Saturday, January 12, 2008

Rec Centre Programs Under Threat, Again!

$5 million to be saved by pushing people out of free programming in low income areas.

This past fall, City politicians tried closing community centres in order to deal with the City’s financial problem created by previous City and Provincial governments. This January, City Hall is once again considering a move that would put free programming for low-income neighborhoods at risk – and this time, it could be permanent.
City politicians are looking to stop all free programming in 21 ‘Priority Centres” (ie. Centres in low-income communities) and replacing it with a model that will shift the onus on people to ‘prove’ that they are poor. The so-called ‘Everyone gets to play’ policy will increase fees for programs in Centre’s where people have to pay already, and will also force low-income people to submit documentation proving that they are poor in order to get free recreation programs. All registrants will remain on a City database as participants in this program.
Among the 21 ‘Priority Centres’ that would have all their free programs stopped include Lawrence Heights, Rockcliffe, Driftwood, Flemingdon Park, Regent Park (North and South), Oakdale and Scadding Court amongst others.
City staff expect that the implementation of this system will raise some $5 million dollars for the City. While City bureaucrats and politicians are defending the policy by saying that money will be re-invested in programs, they admit that the money made in at least the first year will be used to pay the Parks deficit.
“This is a clear example of working people being stomped on first as a way to save the City money” said Steve D of Basics, who have been organizing in low income neighborhoods to fight for our communities and services. “With ¼ of the City’s budget going to Police, to start cutbacks by taking services from the people who need them the most shows that working people are not a priority for City politicians”.
City staff have also not addressed how this program will effectively include the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy that the City instituted that makes it so that City staff are not allowed to either ask about or report on someone’s status in Canada. If the policy goes through, undocumented workers and their families will not be able to access these programs because they wont be able to provide the City the information required to use them.
Going after free programs in low-income areas and trying to call this is a good thing for people shows how out of touch politicians are with the conditions of working people in Toronto . None of the sham ‘consultations’ they have scheduled with 1 week’s notice are taking place in the community centres most affected.
While Police budgets and salaries keep growing, programs for youth only get attention when there are shootings. Ironically, when the programs start to work is when they get cut - until the next rash of guns that bring the politicians for ‘photo ops’.
It was the widespread anger from communities over the community centre closures in the fall that gave politicians the necessary push to make them reverse their positions. If working people come together to demand that the free programs in communities such as Lawrence Heights, Pelham and Regent Park stay free then we can win!