Toronto Budget: Major Victory but the Fight Continues
On January 17, 2012, Rob Ford experienced a major defeat as Toronto City Council refused to pass many of his proposed cuts. Cuts to child care, priority-area community centres, ice rinks, pools, community grants, TTC, three homeless shelters, public libraries, the Toronto Environmental Office and the Immigrant Women’s Health Centre were stopped in the 2012 Budget.
There is no doubt that our organizing in neighbourhoods across the city, along with many other resident, activist and labour groups created the conditions to derail the Ford agenda.
While this is a major victory in the battle against austerity in Toronto, there is still much work to be done. Council passed a budget that raised residential property taxes by 2.5% but only raised corporate property tax rates by 0.83%. The Toronto Police were handed a budget increase at the expense of other city departments. Overall the city saw nearly $60 million dollars in cuts including the layoff of over 1000 workers, the privatization of custodial services, deferred hiring of emergency and fire personnel, closure of some pools, closure of visitor cafeterias in long-term care homes and elimination of the Christmas bureau (this list is not comprehensive). The selloff of 700 TCHC Housing Units is being debated on January 24th and the City continues to threaten workers with a lockout that could start in early February. (See details of action against Community Housing sell-off here, http://bit.ly/w82Jsl).
In a city where people without immigration status are already shut out of most services, where many people of color and poor neighbourhoods have sub-standard and inaccessible service provisions, where the province and federal government have been part of large scale attack on women, youth, queer, indigenous, people with disabilities and the elderly, the 2012 Toronto Budget was proof of how little city politicians care about anything but the bottom line.
Since Ford was elected last December, tens of thousands of people have participated in deputations, petitions, lobbying, direct actions and protests. Yesterday at 12:30pm, Health for All dropped a banner inside Council Chambers. At 5:30pm, Toronto Stop the Cuts Network and our eleven neighbourhood chapters participated in a rally with Respect Toronto, Occupy Toronto and nearly 2,000 people. At 6:30, as Council began to vote, Torontonians attempted to enter City Hall to watch the proceedings. The Toronto Police used excessive force to lockdown City Hall. In the hour that followed, police beat, brutalized, pepper sprayed and injured dozens of people who were barred from participating in the so-called democratic budget process. 4 people were arrested. Occupy Toronto continued to campout and was given and eviction notice to leave by Thursday, January 19th.
Police violence and the lockdown of City Hall failed to keep our voices out of Council Chambers- dozens inside Council Chambers and in the council rotunda led multiple disruptions against the budget that cut services and lays off workers. Councilors insisted again and again that it was the immense amount of public pressure that forced them to vote against part of the Ford agenda. The budget vote demonstrates the power of mobilization and protest.
People around the world are fighting back against austerity and we are proud to be part of that global movement here in Toronto. Toronto Stop the Cuts and our allies will continue to mobilize against Ford’s cuts and cuts at all levels of government. If Ford locks out workers, we will stand in solidarity with them on the picket lines. If TCHC evicts tenants, we will be there to defend them. If community services are shuttered, we will fight to keep them open.
We are celebrating our victory and planning for the fight that lies ahead by returning to our 11 neighbourhood chapters and we invite Torontonians to form more. We return to talking to our neighbours, building alliances and strengthening relationships. We call on people across Ontario and occupied Canada to form into neighbourhood organizations and broad based networks. We will Stop the Cuts! We will ensure justice and dignity for all!
Media, Pictures, Videos:
www.facebook.com/stopthecuts (you don’t need a facebook account to access these pages)
More information – including which Councilor voted for what: http://www.socialplanningtoronto.org/city_budget_2012/january-17-final-budget-vote/
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