Our schools are being short changed in Downsview

By Matias de Dovitiis

I hear it all the time. We need more children’s programming in Downsview. We need to create more opportunities for our youth. And yet, the designated funding that should be helping to meet these needs continues to be diverted to communities that are better off.

Our kids in Downsview are being short changed by the Provincial government

Our kids in Downsview are being short changed by the Provincial government

It is sad, but it is true. The province is underfunding all schools, but it is schools like ours that suffer the most. The government knows they do not provide enough money to run the system, but it refuses to take responsibility. It is a card trick shuffle and it is the neediest youth that are losing the game.

The Ontario government provides special funding to schools that have higher numbers of new arrivals to Canada and higher numbers of students that need special teaching assistance. They have provided the school boards with two funding streams for this purpose: the English as a Second Language (ESL) Allocation Grant and the Learning Opportunity Grant (LOG).

In principle, these grants are over and above the regular funding that schools receive to pay their normal operating costs. They are supposed to flow to needier schools to help pay for extra teachers and other teaching aids, so that students who require extra support have an equal chance to succeed. However, the Toronto District School Board is so short of funds that they use 1/4 of the ESL money and 2/3 of the LOG funding to pay other bills.

This has a particularly negative impact on schools in the north of the city, because this is where you have higher rates of poverty for young families and higher numbers of new Canadians. Rather than helping to level the playing field for students in Downsview, these designated funds are being used to pay the hydro bill in Forest Hill.

There is something seriously wrong with this entire dynamic. The provincial government knows that that the TDSB is shortchanging needy schools, but is hiding from responsibility by claiming that it is not their decision to make. Yet they set up the rules. It is a simple accounting trick to hide from the problem they started.  They created the ESL and LOG funding, but also created the funding deficit that drives the reallocation of this special funding to regular operating costs.

The provincial government determines the pay rate for teachers, but they fail to deliver the necessary budget. Over the last two years, this has brought a loss of teachers and a decrease in the level of education in our schools. In 2012, 430 Education Assistants and 200 high school teachers were fired, undermining efforts to improve math scores across the TDSB.

Like some backwards Robin Hood, Ontario is taking from the poorest students to give to the rich. It is not small change either. Every year, 80 million dollars is taken from needy schools and spread around to fill budget gaps. This is money that should be used where it is needed most, to create a more equitable system that gives all students an equal chance to succeed.

Auto insurance rates: postal code prejudice?

By Tom Rakocevic

Downsview residents pay the highest auto insurance rates in all of Toronto. According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, Torontonians paid an average of $1896 per year during the period  2009-2011. In York West, the federal riding stretching west from Keele to the Humber River and north from Sheppard to the city limits, the average yearly premium was a whopping $2184.

Insurance rates in York West are some of the highest in Ontario

Insurance rates in York West are some of the highest in Ontario

Auto insurance companies take many factors into account when determining insurance rates – age, driving record, type of vehicle and level of coverage. But place of residence makes a bigger difference than you might think.

The Ontario NDP conducted some simple research by calling a number of insurance companies to request a quote. With each call, the researcher gave the same driver and vehicle information, but cited a difference address. For the same forty-year old male driving a Toyota Yaris, the companies quoted premiums of $1153 in Lawrence Park, $1839 in Bramalea, $2172 in Rexdale and $2517 at Jane and Finch.

So why does the same driver pay twice the premium at Jane and Finch than he would at Lawrence Park? Why does our community pay the highest auto insurance rates in Toronto? For the insurance companies, it’s all about protecting their bottom line.

It’s not about collision rates. According to City of Toronto collision data, Downsview area municipal wards 7 and 8 have above average collision rates, but not the highest in the city. Ward 20, in downtown Trinity-Spadina, captures that dubious honour, with over 6400 collisions during the period 2009-2011.Similarly, Downsview’s Police Division 31 has higher than average rates of vehicular theft and vehicular crime, but once again fails to rank number one.

However, our local community does hit the top of the charts for the highest cost per auto insurance claim. Across Toronto, the average payout is $17,900.

In York West, that figure climbs to a hefty $30,000.

According to Insurance Bureau of Canada, auto insurers paid out more than they collected in York West between 2009 and 2011.

Raising the rates may be good for business, but it’s hard on the bottom line of a community with lower than average earnings. And it’s hard to swallow paying $2000 premiums when you’re driving a ten year old Pontiac and not a shiny new Mercedes.

Regardless of your vehicle – or your driving record – you pay a high price for living in Downsview. That may be hard to swallow, but Downsview drivers have little choice. By law, Ontario drivers must be insured. Meanwhile, auto insurers are legally entitled to use postal codes as a risk factor when calculating how much their customers will pay.

