Our Money. Our Budget.

June 28, 2013

“…I might have some pool of funds somewhere that are hiding somewhere, I don’t know.

— Toronto Budget Chief Frank “Pockets” Di Giorgio, in response to the provincial announcement of a 3 year, $150 million phase out of pooling funds.

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Well, since obviously just anybody can be the city’s budget chief overseeing a $10 billion or so annual operating budget, why not all of us?

A group calling itself Better Budget T.O. has come together, hosting an inaugural event last night at the Academy of the Impossible’s Campaign School. It is a nascent movement here that has taken root in other places like Calgary, New York City, South America with the intention of bringing about a more inclusive way of putting together the city’s budget. Participatory Budgeting. A grassroots approach that not only endeavours to de-mystify the budget process but to build political engagement at the community level.

While not perfect, the municipal level is a great place for the public to influence how tax dollars are spent. Federally, provincially, the budgets are delivered, largely sight unseen. Boom. Press lockdown. There you go. Locally, the process is much more public, coming together over a longer (albeit not long enough) process that begins in earnest in the fall and concludes at city council in mid-January.

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But as was pointed out last night, transparency does not automatically mean clarity. Sure, we can see but we’re not sure what we’re looking at. The budget can be intimidating. The numbers overwhelming. But people, trust me. If the likes of Councillor Frank Di Giorgio can be seriously considered capable of putting together Toronto’s budget, anyone can. And I mean anyone.

A Better Budget for a Better City, writes Lisa Marie Williams of the Wellesley Institute. As the mayor keeps telling us, it’s our money he’s fighting for. So let’s make sure it’s spent the way we want. Let’s truly make it our budget.

all-together-nowly submitted by Cityslikr