Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you on this important issue.
I have read all of the pertinent city documents posted online such as the reports on the Core Service Review from the City Manager, KPMG and the summaries and letters of the public consultations.
I agree with the statement made by a City Councillor that: “CDRC is responsible for many of the programs that add a layer of protection and humanity to our City, and the cuts and privatizations suggested by KPMG will fall heavily on the shoulders of these neediest members of our society. At risk services include: Children’s Services; Emergency Medical Services; Fire Services; Long-Term Care Homes; Parks, Forestry and Recreation; and Shelter, Support and Housing Administration.
It is not possible to comment on all of these important programs except to say that they are all essential, have developed over a long time out of recognized needs and many serve the most vulnerable of our neighbours. KPMG coldly uses the term to describe the cuts and privatizations as ‘Key Opportunities’. They also describe the ‘risks’ of doing cuts too quickly – they must be ‘phased in’ – why? – so that a large number of people will not complain too quickly about the sudden loss of a service. I call it ‘cuts by stealth’.
In fact KPMG concludes that a “Majority (87%) of activities within programs reporting to the Community Development and Recreation Committee are either mandatory or essential.”
Not much ‘gravy’ here!
These recommendations are heartless! Just some ‘opportunities statements’:
1. “The child care centres operated directly by the City could be transferred to non-profit or commercial operation to reduce costs.”
Supervision and maintenance of standards will no longer be under the scrutiny of elected representatives.
2. “The City inspections of subsidized child care centres could be terminated, leaving child care licencing and quality control to the province.”
Will the province agree to this uploading?
3. “The subsidies for 2,000 spaces that no longer receive provincial support could be reduced or eliminated.”
Just abruptly cancel these spaces when KPMG admits that:
“There is already a waiting list of 19,000, equal to 70% of subsidized spaces. With 60% of low income children in the GTA living in Toronto, there is ample need/demand for subsidized child care.”
The KPMG hope is that the Province will step in to provide the financial support. Where is that guarantee?
4. Further KPMG weasel words are: “Phasing out may be necessary to manage the impact on families,” and a risk warning: “Reducing the number of subsidized child care spaces will make work and/or school less accessible to some parents, and may increase Ontario Works and Employment and Social Services case loads (and costs). Achieving provincial support for the spaces would eliminate the value in this option. It will take some time to achieve by attrition but would not seem reasonable to identify families currently with subsidy and eliminate their subsidy immediately.”
In other words, if the cuts happen too fast the complaints will be loud and unmanageable.
5. “The child care centres operated directly by the City could be converted to non-profit or private operation to reduce costs. Care would be needed to ensure the needs of special needs children are met, and to ensure active spaces remain properly distributed.”
Again where does the accountability to parents and the children rest?
6. “The quality assessments of subsidized child care spaces could be eliminated, leaving the provincial licencing system to regulate program quality. Some or all of the ‘Child Care Funding and Subsidies’ costs could be eliminated.”
So KPMG suggests having child care without supervision. Don’t we already have enough problems with childcare abuse that frequently rears its ugly head in the media?
7. “There are opportunities to change the role of the City in the provision of recreation services, focusing on ensuring people have access to recreation programs and facilities, with less focus on delivering the programs directly, except as a last resort. Part of this process would be exploring innovative ways to have more city recreation facilities run by community or commercial groups.”
This is just downloading onto the communities. An example of how this might run: Danforth East Community Association of which I am a member, recently put out a call for donations of money to purchase paint, and volunteers from the community to paint the East Lynn Park wading pool. Does this mean that the citizens of wealthier city communities do not wish to contribute to the basic maintenance of all city parks and all citizens no matter where they live?
8. Long Term Care Homes: “Main opportunities in this service could be found in transferring of most municipal operated LTC homes to operation by nonprofit community organizations or selling them to the private sector. This may yield significant savings; however, some barriers to implementation will likely arise, and the savings would not begin to accrue until 3-5 years into the future.”
Again, where will the accountability reside to ensure that the most vulnerable of our neighbours are not abused by different private standards?
I submit to you that there is no reason for all of these cuts and proposed half-baked privatization plans. If implemented, these cuts and privatizations will move us in the wrong direction – toward even more inequality in society which is harmful to everyone in society, not just the poor.
I recently read, The Spirit Level, Why more equal societies almost always do better by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Picket. They present United Nations data and data collected from most of the states of the U.S. and show that people from every class in countries, states, and cities which are more equal economically, benefit from less stress, less crime, fewer people in prisons, lower teen pregnancies, lower obesity, better general health, longer life spans, lower birth mortality and many more. All of these benefits save tax dollars! Achieving greater equality will actually reduce city expenditures. KPMG’s proposed cuts will create greater inequality, costing all of us more in the long run.
These KPMG so-called ‘opportunities’ represent cuts to the most vulnerable while at the same time, over the past thirty years or more, the most wealthy among us have received tax cuts and high income increases while working people’s wages and benefits to the poor have stagnated. We have just gone through a period where our taxes have bailed out wealthy banks, bankers and auto companies. Now at the same time, the city administration and KPMG are telling us that we cannot afford the traditional yet still inadequate services for our friends and neighbours. This is grossly unfair!
Also, the Ford administration never ran in the election on draconian cuts to the most vulnerable. They promised that there would be no need for cuts. I participated in the Core Service Review Public Consultations and have read the KPMG summaries of these citizen roundtables. The number one choice of participants to deal with a deficit was to increase property taxes to keep the same level of city services. The most popular property tax increases chosen were five and ten percent, given that there was no property tax increase for 2011. The highest majority also wanted the city to deliver municipal services rather than contracting out. Two thirds of participants also wanted garbage, composting and recycling services to be city run rather than contracted out. This makes the recent contracting out of garbage collection decision by the city an interesting example of non-compliance with the will of the people.
The Ford administration is deliberately trying to ‘create a crisis’ of insolvency when it is clear that there is no real spending or debt crisis. This is in order to achieve their goal of smaller government which seems to mean cuts to services or turning every service over to the private sector and out of the surveillance of the people we elect to maintain accountability. I am all for fiscal responsibility, appealing to the upper levels of government to contribute their fair share and even to have as small a government as is possible, but not on the backs of the most vulnerable of our neighbours.
As an article in the most recent NOW magazine pointed out – there is plenty of revenue to be had. Beside a modest increase in property taxes, there is money from the following: a reintroduced vehicle registration tax; a small TTC fare increase (though I am not in favour of this – I would like to see TTC fares gradually reduced to encourage more ridership); a small increase in the land transfer tax; efficiencies that can be found; limiting the police budget (with more equality there can be savings here); one time revenues and assessment growth. I would add to that the beginning of a ‘congestion tax’ during peak periods on Toronto’s main road arteries, which would encourage TTC use, alleviate the major problem of traffic congestion, and provide needed revenue.
The will of the people of Toronto is clear. They do not want these cuts and privatizations to the most vulnerable of our citizens and they are willing to pay for these vital services. As you make your report to City Council, please advise against these cuts and privatizations, vote against them, and encourage your colleagues to do the same.
Murray D. Lumley, East York, Toronto