In recent weeks, Fairlawn’s Social Justice Seekers have been busy writing letters to City Councillors in support of budget funding for Toronto’s Poverty Reduction Strategy. Through the Faith Leaders statement and our participation in the Commitment to Community coalition, we have kept poverty on the radar of Council and will continue to press for a city that supports all of its citizens. Here are a couple of letters from John Cowan and a written deputation to the budget committee from Kathy Salisbury.
The budget vote is imminent.
You have not replied to my several comments and requests for dialogue about taxes, or my desire to live in a humane city. Below is the email I sent re the 2016 budget. I have since sent 4 more regarding the 2017 budget (July 26, Nov 15, Dec 8 and Dec 15) and asked for you to call me after the telephone town hall you held last week. I have heard nothing from you, other than your mention in the town hall that you do not support tax increases until waste is eliminated (if I may liberally paraphrase you as best I recall).
Ostriches bury their heads in the sand, like City Councils that do not vote to meet citizen requirements. Eliminating waste is normal, nothing new, and it is an unending part of normal management. So when would you ever vote to meet citizen needs, if not now?
My emails have tried to focus you on big picture issues relating to the suffering of our weakest citizens, and you have ignored me. Maybe I can focus your attention on the issue better with your own local riding example from the telephone town hall. At that time you mentioned that you are looking into ways that citizens can pay to put up a speed radar sign on Avenue Road at Allenby school. You said the city cannot fund it! Well, if a down home example doesn’t make the case that we need to pay more taxes, what will? Do citizens have to take matters in their own hands and fill pot holes on the road to cut wear on our cars, and repair signs in the neighborhood? This is City work, so fund it, PLEASE!
I hope to see you at the City Council meeting today to hear what you have to say to citizens.
The City has already backed a relevant strategy to reduce poverty, but NEEDS TO FUND IT! I believe I should pay more to reduce poverty. I already donate a lot of money and time through my Church and other charities to help reduce poverty, but it needs more concerted action from governments such as the City of Toronto.
Throughout my 65 years I have been perplexed by the struggles between the various levels of government over use of my funds. I find the political pressure at all three levels to hold the line or reduce taxes to be so short-sighted that it is sinful. Certainly efforts to seek true efficiency in government service delivery are always appropriate, but such efforts should not distract any government from playing its core role of ensuring that nobody is left behind. Charities cannot do it all.
Since the City’s budget votes are coming up soon, I encourage you to vote for higher taxes (not just inflation adjusted) and/or implementation of other revenue tools at the City’s disposal.
By copy of this note I also want my provincial and federal representatives to note my desire for more government services, especially addressing the least advantaged in our midst, and my willingness to pay for more government services.
My name is Kathy Salisbury and I live at Yonge and Lawrence. I am a member of Fairlawn Avenue United Church.
At Fairlawn we have been privileged to get to know and support a Syrian family as they adjust to their first year in Canada. The head of the household is a single mom who has learned English at an unbelievable rate and has managed to find a couple of part time 3-month contract jobs in her field. But still, trying to find housing that they could afford that is well-maintained and cockroach and bedbug free was impossible, until we found a landlord who was willing to do something special for a Syrian refugee family. But what about all the other families in Toronto who are struggling? Who is helping those families find living arrangements that will enable their children to thrive? Even though our Syrian mom has been successful in finding paid work, without the after-school programmes through parks and rec and the breakfast programme for her kids, she would not be able to make ends meet. She relies heavily on TTC for work and errands. As someone who is forced to count her pennies, rising TTC fares impact her in a very real way. She is doing everything humanly possible to be successful, but we know it takes time. We must do everything we can to help those who are struggling to get on their feet. This is the kind of Toronto I want to call home!
When I read numbers quoted in the Star that the 2 per cent property tax increase proposed in this budget means that the average homeowner (with a house or condo assessed at $580,000) would only pay $55 extra next year! And that the city could actually plug its $91-million budget gap, reverse proposed cuts and pay for all the new initiatives planned if the average homeowner contributed an additional $140 per year, I am incredulous! What is stopping us!
Last evening, my husband and I sat down to review our household budget. We looked at all the usual items – home maintenance, heating and other utilities, transportation, groceries, property taxes etc. We decided to look at our property tax line more carefully. What does it pay for? TTC, roads and infrastructure, police, fire, emergency response, parks and rec, our wonderful library system, services for those in our midst who struggle to make ends meet and children’s services among others.
We had to ask ourselves what would our city be like without these services? How much are they worth to us? The answer is ‘everything.’ So many of our services are eroding as we are told year after year that we can afford less and less. And why is that? It seems to me that it’s because we are increasingly unwilling to pay what it costs to have a world-class city that looks after its most vulnerable. I suggest the following: Instead of looking at how much we are willing to spend and then figuring out what we can afford, let’s look at what it would take to create the kind of city we can all be proud of and work together to make that happen. If our elected officials framed the problem in this way, I don’t believe for a moment that most of us couldn’t be challenged to step up and pay what it costs – to do what is right for our city. Mayor Nenshi of Calgary challenges his citizens to do 3 acts of kindness for Calgary. Please – I’m asking you today – show some leadership! Challenge us to step up and show kindness for our neighbours and our City!