On Tuesday October 12, a coalition of community groups and social service agencies hosted a community meeting to encourage local residents to engage in the controversial upcoming municipal election on October 25.
Three of the four remaining mayoral candidates are running on a platform to cut spending at city hall and privatize some city services, including public transit. The media fury has centred on the arguments of belt tightening and cutting waste, but has largely ignored the consequences of spending cuts on the lives of Torontonians.
Tuesday’s meeting provided a dose of reality to the spending-cuts mantra.
“Every dollar that is cut is taking from a service you’re using,” says executive coordinator of the Toronto Coalition for Better Childcare, Jane Mercer, who was one of the event’s panel speakers. “We have an 18,000-long list of parents in Toronto waiting for subsidized childcare,” says Jane. “In comparison, if you need childcare in Quebec you get it very quickly, and you pay $7 a day.” According to Jane, when parents can’t get access to childcare they are less likely to go to school or get a job that will help them support their families in the long term.
Childcare was just one of many public services provided by the city and the province that residents discussed at the meeting: public transit, community housing, libraries, immigration services, good public sector jobs, and English language classes were some of the others.
According to Flemingdon Neighbourhood Services Executive Director, John Carey, the top priority issues for immigrants in their neighbourhood are jobs, housing, and language barriers.
And then there’s transit, which has become the election’s top issue. “It takes me three hours to travel back and forth on the bus to get to work,” says Thorncliffe/Flemingdon resident, Bandhana Singh. “It’s so frustrating.” Many of the city council and mayoral candidates have publicly outlined their stance on fixing mass transit. Thorncliffe/Flemingdon is set to benefit significantly from the delayed Transit City plan, which would build a fast light rail connection to Pape Subway station. The candidates’ transit platforms are online at publictransitcoalition.ca.
“Every four years politicians come back for interviews. We can hire them back or kick them out,” says panel speaker and Good Jobs for All Coalition co-chair, Winnie Ng. “We need to get involved. There are choices to make, and the choices are yours.”
The event was organized by the Good Jobs for All Coalition, Flemingdon Neighbourhood Services, and Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office.