansion of the city’s cycling network.

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“This would have a price tag of around $30 million and would represent an additional $4.7 million per year over what is currently budgeted,” Hall told council.

“We are proposing this difference in funds come from the existing road-widening budget or from an applicable reserve fund. In a time of climate emergency and unsafe streets, we need to act decisively to move forward.”

Another environmental appeal came from Londoner Jess Spoto, who vouched for implementation of the green bin program, a waste diversion initiative that would allow curbside composting.

READ MORE: London city councillors declare climate emergency

Housing was another core issue brought forth in council chambers.

Abe Oudshoorn, an assistant professor in nursing at Western University, spoke to the benefits of affordable housing and social housing while stressing the need to end homelessness in London.

“I ask of you, desperately, on behalf of neighbours, our friends and our family members who are sleeping unsheltered in London, to invest fully in all housing business cases,” said Oudshoorn.

READ MORE: Londoners looking at potential tax increase of 3.2-4.5 per cent

The topic resurfaced many times on Thursday, including during an appeal from Jacqueline Thompson of the London Advocates Network.

Thompson, who is also the executive director of Life Spin, a non-profit that serves low-income Londoners, called for further investment in supportive and affordable housing, specifically for families.

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“London has an exceptionally high child poverty rate, and the 5,300 people on the waiting list for affordable housing includes families with children,” Thompson said.

“Do you know how many affordable units were built in the past five years to house families with children? Zero.”

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Other highlights saw Western University Students’ Council vice-president Catherine Dunne outline public transit as the student body’s top priority, urging council to prioritize all funding requests from the London Transit Commission.

READ MORE: London affordable housing in the hot seat as scathing report goes before city hall

Local accessibility advocate Gerry LaHay also brought forward his petition that seeks better sidewalk-clearing practices in London, particularly in the winter season.

It is up to council whether or not to incorporate the opinions shared during Thursday’s meeting into any future budget plans.

An update on the feedback provided in the meeting will be published when council meets as the strategic priorities and policy committee next week.

Council will hold another public participation meeting on the budget, similar to Thursday’s, on Feb. 13.

A final budget is due on March 2.

— With files from Global News Radio 980 CFPL’s Jacquelyn Lebel.

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Morneau says pre-budget consultations underway, talks with opposition parties will be ‘more robust’
Morneau says pre-budget consultations underway, talks with opposition parties will be ‘more robust’