Working for the City We Want


  • Social Planning Toronto: Deputation at TDSB Consultation

    January 26th, 2015

    Winston Tinglin, Interim Executive Director of Social Planning Toronto

    Re: Minister of Education Directives Arising from the Wilson Review of the TDSB – reduction of underutilized spaces across schools and management of capital assets.


    Good evening, and thank you for the opportunity to speak today. My name is Winston Tinglin, Interim Executive Director of Social Planning Toronto. We are a not-for-profit organization engaged in independent social planning, community research and policy analysis. One of the areas we work in is around education and how it impacts the welfare of the community, especially with regard to issues around poverty, marginalization and equity. I am here to speak to directive #9 of the Minister of Education’s 13 directives to the TDSB.

    Item 9 directs the TDSB to “provide a three-year capital plan that should reflect a comprehensive, system-wide assessment of the pupil accommodation needs of the board”, and sub-section b requires “a clear indication of how the board intends to reduce underutilized spaces across its schools…”. We are concerned that in the implementation of this directive, a large number of schools could be closed without adequate consideration of its impact on students, their families and the community at large.

    The TDSB have frequently stated their reasons for closing schools: that in an era of fiscal constraint, they can no longer fund facilities with low enrollment and underutilized spaces. We feel this is too narrow and limited a view of schools and the definition of education. Schools, and especially those with underutilized spaces, have huge potential to become a hub for the community and deliver a broad range of benefits for all age groups and people from all walks of life.

    A 2013 City of Toronto Staff Report stated “schools are places of learning, but are also locations for child care, recreation programs, community meetings and neighbourhood green space. The closure and sale of schools and their lands can have a range of effects on neighbourhoods, particularly those neighbourhoods that are already underserved and also those facing the impact of residential and mixed-use development”.

    We know that the downtown core has almost doubled its population since 1976, with a steady growth rate of 18% since 2006. The largest demographic group in the downtown is made up by those between the ages of 25-29 (Ostler, 2014).  They are young families looking for schools and daycare spaces for their children. Having these facilities located close to home means children can walk or bike to school, instead of having to be bused or driven. Such active transportation is what Public Health has called for in the face of a childhood obesity epidemic (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2014).

    We also know that the inner suburbs in the city’s east and west end, such as Scarborough and Rexdale, have seen the highest rise in poverty. These areas also contain the largest number of recent immigrants (Hulchanski, 2006). Schools are often the only places where community agencies and groups can deliver employment workshops, ESL classes, social and recreational programs. Without these spaces, residents lose the support they need, and communities destabilize.

    Finally, many schools house daycare centres. The closing of these schools would mean that parents, especially low-income parents, would have a harder time securing childcare, which hugely impacts their ability to pursue education and employment opportunities.

    We realize that the root of the problem is the province’s funding formula, which does not take into account community use of schools and the role a school plays or can play in a community.  The solution to this problem is bigger than what any one player can deliver. It requires inter-ministerial and inter-jurisdictional collaboration. If the school is an asset to us all, then shouldn’t we all take responsibility for it? The municipal government has already voiced a need to coordinate strategies with the TDSB and find common ground through the School Lands Acquisition Framework. We ask the TDSB to redouble their efforts in seeking partnerships with other sectors, such as Parks, Forestry and Recreation, that stand to benefit from co-locating services in school buildings and embracing a community-hub model.

    In a 2014 mandate letter, the Premier asked the Ministry of Education to work with other departments to develop a community hubs policy, specifically stating using “empty school space across the province for community resources”. Furthermore, the city of Toronto has just announced its commitment to delivering a poverty reduction strategy. There is a common thread here: we believe school as a community hub is the key to fostering a vital and more equitable community, and we urge the TDSB to take a stand in bringing that vision to reality.

  • TEA: Presentation to the City Budget Committee


     Toronto Environmental Alliance

    February 2, 2015

    Franz Hartmann,
    Executive Director of the Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA), an organization with over 50,000 supporters


    The Good News

    In June 2014, we asked candidates running for City Council to commit to a set of environmental actions we call the Green Action Agenda. In this budget, we were looking for new money for key actions: specifically, improving TTC services and improving Toronto’s vitally important tree canopy. We are happy to see new funding for these important environmental services.


    The Not So Good News

    However, there are problems with this budget.

    There is no new investment in better educating people about waste diversion. Without more money to teach people about what goes in the Blue and Green Bins, Torontonians will continue throwing precious items into the garbage and clogging up our landfill. That is bad for the environment and means our landfill fills up faster than it needs to, adding major new costs in the future.

    Another example of not helping people reduce pollution is the TTC fare increase in this budget. A fare increase penalizes the very people who do the right thing by getting them to pay more almost 4% more for helping reduce traffic congestion and cleaning the air.

    We are told raising property taxes above the rate of inflation is a nonstarter, after years and years of property tax increases that are at or below the rate of inflation.

    So why is it that raising TTC fares annually above the rate of inflation is okay?

    If a fare freeze is off the table, then I ask City Council to treat those who use the TTC the same way as other Torontonians are treated. Either limit the fare increase to 2.25% or raise property taxes to 3.7%. One way or another, stop penalizing people for doing the right thing and using the Better Way.

    Ironically, while this budget doesn’t help people reduce pollution, it does encourage some companies to pollute. Right now, companies that discharge wastewater into our sewer system do not have to pay the city the full cost of cleaning up the pollution. Every year, city ratepayers pay $3 million extra, the difference between what companies pay and what the city pays.

    Councillor Layton has moved a motion that would stop this bad environmental practice. We urge all Councillors to support this.


    The Bad News

    Finally, this budget remains virtually silent on getting the city ready for climate change.

    There is no new money to research, plan and implement the many, many programs Torontonians need to prepare for the biggest threat facing the planet. We are told there is no money because property taxes have to stay at 2.25%.

    Many seem to think climate change is a future cost we can ignore. They are wrong. We are already paying for climate change and the cost makes a 2.25% property tax increase look like loose change.

    I want you to think about what would happen if you proposed a one-time 51% tax increase to Toronto residents. Using the city’s calculation, this would raise about $1.3 billion. City Councillors would never agree to this.

    But this is exactly what Torontonians paid to deal with the big flood in July 2013 and the ice storm in December -- the equivalent of a 51% tax increase, or $1.3 billion:

    • $1.14 Billion in insurance claims, which we will all pay in higher insurance premiums
    • $147 million in government costs for overtime, replacing equipment, emergency services, etc. -- costs paid for by provincial and city taxes

    This figure doesn’t even include the deductibles people paid when they made insurance claims.

    City Council is quibbling about a 2.5% property tax increase. Meanwhile, the two storms of 2013 actually cost us the equivalent of a 51% property tax increase and this budget is doing almost nothing to stop this from happening again even though the scientific evidence suggests we will see more severe storms causing more property damage.


    Council has two options:

    1. Keep property taxes low and do nothing to prepare the city for climate change and doom Torontonians to pay huge costs, equivalent to the 51% tax increase they paid in 2013.

    2. Or, increase property taxes to invest in the programs, technologies and bylaws that get Toronto ready for climate change.

    Option 2 won’t be cheap. But it will be the bargain of the century compared to Option 1.

    How can I get you to support Option 2? Get informed about the true costs of inaction.

    Be financially prudent, spend the next year learning what climate change is costing and will cost the city. Then, in 2016, you can adopt a budget that helps us avoid the huge financial liability that inaction on climate change will bring.




     TEA Presentation on Budget 2015


     For more information, contact:

    Franz Hartzmann
    Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA)