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Council debates Toronto’s financial future as Chow presses for refugee shelter help

Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow says refugee claimants could account for half of the city’s homeless shelter population by the end of the year, a situation she called “desperate” as she pressed the federal government for immediate support. 

It’s one of the issues before city councillors today at a special meeting where they will debate how to manage Toronto’s beleaguered financial outlook, including proposals to bring in a commercial parking levy or a new surtax on luxury home sales.

Chow says the refugee shelter crisis is only getting more urgent because the city doesn’t have the financial tools to support claimants, with the city’s combined operating and capital budget pressures expected to balloon to $46.5 billion over the next decade. 

A staff report before city councillors says the number of refugee claimants has “dramatically” increased to 3,300 people and could climb by year’s end to as many as 4,500, half the city’s shelter capacity. 

The report recommends council ask the federal government for $200 million this year to help shelter refugee claimants, which would include the $97 million the federal government already pledged to the city earlier this year. 

It also recommends council set aside $750,000 to compensate the churches and community organizations who have been helping shelter refugee claimants. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 6, 2023. 

The Canadian Press