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Local 79 & Social Planning raise concerns over alarming City budget cuts

C2C slideLocal 79 is alarmed at Tuesday’s City Council decision to reduce the 2017 budget by 2.6% and leave critical programs at risk of cuts in the coming months. City Council voted against specific motions to protect Childcare, Toronto Community Housing, TTC, and the City’s Poverty Reduction Strategy from service reductions and fee hikes.
It is now more important than ever that we work with our members and our community allies to advocate for a fairer budgeting process that supports the services and jobs we need to build better lives for everyone.
On Monday, CUPE Local 79 held a media event with Social Planning Toronto and Women’s Habitat to bring a very important message to City Council (you can read Social Planning’s press release below). Budget cuts over the last six years mean that workers are often trying to deliver service to more people with less time and resources. Maria Ferrara, a city childcare worker, gave an excellent description of how budget cuts result in her spending more time cleaning, cooking and shoveling snow during her day, taking time away from the kids and their families.
City services are at a breaking point. The workload for many of our members has become unbearable and the quality of services is slipping.
To make matters worse, low-income residents paying more so others can pay less. That’s the overall six-year trend for the city’s finances and a pattern that will continue if the City’s budget process seeks to cut its budget by another 2.6% in 2017, flat-line property taxes while raising fees on everything from transit to swim programs.
We need to switch direction to help everyone in Toronto build better lives with high quality city services, delivered by workers who have good stable jobs.
That can only happen if City Council decides to turn its mind from budget cuts to finding appropriate revenues to pay for services – not more fee hikes for those who can least afford it.
As Council debated the budget direction for 2017 on Tuesday, it was clear that many Councillors heard and supported our message – but not enough. Motions to protect Childcare, Toronto Community Housing, TTC, and the City’s Poverty Reduction Strategy from cuts and fee hikes were defeated. Mayor Tory voted against these protections every time.

 

COUNCIL MUST WORK TO CLOSE FAIRNESS GAP, AVOID CUTS AND HIGHER FEES
Monday, July 11, 2016
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Low-income residents paying more so others can pay less—that is the overall six-year trend for the city’s finances, and a pattern that will continue if the City’s budget process stalls on revenue tools and keeps property tax increases at or below the rate of inflation.
Speaking to the media today, members of the Commitment2Community Campaign pointed to the growing ‘Fairness Gap’ in the City’s finances, and solutions for Council to address concerns over housing, transit and services.
“The impacts on the women we work with on a day to day basis are enormous, and angering.” said Leila Sarangi, Community Program Manager of Women’s Habitat, stressing the impact of these cuts and fees on vulnerable Toronto residents. “Lack of affordable childcare, housing, rising transit cost and long wait times for buses make it impossible for women to find and maintain work.”
The group expressed alarm at the current proposal being discussed by City Council to cut the City budget by a further 2.6% in 2017. Tim Maguire, President of CUPE Local 79 pointed to a recent report by the City Manager which states that we have reached the ‘practical limits’ of finding efficiencies in the City’s spending: “Front-line workers are already delivering more with less and critical services are slipping. A cut to the City’s budget will reduce services and increase user fees for those who can afford it least, widening the Fairness Gap.”
Sean Meagher, Executive Director of Social Planning Toronto was adamant that Council can still take action, citing the City’s own Poverty Reduction Strategy passed last year: “We can close the Fairness Gap. We have the Council-approved and promised ProspertyTO plan, along with KPMG-vetted revenue tools that are quick and easy to implement.”, Meagher said.
In June, KPMG produced a report for City Council which outlined a range of revenue tools, including the Alcohol Beverage Tax, and a Commercial Parking Levy. City Council debates the Budget Process beginning on Tuesday July, 12th 2016.
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