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Chow says she’ll support motion to boost Toronto police funding to level TPS Board requested

Mayor Olivia Chow says she will support a motion to grant Toronto police the full funding increase they were seeking for this year after the budget she initially put forward trimmed the increase by $12.1 million.

The Toronto Police Services Board had approved a budget in December that sought a $20 million boost (1.7 per cent) for the police budget this year. 

The city budget Chow put forward several weeks ago still included an increase for police, but shrank it to about $8 million.

The move spurred a strong public campaign from Toronto police, and the police union, the Toronto Police Association, to reverse the move, with both warning that service levels would be affected.

In a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, a day before the budget goes to council, Chow said that she has “had many promising conversations” with other levels of government about the cost of policing in Toronto over the past few weeks.

“These conversations are ongoing and have been very promising,” Chow said in her statement. “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.”

Chow told CTV News Toronto that it’s not clear exactly how much the city will be getting from other levels of government, but in the meantime the extra funds for police will come from the city’s tax stabilization reserves.

She reiterated that through indirect funding and money set aside for salary negotiations, police are getting closer to $60 million more this year.

Chief Myron Demkiw had said that the reduced increase in Chow’s budget would jeopardize the force’s ability to properly meet service levels and would create staffing shortages down the road.  The Toronto Police Association had also launched a series of eye-catching radio and online ads highlighting a 22-minute average response time for priority calls.

Chow said Tuesday that pressure from both groups was not a factor in her decision.

“My concern is dealing with the big $1.8 billion shortfall that I inherited. I need to fix it,” Chow said. “Fixing the financial mess was my top priority. My second priority is putting the city back on track and investing in affordable housing, public transit, fixing the potholes, having better programs for young people.”

She said she was “very upfront” about the fact that the city faces unique challenges and has to find more money to pay for its needs.

“We have 100 consulates in Toronto, we have huge events like Pride Toronto, Carabana, Honda indie. So we have a lot of challenges and the federal government and provincial government said ‘Yeah, we understand that and we’ll support you,” Chow said. “So it’s just quite recent that we are able to have this kind of very promising dialogue.”

Chow said that she and Chief Demkiw have spoken and have “mutually recognized” the need to reduce response times, develop a plan for staffing, and seek funding from other levels of government.

In a statement, Demkiw said that TPS will be able to move forward with fulfilling its mandate if the funding request is met by council.

“Mayor Chow and I remain in contact and we have a shared commitment to ensure the safety of Torontonians,” Demkiw said in his statement. “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.”

TPA President Jon Reid echoed that 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,” he said in a separate statement. “The TPA will provide a more thorough comment at that time.”

A number of councillors had indicated that they would challenge the allotment for police in the budget.

Chow had said previously that she would not use her strong mayor powers to ram through the budget, and would rather seek consensus from council.

With files from CTV Toronto’s Mike Walker