Arushi Nath. Grade 8 Student. Toronto.

Budgeting is essential to producing public goods and services we enjoy daily. It decides the level of financing available, which determines the quantity in which that good can be produced and how many people can benefit from it. In simpler terms, if there is no money in the budget, then that good is unlikely to be produced and offered to the public, be it reliable transit, homeless shelters, or parks and libraries.

It is important that all citizens’ views, especially those most dependent on public goods and services, be included in the budgeting process. With this perspective in mind, I registered myself with the Budget Subcommittee of the City of Toronto to give a “Depute” in person. As I have school from morning until afternoon, the only option available for me was to register for Depute in the slot starting at 6 pm at the City Hall on 17 January 2023.

Making my Depute to the Budget Sub Committee. 17 January 2023. 6 pm,

I arrived at the City Hall around 5.45 pm. After a quick security check, I went straight to Committee Room 4, where the Deputes would be held. It was wonderful to meet in person many people who had assembled to give Deputes, including many people from TTCRiders and Progress Toronto group.

The Budget SubCommittee included Councillor Gary Crawford (Chair), Councillor Alejandra Bravo, and Councillor Chris Moise.

I was the second person on the list of speakers. After the initial housekeeping and other announcements, the Deputations started. As the first speaker was not present, I became the first person to make the Depute. I had to take a seat in front of the committee and had 5 minutes to make my statement.

Even though it was my first Depute in person, I was confident and excited at the opportunity to present my statement. The Depute went well, and I even got a question from Councillor Chris Moise. The Committee Chair, Councillor Gary Crawford, thanked me for my well-structured and concise statement, and I thanked everyone in return for giving me the opportunity.

My Depute in Progress. Image Credit: https://twitter.com/ttcriders/status/1615488797617037325

Text of My Speech (watch the video of my speech here)

Budgeting is a Tool to Improve the Lives of People: Use it Wisely to Maximize Public Good

Hello. Bonjour.

I am Arushi, a Grade 8 Student from the Spadina Fort-York ward.

My favourite subject is math. Yet, I do not see Budgeting as a number exercise.

I see Budgeting as a TOOL to improve the lives of people in Toronto. 

But budgeting exercise is a double-edged tool. Sometimes:

Cuts in the Budget can increase costs.

And an increase in the Budget can cut costs. 

Let me share 3 examples from the Budget

First, The Budget plans to save $46 million per year through service cuts in TTC during off-peak hours. It means those who do not have the privilege to work or study from home, students like me, shift and part-time workers on daily wages, nurses, support workers, and grandparents would have to wait longer at TTC stops. 

Waiting is a productivity loss for this vulnerable group that could have gone to increasing their income, education, child care, enjoying parks and libraries, and volunteering.

Assuming 250,000 riders at off-peak hours must wait additional 3 minutes longer daily. Valuing their time at minimum wage levels translates to over 58 million dollars being taken away from this group per year, who have no choice but to take the TTC. A 10 cents increase will push this loss even higher.

Second, Budget saving by cutting down on 24/7 respite spaces and warming centres has led to hundreds of people sleeping rough in Toronto. Being a volunteer for Bike Brigade and Community Fridges Toronto, I have seen firsthand how the reliance on charities and soup kitchens is growing. 

Homeless people have to use transit, parks, libraries, hospitals, and local businesses for shelter and washrooms. It has increased emergency care and enforcement budgets of libraries, hospitals, transit, parks and private businesses. These costs now exceed the budget savings pushing the overall cost.

Third, the loss of Social Capital that is not reflected in the Budget. I am coming here to Depute, leaving my studies – as social justice is everyone’s responsibility.

Much of the city’s social capital goes into petitioning, protests, and letter-writing on issues that should not be.

  • TTC’s November 2022 report says that the increase in ridership is driven by students and workers. Yet, here we are, making Deputes that cutting services and making TTC expensive for students and workers is not the solution. 

I implore this Committee to use the Budgeting tools to maximize public good. The math part is not difficult; any middle school kid can do it. 

But in democracies, people give elected officials the power to use Budgeting tools to improve our lives. Please use it wisely. 

Thank You

Heading back home at the end of my Dispute and listening to many others sharing their views. But work is not over!

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