Josh Matlow connects youth to opportunity and optimism

Mayoral candidate will invest $26.7 million to boost youth job prospects, well-being 

June 1, 2023 – Mayoral candidate Josh Matlow today announced that, as Mayor, he will make Toronto one of the best cities in the world for children and youth. His comprehensive YouthStart plan will address feelings of hopelessness, prevent crime and provide opportunity for young Torontonians facing an uncertain future. His plan will invest $26.7 million to boost job prospects, build skills and improve individual and community health and well-being.

“Young Torontonians are bursting with ideas and enthusiasm, but they’re also facing high levels of pressure and pessimism,” said Matlow. “When we help youth build skills, connections and confidence at a young age, our whole community prospers.” 

We think of childhood as being carefree, but many children and youth face significant stress about the world, the climate and their future. Seventy-three per cent of Canadians aged 16-25 report that “the future is frightening” and research shows that youth are particularly vulnerable to violence and crime. Two-thirds of youth worry about making ends meet and 70 per cent of mental health issues emerge before age 18. 

Matlow’s comprehensive Youth Start plan builds on the City of Toronto’s 2012 Youth Equity Strategy initiated by Matlow to support young people vulnerable to crime and violence. Currently, this strategy remains underfunded. Youth Start will provide Toronto youth with more opportunities for meaningful careers, increase mental health and well-being supports and expand programs that prevent violence and crime. 

“Decades of research show that when young people have access to supportive recreation spaces and trained counsellors, they get the best chance for a good start in life,” said Matlow, drawing upon the Roots of Youth Violence report co-authored by Dr. Alvin Curling and Justice Roy McMurtry. “Investments in social inclusion and skill-building are investments in both the safety and the success of our children.” 

Matlow’s YouthStart plan invests $26.7 million to provide:

Opportunities for youth to succeed in academics, careers, arts and sports, including:

  • 16 new enhanced youth spaces in recreation centres that provide after-school homework support, counselling, mentoring, employment training, recreation and arts programming in a supportive environment led by trained youth workers ($3.2 million). 
  • $4 million expansion of pathways to employment, including pairing youth with outreach counsellors to identify employment skills, providing summer jobs for youth living in TCHC communities and career support for those aged 15-30 on probation. 
  • $1 million expansion of the Toronto Sport Leadership Program, which certifies youth in recreational instructional certifications required for employment with the City of Toronto and many other recreation agencies. 
  • $1 million expansion of youth programming hours at community recreation centres.
  • Doubling city grants for youth cultural organizations ($900,000).
  • Doubling funding for the INI (Identify ‘N Impact) grant program, which provides seed funding for youth to create community programs that support mental health, skills development, the arts and more ($250,000).
  • $2.5 million investment to open neighbourhood schools as community centres on evenings and weekends and all libraries on Sundays to allow for more community space, social interaction and youth programming (see Open Schools Toronto and Open Libraries).

Mental Health and well-being programming and services, including:

  • Youth specialists on Toronto Community Crisis Service teams specially trained to handle distress and crisis calls from young people ($1.6 million).
  • $1 million expansion of free walk-in youth mental health counselling provided by community mental health agencies. 
  • $1 million expansion of the children’s mental health and trauma recovery program serving those who have experienced violence or otherwise traumatic incidents.
  • $500,000 expansion of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) services for at-risk youth returning to school or work. 

Crime and violence prevention through interventions and support for at-risk youth, including: 

  • $7.4 million expansion of the TOwards Peace program, which works with affected communities to interrupt and intervene in violence. The program uses creative communication tools to serve communities from Northwest Toronto (Black Creek and Rexdale). The expansion would bring the program to three new regions: Downtown (Regent Park and Alexandra Park), North Scarborough (Woburn and Malvern) and Central (Flemingdon Park, Thorncliffe Park and Lawrence Heights). 
  • Double the Community Healing Project from 20 community sites to 40 community sites. The program uses peer healers to address the root causes of youth gang involvement and increases protections for young people exposed to guns and gang violence ($1.35 million).
  • $1 million expansion of the pre-charge diversion program, allowing us to double the number of youth avoiding criminal charges for minor crimes. 

Matlow builds on a successful track record of advocating for youth services and opportunities in Toronto. After he initiated the Youth Equity Strategy in 2012, he successfully introduced the Enhanced Youth Spaces model based on a program developed by St. Stephen’s Community House in Toronto. There are now over 20 of these spaces improving young people’s lives across our city. 

To learn more about Josh Matlow’s mayoral campaign to make Toronto a city that works, the safe, affordable, livable city that we all know it can be, please visit




Budget assumptions
All $26.7 million for the Youth Start plan will come from Matlow’s recently announced Community Health & Safety Fund.

Sixteen new enhanced youth spaces in recreation centres will cost $3.2 million based on existing regular youth space locations – full list here. It will cost $200,000 per year per youth space according to this City memo.