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What do we want for Toronto?

November 17th, 2015 · No Comments

Opportunity for positive, visionary change

By Mike Layton

In the last term of City Council we were up against Rob Ford and Stephen Harper. We found ourselves saying “no” and simply fighting to hold on to our public services.

We lost some battles. We watched our waste collection get handed over to the lowest private bidder and witnessed the carving up of Transit City (the light rail expansion plan that reached into our most marginalized communities). The deep cuts to our social service budgets now mean our shelter systems are over capacity and our state of good repair backlog in Toronto Community Housing is so great that we have thousands of people living in unfair conditions.

We won some battles too. Tens of thousands came together across the city and stopped a downtown mega casino proposed for my ward. Just as many more came together to fight against cuts to our public library system — and won. We fought proposed budget cuts to city services — and won. Locally we fought back against a parasitic Walmart and big box next to Kensington Market —and won.

But each of these battles were fights to maintain a status quo and existing programs. That was the position we found ourselves in. We haven’t had an opportunity to fight for anything new and visionary.

Today we have an opportunity to fight for what we want for Toronto. Today the people in charge are very different. Gone are the days of Ford as mayor. We can finally put the days of Stephen Harper behind us. We have a new majority government federally and a majority government in Ontario. It will be a few years before our next election and with their majority, if the government is convinced they can get almost anything through, let’s make sure it’s what we want.

There are at least two ideas that depend on the federal and provincial governments that I’d like to see implemented.

First is a national childcare strategy that will bring us $15/day child care. This would significantly change the lives of many families in Toronto and improve the lives of tens of thousands of women. We have close to 20,000 children on a waiting list for a subsidized space in Toronto. When you don’t have a subsidized space, you pay $107 a day to have a 17-month-old in care in the city. That’s upwards of $24,000 a year. The Universal Child Care Benefit (cheques of just over $100 a month that the Harper government sent to families in place of providing child care) barely covers a single day of child care.

Second is a living wage for Toronto. It costs more to live in Toronto than many other cities. The cost of childcare, groceries, food, household expenses, and rent are simply higher in Toronto. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives estimates that you need to earn $18.52 an hour in Toronto to make ends meet. If we really want to help move families out of poverty and make sure our kids aren’t going to school on empty stomachs then Toronto needs the ability to set its own minimum wage.

I have some more ideas for our city, but I’m curious what you’re thinking.

What is it that you want for Toronto?

We have a lot of work to do to reinvest in what we have lost, but what is it that we want to build? What is a bold idea for a better city that you’d love to advocate for? Let me know. Email me at councillor_layton@toronto.ca or send a note on Twitter @m_layton. It’s time we started talking again about the city we want to build.

Mike Layton is the city councillor for Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina.

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