Monday, November 05, 2007

Big Cuts To City Services

Community Centres, Libraries, TTC slashed while police budget almost untouched!

Following the deferral of a motion that would have introduced a tax on any sale of land within the City of Toronto, Mayor David Miller announced a wide range of cuts to City programs and services in order to ‘balance the budget’ for 2008.

The Land Transfer Tax would have applied a tax ranging between 0.5% and 1.5% on the sale of any land including homes within the City boundaries. Together with a Vehicle Registration Tax (already applied by the Government of Ontario), this would have brought over $350 Million into the City cofers. The City was arguing that it needed this money to keep services at their current level given that it is still funding some $500 Million worth of Provincial programs that were downloaded during the Conservative government of Mike Harris in the 1990’s.

In the last Provincial Election, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty ran on a platform that included ‘uploading’ (taking back the responsibility of funding these programs). His government however has reversed only a fraction of what Harris did, while at the same time giving his friends tens of millions of dollars in grants, and himself and his colleagues a 25% pay increase.

The TTC for its part stated that it will increase fares by 15% from $2.10 to $2.25, while Metropasses will increase from $99.75 to $109. That amounts to an $111 annual increase for daily public transit users!

Cuts to community services will include the closing of library services on Sundays and the closing of all of the City’s 130 community centres on Mondays. These cuts not only mean loss of income for many part-time workers in community centres but they also mean that communities will lose out on programming and places to congregate with neighbours. The cuts represent roughly 15% of programming at Community Centres and Public Libraries, who had already received cuts in the 2007 Budget.

By contrast, the Toronto Police Services stated that they will reduce their $800 million budget by $3 Million, representing 0.3% of Police operating dollars. The Toronto Police Services take
up roughly 25% of the City’s total operating costs and have had an increase of $150 Million to their operating budget since 2003 despite the election promises of Mayor David Miller to not hire any more police oicers.

Miller is now stating that more funds are needed in order ‘have the standard of living that Torontonians are used to’. With poverty increasing in this City the fruits and beneits alluded to
by Miller have evaded most working class families. And the cuts that were announced will disproportionately afect low-income communities that use these public services. The real estate agents and other wealthier sectors that organized against Miller’s tax will likely be afected little by these cuts.

The City blames the provincial and federal government for not giving Toronto enough money. The province and feds say that the City needs to ‘get its house in order’. Once again, the diferent levels of government and the politicians in charge point the finger at each other when it comes to answering the questions of why the services that working people depend on become more expensive and less accessible everyday. They will promise reviews, consultations and reports but never solutions to the needs of our communities.

We cannot depend on those rightwing Councillors who for pure political opportunism are calling for the cuts to be reversed. Councillors like Case Ootes who targets the homeless and Michael Thompson who argued for racial proiling of black males by Toronto Police, don’t care about working people or our communities. The want to embarrass Miller and that’s it. But this division among the diferent levels of government and among the ruling classes also represents an opportunity for working people to confront them and win. If the wealthy real estate agents can hold of a tax with a few emails, then working people can get our community centres back with our voices!