Russ Ford's Blog

Children Up Against City Hall

A Good News Budget ( at last) 
The City has completed its budget process and it is a good news budget. It included  an expansion of youth and recreation programs as well as an increase in the community grants of 2.2 per cent. The slash and burn mentality that existed in recent years is over.  We are now once again trying to build our city.

Except for ...
But conspicuous by its absence was funding  for the purchase of Vincent Massey school from the school board. A few weeks ago the saving of this 180 child day care seemed a slam dunk. Now it is an air ball.

Three years ago the City had established a three year multi million dollar fund to purchase surplus school properties.  The intent was to buy properties like  Vincent Massey that although no longer a school, are now providing valuable community benefits like child care.

All Council had to do to save Vincent Massey was to extend this program, but they did not. Rather they have rolled over the money that is left in the program to this year's budget.  The remaining money will not come close to meeting the needs. Communities will lose valuable services and the parents at Vincent Massey are not confident that their child care centre will be the one among many projects to be saved.

Leveraging Today's Assets for Kids Future
The City could save Vincent Massey and others through borrowing. Use the remaining money as down payments and borrow the rest. Given the low cost of borrowing money and the city's great credit rating is this not the time to make investments that are vital to residents of the city?  Is this not the time to save Vincent Massey and the other child care centres which also find themselves on the chopping block?

Are we being taken for a (subway) ride?
How are the children at Vincent Massey less important than a three stop subway extension especially when a free LRT option was available?  How are the children of Vincent Massey less important than the Pan Am games?   I like the games, but isn't it a question of priorities?

This is just another reason why the subway extension was such a bad idea. There is only so much money to go around and now there will be much less because of the financial albatross that is the Scarborough extension.

While the City has clearly punted the ball, let us not be so quick to let the Province off the hook.  This all started because the Ministry of Education ordered the school board to sell Vincent  Massey.

Yet the same Ministry  is now also in charge of child care. It does not seem the ministry is taking this new responsibility all that seriously or perhaps the child care part of the ministry does not know that the education part is putting 180 children on the street. That too would not be a surprise.

Speech and language services remains the other area where bureaucracy is winning out over children. The City still refuses to talk, continuing to hide behind the misapplied rules of its RFP process.

The Art of the Selective RFP
The City did however attach an update on the speech program to its website this week.   That seems somewhat inconsistent with their position that they cannot make any comments during the RFP period.  I guess we call it selective RFPing.  I would have strongly urged you to read it but it seems to have been quickly taken  down. Not surprising.  I could not have written it any better if they asked me to explain their need to dismantle the current community based system.

They are dividing the City into five service areas from the current configuration of four  and even with more areas will keep a central wait list. So four short lists will now be replaced by one.

Why have a central list unless you plan to send children from  Etobicoke  to Scarborough  for service?  If that happens and at the moment they say it won't, children whose parents do not own a car will be at a significant disadvantage in accessing the limited amount of service.

They say their plan will make it easier for parents to get through the intake process. How would they know what parents want, they refuse to include them in this review.

I know what parents want, they tell me al, the time. They want the wait time to get into the program much shorter.  The City's plan will make the one thing parents want even less likely to happen.

They say they are maintaining the community based system. To be blunt, that is a total falsehood. This exercise is about taking control out of the community and giving it to City Hall.

In essence the main argument seems to be we need to dismantle the system and reduce care to children, end the therapeutic relationships that the children now have with their providers  so we can have one wait list for the whole city rather than four shorter ones

As I said, I could not have written anything better.

LAMP remains committed to putting the needs of children first rather than the wishes of the bureaucrats. Please join us in our campaigns to save Vincent Massey and community based speech and language services.

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