How much money did your city councillors spend in 2015?

In 2015 Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam spent $30,456 from her constituency services and office budget, the most among all 44 councillors at City Hall. The vast majority of that ($19,222) paid for communication initiatives and activities in her busy downtown ward, Toronto Centre Rosedale.
The left-leaning councillor represents one of the most commercially dense and active regions of the city, with an extremely young population. Stats Canada data reveals the majority of her constituents are between 25 and 34.

On average councillors spent $19,871 from their constituency services and office budgets. Money here is used to pay for office expenses and ward activities. Stephen Holyday (Etobicoke Centre) was the most frugal in these two areas. In 2015 he used only $1,047 – a fraction of what nearly all other elected officials at City Hall spent that year.

Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon (Beaches – East York) spent $25,866 with $17,856 of that filed under “Constituency and Business Meetings”. The city of Toronto provides a detailed breakdown of how councillors spend in this category, including scans of invoices. Records show McMahon used much of her funds here hosting summer movie nights in her ward, each costing around $2,000.

Summer Movie Nights

But office and constituency expenses represent only a small fraction of the pie when it comes to total spending. The entire budget for all 44 councillors is $20.9 million. “Some get a little more of the budget depending on the size of their ward,” said Jackie DeSouza, the city’s Director of Strategic Communications.

Each councillor received around $475,000 in total spending. Last year none of them reached that figure however some came close. In 2015 Councillor John Filion (Willowdale) was the most generous with his budget at $459,014. That amount – as with all councillors – represents salaries and benefits for him and his support staff along with all expenses tied to ward and committee business.

On average councillors spent $381,861 in 2015 with most of it going to pay support staff. Their own salaries are set at around $135,000 per year.

But the mayor’s budget eclipsed all others within council. In 2015 he spent $1,971,807 from a total allowable of $2.3 million. This was more than quadruple the council average. Salaries for his support staff are his biggest expenditure: 83%. He spent 7 times more here ($1,637,016) than the council average ($208,982).

Toronto’s Jewish community targeted by the most by hate crimes

Hate Crime Pic

(Click here for interactive graph)

Last year 31 hate crimes were committed against the Jewish community, down only slightly from a five-year high of 44 in 2014. Most of these took the form of property damage and happened in 32 Division, a police patrol area bounded by Steeles and Lawrence Avenues to the north and south, and Bayview Avenue and Keele Street (roughly) to the east and west.

There were 19 hate crimes reported in this division, which includes the neighbourhoods of Willowdale, Newtonbrook and Bathurst Manor, and more than half were against the Jewish community. Two involved criminal harassment; one, threatening bodily harm; and seven, mischief to property.

More generally hate crimes fall into three categories: race, religion and sexual orientation. Since 2006 the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) and Black communities have been the next most targeted groups, but in recent years the Muslim community has increasingly seen the level of violence directed towards them escalate.

From 2013 to 2015 the number of hate/bias crimes committed against this minority group rose from 11 to 26 – the sharpest increase within a five-year time frame.

The prevalence of hate crimes and their targets can be shaped by international events according to the Toronto Police Service – Hate Crime Unit Annual Hate/Bias Crime Statistical Report.

2015 Annual Hate Bias Crime Statistical Report

The report reveals that “negative backlash following the attacks in Paris and the Canadian government’s refugee resettlement plan to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees” may have been responsible for the sharp spike in hate crimes targeting Muslims.

The city of Toronto is planning to launch an anti-rumours campaign to fight the negative stereotypes they believe are fuelling such discrimination and bias.

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(Click here for interactive graph)

Not all minority groups are victimized in the same manner. The Muslim community was most likely to be targeted by criminal harassment whereas members of the LGTBQ community were most often the victims of assault.

Hate crimes have been rising steadily against the LGBTQ community since 2012. Toronto Police Services data indicates there were 29 in 2015, up from 19 in 2012. Those crimes targeting the Black community have been decreasing only slightly during that same period, from 26 to 20.

Overall this type of violence has been falling in Toronto. In 2015 there were 134 hate crimes reported to police – an eight per cent decrease from the year before. 19 people were arrested.

This is why Toronto has never hosted the Olympics

Montreal and Vancouver have done it, why haven’t we? The question creeps up when talking about Canadian cities that have hosted the world during an Olympic Games. Toronto, Canada’s largest city and centre of commerce and culture, has yet to share in that experience. We tried in 2008 but lost out to Beijing.

Last fall mayor John Tory assembled an advisory panel to look into the possibility of hosting a major international event and asked members Gord Nixon, former CEO of RBC; Sevaun Palvetzian, CEO of CivicAction; and Saäd Rafi, former head of the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games, to create a short-list of events the city could bid on in the decade. The report, Bringing The World to Toronto, found several systemic flaws and cracks spread throughout Toronto’s bidding process that have prevented the city from enjoying a major event on scale of the Olympics, World Expo or FIFA World Cup.

Advisory Panel Report

The main issue appears to be Toronto’s lacks of a formal, official process for bidding on major international events. Too often the attempt is ad hoc and reactionary in response to an opportunity that arises – one which other cities have likely been preparing for for years.

