East York Mirror
The budget consultation meeting in East York brought out more than 100 residents with dozens pleading for transit, tenants rights, the arts and child care, along with a variety of other services.
It was standing-room only Wednesday, Jan. 19 as the budget sub-committee hosted a budget consultation at the East York Civic Centre. More than 60 people registered to have their say about the 2011 capital and operating budget that sees cuts to some areas and an increase in user fees to bring forward a budget with no property tax increase.
East York resident David Kidd objected to the flat lining of the budget.
"I know of no business or family who doesn't take inflation into account when doing their budget," he said.
Kidd said he was concerned about what that action would mean in the future; he wondered if it meant selling assets.
"What I am for is modest property taxes increases like we've seen in the last few years," he said.
Mayor Rob Ford attended the first hour of the consultation, but asked no questions of speakers. He had begun his term by directing staff to bring in a budget that includes "no major service cuts."
Kidd questioned what is a "major service cut" and who defines what major means.
"What this budget is about is a lie to the promise that was made to the people of Toronto," he said, reminding people of the pledge Ford made during the campaign to bring in a responsible budget without cutting services.
Many speakers said they'd prefer to see a modest tax increase if it meant the 8 Broadview bus would continue to operate past 10 p.m. on weekends and holidays or that there wouldn't be a $100,000 reduction to the contribution to the tenant defence fund.
The $100,000 reduction to the tenant defence fund in the shelter, support and housing administration is defined as a "minor service level change" in the Q&A handout provided by city staff at the consultation.
Geordie Dent, executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants' Association, disagreed.
"The only ones who might be popping champagne at our budget being cut are unscrupulous landlords," he said.
The Federation of Metro Tenants offers support, outreach and education to Toronto's tenants - renters make up 47 per cent of the city's population. Dent addressed comments made that his organization replicates services provided by other organizations.
"That's flat out not true," he said. "At the end of the day we help tenants avoid paying excessive and illegal rent increases...No other agencies in the province do this."
He pointed out there are 155 buildings across the city where tenants are facing excessive rent increases, up from 40 two years ago, including buildings in Scarborough-Agincourt Mike Del Grande's, Scarborough-Rouge River Councillor Chin Lee's, and Scarborough Southwest Councillor Michelle Berardinetti's wards. (The three Scarborough councillors were the members of the budget sub-committee who attended the East York consultation; Del Grande chaired).
"I'll have to go to the tenants in your ward and tell them I can't help them because someone voted to cut the service," Dent said.
None of the sub-committee members asked speakers questions, but deputants were asked questions by the more left-leaning councillors present at the meeting including: Beaches-East York Councillor Janet Davis, Trinity-Spadina Councillor Adam Vaughan, Toronto Centre-Rosedale Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam and Toronto-Danforth Councillor Paula Fletcher.
Resident Marylee Webb expressed concerned about what the proposed reduction in service of the 8 Broadview bus would mean for people's safety. The TTC has proposed service on that route stop at 10 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays as part of proposed service reductions on 48 routes.
"If these buses were not running it would mean a long walk late at night," she said. "All parts of the city need access to public transit whether there is one person on the bus or 40."
Transit was a concern of many speakers, including Elizabeth Block whose first sentence, "I want to speak in favour of Transit City," was greeted with loud applause.
"It strikes me as much more sensible to build Transit City, which would serve 10 times more people and cost far less money than a few subway lines," she said.
The arts were also a popular topic with representatives from Toronto Arts Council (TAC) and the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts making presentations. Arts representatives asked councillors to increase per capita funding for the arts from $18 to $25 by 2013 and added that number is $26 in Vancouver and $33 in Montreal.
"If you want to grow the economy, support the arts," said Camilla Holland of the TAC.
The consultation was part of four being held across the city. The North York one also took place Jan. 19 with the Scarborough, Etobicoke and York ones taking place Jan. 20.