Russ Ford's Blog

Circling the Wagons City Style



So let's start off with very good news. It appears that the city is going to put in an offer to buy Vincent Massey and save the day care centre that provides high quality service to 180 children.

It is a bit early to declare victory though. Humber college is rumoured to be interested and we do not know what they intentions are for the school

So with no support, the parents took it on, made a lot of noise and it seems might have won. They were aided by the fact that the Ministry of Education was acting in such an arbitrary manner. They were following the rules that schools not in use be sold. It must say that in one of their policy manuals Except in his case their rules defy any sense of logic or reason. Everyone knew it was a very bad decision but that is the essence of the problem when decision making in centralized in a large bureaucracy.

Decision making in a bureaucracy must be consistent. That is not a bad thing necessarily. If you are doing your driving test in Toronto the same standards should apply to someone being tested in Hamilton Consistency can be a good thing but such a system is routinely incapable or willing to respond to unique situations like Vincent Massey It may no longer be a school but it is still an important resource to our community

Contrast that with what happened at city hall this week. Toronto Public Health(TPH) put out the tender for speech and language services. As you may recall this initiative is designed largely to wrest decision making from the community agencies that are currently providing these services and invest it in TPH management, or as they say to create a system, whatever that is.

In July, we had gone to the board of health and a motion was passed that held community agencies like LAMP harmless from any costs associated with this transition, the largest being severance costs for employees. The city was not going to pay either so the motion was for the province to pick up the tab or it was a no go.

We were surprised that TPH would put out a tender without securing provincial funding We thought it violated the motion. But upon review it did not violate the written motion but certainly in our view, it's intent. We asked for this to be put back on the board's agenda for clarity. Was the wording of the motion what the board members intended? I and three others who came with me to the board did not think it did so let's put it back on the agenda to clarify. It seemed to me to be a reasonable request.

Our attempt to put it on the agenda was denied. The circling of the wagons had begun. No counter information was welcomed. Ironically or perhaps appropriately the same day Ontario`s Ombudsman released a report on municipal meeting practices. He said too many municipalities were, ``shockingly secretive, suspicious and resentful of the idea they can be investigated.``

We were not asking for an investigation, we were just asking for the right to speak

LAMP and other providers with children who have special needs have of course opposed this. We know all too well that cookie cutter approaches to service greatly disadvantages those who are either in the greatest need or who face barriers to access

Now the only thing standing in the way is whether or not the provincial government will pay the severance costs of staff at the agencies who will be displaced by this change.

Staff will however not likely lose their jobs. They will be rehired the next day by the organization that wins the tender. In fact they might even be placed in the same location as before with the only difference being that they are thousands of dollars richer because the provincial government has decided to pay severance

The speech and language program like many others has been starved for money. The program needs more resources to meet the demand for service. Given the need it is just unconscionable in my opinion that money is being wasted this way. They cannot find money to provide service but they can find money to facilitate TPH`s takeover. The needs of the bureaucracy it appears comes first.

While I hate the expression, as a taxpayer I am appalled by this misappropriation of public money. No it is not the gas plants or the Scarborough subway those two ventures stand alone as examples of government waste, but it is a clear example of poor stewardship of public money

The amount of money that will be wasted on this project is merely a drop in the bucket compared to the government`s overall budget, but that does not give anyone license to waste it. No one will notice it, is not a good enough reason. If you have money left over, use it to provide care for the children that is after all the point of the program.

LAMP must now decide whether or not to go through the tendering process. It is a lot of work and we have never felt we would get a fair hearing. We have lead the opposition to this initiative and there is a price to pay for speaking truth to power. We have not up until now found this to be a process with a high degree of integrity.

Those fears were confirmed this week when we received a copy of an email from a senior manager in TPH which suggested that LAMP specifically would not likely succeed in the tender process. According to this memo we were too small an organization. LAMP is the largest community based organization in Etobicoke so if we are not eligible because of our size there are no providers outside of hospitals that need apply.

We of course requested whether we apply or not that this person not be part of the selection process. I actually assumed they would step down on their own volition. They did not and our request that they do so has been denied. Circle the wagons again.

We have decided to drop all objections save one. The decision to move forward is now entirely in the hands of the provincial government and whether or not they feel this is a good use of public money and from a government facing an election in the spring whether or not such an expenditure can be defended publicly.

We are however determined whether we apply or not that the selection process have some integrity. We do not believe a person who has expressed a bias against a possible candidate should be part of the selection process. Nothing personal, just highly inappropriate.

I can hear the wagons starting to circle now.

    Russ Ford (lampchc.org)

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