News / Toronto

Toronto to extend participatory budget pilot

“The more control you put into the hands of citizens, the more targeted and careful the spending becomes," said Coun. Shelley Carroll

Walter Palaroan works out at the Snider Parkette in the Yonge and Lawrence area. Palaroan led the participatory budget campaign to dedicate public funds to a similar project, the Don Valley Fitness Park.

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Walter Palaroan works out at the Snider Parkette in the Yonge and Lawrence area. Palaroan led the participatory budget campaign to dedicate public funds to a similar project, the Don Valley Fitness Park.

Residents in three Toronto wards are about to get a little more say in how the city spends their tax dollars.

City staff are recommending that the participatory budget pilot – which ran in wards 12, 33 and 35 last year – be extended and expanded for 2016.

The program allowed residents to pitch ideas on how best to spend $150,000 in capital dollars in their wards.

A total of seven projects were voted on by residents and funded, including improved lighting in Rustic Park, a new fitness area in Bellbury Park and bicycle lockers at Don Mills Station.

Coun. Shelley Carroll has long been a supporter of participatory budgeting, and was impressed by how residents approached the process.

“They really weren’t selfish in their voting,” she said. “Look at the bike lockers at Don Mills. A heck of a lot of drivers voted for them because they understand that eventually we’ll need to get cars off the road by making it easier for people to bike.”

The Ward 33 councillor is excited to see staff recommend the program be continued and the budget for each ward be upped to $250,000.

“I think you’ll see more creativity if you tell people there’s a quarter of a million dollars available. They can think big,” she said.

The plan is to continue the pilot until 2018, at which point council will decide whether to make participatory budgeting a permanent fixture in Toronto.

“I think people have felt out of control of this megacity since it was amalgamated,” Carroll said. “Participatory budgeting is a way of giving people that power back. They can start to feel like they have some control over what’s happening in their neighbourhood.”   

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