Norman Kelly, Chair
And, Members of the Parks and Environment Committee
RE: PE6.1 Core Service Review
After days of an extreme heat warning in Toronto two questions come to mind:
1. Where would we be without our parks and recreation programs in this heat wave?
2. Why is there an option to cut environmental services before the parks and Environment Committee?
Today the Councillors on this committee have in front of them a set of options that are the direct opposite of ‘going green’.
As the Core Service Review rolls out, it is blatantly apparent that the Mayor has declared war on the environment. It’s also obvious there is no gravy – unless you consider clean air, clean water, shade trees, and healthy living – gravy.
The deputants here today stand in defence of the City’s canopy of trees, clean beaches, ferries to the islands, green roofs, community gardens, conservation and a healthy environment. We stand in defence of everything that will make Toronto a great place to live, work and play.
The underlying assumption of the ‘option’ in the KPMG Report that the work of the Toronto Environment Office is discretionary and non-core is simply wrong. The Office provides research and policy expertise, establishes partnerships and supports green initiatives for residents and businesses in our City.
The list of the services, programs, and projects they provide to City Divisions, and externally, is long and impressive:
• Climate Change Action Plan
• Power to Live Green: Toronto’s Sustainable Energy Strategy
• Home Energy Assistance Toronto
• Cut it Out – Corporate sponsorship with Canadian Tire
• Smart Commute Program
• Live Green Toronto
• Horticulture activities
• Landscape Ontario
• Local Food Procurement Policy
• Eco-Roof Financial Incentive
• Climate Change Risk Assessment
• Extreme Weather Events Research
• Local (neighbourhood level) Air Quality Study
• Provincial environmental legislation and regulations
• Live Green Toronto Environmental Volunteers, to name just some of the ways the Toronto Environment Office helps makes our City healthy and livable.
That’s a long list, and a lot to lose.
The Mayor was not elected on promises to cut services. He was elected on his guarantee to not reduce or cut services.
Thousands of Toronto residents took part in public consultations and filled out surveys that stated absolutely that public services, like and Parks and Recreation, should not be cut, no matter what. The citizens of this City should be listened to – after all, they’re the people who live here.
I’m sure if the entire population of Toronto was surveyed and asked just one question, “Do you want clean air and water?” The answer would be a resounding yes.
Keeping our environmental safeguards in place is not a discretionary item. Any suggestion to limit or eliminate these services should be taken off the table – permanently.
In addition, the options of reducing the standard of grass cutting in our parks and the elimination of horticultural activities should not be pursued. There has already been a service reduction as a result of contracting out of grass cutting in other areas. Yes there is an aesthetic value in horticultural activities; Torontonians do want to live in a beautiful city. People go to our parks for recreation and relaxation in open green spaces. What will our parks be like if horticulture is not maintained and the grass isn’t cut?