by Michael Red
Basics Issue #12 (Jan/Feb 2009)
On December 19, 2008, David Miller pronounced: “The biggest priority is having police on the street in neighbourhoods…Everything else is second priority.” Toronto’s mayor made this statement to the mainstream media as he signed the new $1 Billion police budget. With more than a hint of irony, Miller also took the opportunity to warn public sector workers that they should not expect to achieve such a rich collective agreement during their own upcoming negotiations.
Could this be the same mayor who countless community groups and labour unions worked so hard to get elected in the first place? What happened to Miller’s supposed agenda of social justice and fairness for all those who live in our city? His record while in office demonstrates that the people’s agenda was in fact thrown out the window from the very beginning.
During his first mandate, Miller made homelessness illegal. Despite the fact that there continues to be a complete lack of affordable public housing and adequate shelter beds in Toronto, the mayor went ahead and gave police the power harass, intimidate and incarcerate our sisters and brothers who are forced to live on the streets. Simultaneously, Miller began his gentrification schemes. As many residents of Don Mount Court, Regent Park and Lawrence Heights know, “revitalization” is a thinly-disguised strategy to push the working class and racialized communities even further to the margins of society. Gentrification also makes private developers rich.
Now in his second mandate, the mayor has allowed armed police to roam our schools and has again inflated the police budget. As unemployment and homelessness increase, it appears that Miller and his supporters on city council are adamant about the need for the further militarization of our city and the continuing marginalization of the people.
It’s about high time that the labour movement in Toronto and other former Miller allies start supporting community-based struggles to fight back against the mayor’s neo-liberal agenda and encourage true grassroots activists and community leaders to replace these elitist politicians.