“Because these events arise only periodically (and often unpredictably) there has not been much reason to develop a consistent, methodical approach to evaluation or planning that carries forward from one event to the next,” read the report. “As a result, major event planning has often been undertaken with a significant degree of uncertainty, a lack of sufficient early coordina­tion and limited resolve from all partners.” In other words, the city has been caught off guard and unprepared.

Our report will help the city and its partners to ad­dress these challenges and, hopefully, ‘profes­sionalize the process’.

The report reveals the city has had to “start from square one” every time an opportunity to bid on a major event arose because it lacked the formal processes and coordination to jump on an opportunity and “hit the ground running” during the competitive process.

“A significant amount of time (and resources) is expended just to get started on planning and evaluation,” read the report. “In our view, it is important that major event hosting has a natural home at the city and is supported by reliable financial resources.” The panel recommends resources be dedicated for the planning and evaluation of hosting opportunities – this could come in the form of designated staff or a separate department singularly focused on exploring and preparing for hosting opportunities, even when none exist in the immediate future. The point is to be ready when they do.

Another problem the report underscores is a lack of regional partnerships, an important element that adds a measure of security and stability within the bidding process.

In service of that goal, the advisory panel recommends the city work with the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport; the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation; Tourism Toronto and the surrounding regional tourism organizations to form a partnership “that leverages the existing capacity of these organizations.”

Toronto cannot be alone in this undertaking.

Bringing The World to Toronto reveals that Canada’s largest city missed the opportunity to do so in 2015 with the World Expo, which was eventually awarded to Milan, because it lacked the necessary commitment from a government partner.

Both a well-funded bidding mechanism with pre-existing processes that can quickly be executed, and multi-region, multi-governmental support are identified as key components necessary for generating and sustaining public support – the other key ingredient in a successful bid.

It’s not surprising then that, as we’ve seen with some unsuccessful or unrealized bids in the past, they failed to capture full public support (as in the case of the 2008 Olympic bid).

The report illustrates the anatomy of success by using Vancouver, awarded the 2010 Winter Olympics, as an example. The initial idea to host the Games came in the late 1990s with the formation of the Vancouver Whistler 2010 Bid Society.

The organization enjoyed initial support from Tourism Vancouver, Tourism Whistler and Sport BC. In 1999 a new non-profit Bid Corporation was formed with financial backing from the Canadian Olympic Committee, province of British Columbia, the city of Vancouver and municipality of Whistler.

In early 2000, ten years before the actual Games, the Corporation began signing corporate sponsors. In 2002 the city signed an agreement with the federal government that committed $9.1 million in funding.

In 2003 the IOC Evaluation Committee visited Vancouver and in their report “highlighted the ‘high quality’ and active participation of key government officials and organizations that will be involved in staging the Games.” In July 2003 the city won the right to host the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Although Toronto has decided against bidding for the 2024 Summer Olympics, the 2025 World Expo is still on the table. Mayor Tory and city councillors met with representatives from the Bureau International des Expositions in January to discuss the possibility.

Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam is a strong supporter of hosting the event and indicates as much on her Twitter bio with the hasthag #Expo2025.

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The 30-page document singles out three “mega-events” whose reach and impact remain unrivalled on the international stage in terms of marketing and prestige: the Olympics, World Expo, and FIFA World Cup.

Montreal hosted a World Expo in 1967; Vancouver, an International Expo in 1986. The most recent Expo in Milan drew roughly 22 million visitors over six months. Shanghai holds the attendance record with a whopping 70 million visitors in 2010.

The report authors recommend against bidding for the FIFA World Cup until recent controversies and restructuring related to FIFA, the governing body of soccer, settle.
In addition to these “mega events”, the report defines what it calls “global community events” that although not nearly as large in scale and profile can command a considerable amount of international exposure and marketing reward. These events typically are home in the cultural or trade sectors and Toronto has already hosted many of them, including the 2014 WorldPride festival and International Indian Film Academy Awards (2011).
The panel’s short-list includes the following::
Arts & Culture
  • Art Basel Exhibition
  • STEAM Carnival
  • Operalia Competition
  • TEDGlobal Conference
  • Parliament of the World’s Religions

Trade & Innovation

  • Institute of International Finance (IIF) Events
  • Financial Times Events
  • The Economist Events
  • World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference
  • World Bank Group Annual Meetings
  • RiskMinds Conference
  • Mobile World Congress
  • Trustech Annual Conference
  • ASIS International
  • Retail Banker International Conference

In the end, there is general consensus that events of both types drive economic growth and raise a city’s profile on the international stage. In Vancouver, the Winter Olympics generated between 38,530 and 51,510 jobs according to one estimate. In London, it’s believed the 2012 Summer Olympics will have added 618,000 to 893,000 years of employment to the regional economy by 2020.

“But planning and hosting major events also involves substantial public costs, significant financial and operational risks and potentially difficult trade-offs for host cities and regions,” according to the report.

Being prepared, which Toronto currently seems not to be, will be key in ensuring the benefits outweigh the cost.