It may be legal, but it’s also absurd. It has nothing to do with accidents within a particular neighbourhood. If a person who lives on your street has a major car accident in northern Ontario, your premium will rise because he/she shares your postal code.  If a person who lives in upscale Lawrence Park has an accident that renders them unable to work, and moves into your postal code while the insurance company is paying their rehabilitation costs, your premium may increase.

This postal code prejudice saddles one of the city’s poorest neighbourhoods with the highest auto insurance premiums in all of Toronto. To make matters worse, auto insurers charge these rates with the full knowledge and blessing of the Financial Services Commission of Ontario, an arm’s length agency of the provincial government that regulates the auto insurance industry.

Isn’t the government supposed to ensure that Ontarians are treated fairly and equitably?

 How does an auto insurance company  determine your individual rate?

Auto insurance companies employ specialized statisticians called actuaries who assess the level of risk of each new prospective client.  Risk means the likelihood that a client will file a claim and the presumed amount of a claim. The higher the expected risk, the higher the premium.  The best client is the individual that pays and pays but never files a claim.

What factors  are used to determine your rate?

Actuaries  use a number of factors to determine your level of risk including:

  •     the age and type of car you drive
  •     the level of coverage and amount of your deductable
  •     your driving record (including prior claims and  traffic offences)
  •     the number of kilometres you drive
  •     demographic information such as your age, gender  and marital status
  •     where you live

Who regulates  auto insurance companies?

The activities of auto insurance companies are regulated by the  Financial Services Commission of Ontario or FSCO, an arm’s length agency of  Ontario’s Ministry of Finance.  Auto insurance companies are expected to abide by the rules of the Auto Insurance Act 1990. When calculating and raising rates, insurers provide detailed information to FSCO for approval.














Welcome to Historic Downsview

by Howard Moscoe

This is the first of a series of articles on the history of our community.

Have you ever wondered what Downsview looked like 150 years ago?

The Township of York had its beginnings in 1793 when it was carved out of the bush by Governor Simcoe.  The township’s rugged farmland fed the growing town of York, the capital city of Upper Canada on Lake Ontario.

Elia Church today

By 1825, four small villages dotted the farmland in the north west part of the township: Downsview (Keele and Wilson), Elia (Keele and Finch), Kaiserville (Jane and Steeles), and Fisherville (Dufferin and FInch).

Downsview was later established as the site of the district post office, and the name came to be applied to the entire district.  Many local residents still remember the old post office – now closed- at Keele and Victory Drive. Many, like me, still give their mailing address as Downsview.

In 1800s Downsview, farmland consisted of 200 acre lots that sold for $60 to $250.  Lots with hardwood were worth more than those with softwood.  As a Downsview farmer, you would earn your livelihood growing wheat in the summer and harvesting trees in the winter.

Villages were organized around the mills- grist mills where you took your wheat to be ground into flour, and saw mills where you dragged your logs to be sawn into timber.  In the village of Elia, you could have your lumber cut at John Wilson’s saw mill north of Dufferin and Finch on the west branch of the Humber or grind your grain at Wriggitt’s grist mill south of Finch.  Other local businesses included a carriage and wagon shop and a blacksmith shop.

Elia Church in 1911

Construction cranes have now replaced the mills as the most visible symbol of economic activity in Downsview, but its residents still retain the same pioneering spirit. Over the years, land has changed hands many times. First, English soldiers of the Queen’s Rangers were granted lots by Simcoe when he moved he capital from Niagara to York in 1872.  Later, land was sold to Pennsylvania Germans who came north in Conestoga wagons between 1798 and 1805.  Successive waves of immigrants have carved out new opportunities for themselves and their families, transforming a once quiet village into a busy multicultural hub, where more than half of all households now list a mother tongue other than English.


New communities are now maintaining the vibrancy of historic centres of community life.  The Episcopal Methodist Church was erected by the early pioneers as a frame building in 1851.  The present building – a brick structure erected in1901- is now occupied jointly by the Reform Hungarian Church and the Church of the Lamb of God with services in Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu.

Elia Middle School still bears the name of the historic village, but the old brick schoolhouse that once proudly stood at the northeast corner of Keele and Finch has long succumbed to the forces of change. I am sure that the first teacher, Jacob Hoover, would be surprised to see a subway station being constructed on the site where he taught arithmetic an spelling to eight grades.

And yet, Downsview has long been a communications and transportation hub.  First it was the post office that kept early residents connected.  Later innovators would bring the airstrip (stay tuned for a future article on Downsview’s aviation history).

With the new subway extension, our community will play a key role in linking Toronto and York Region. History continues to be made in Downsview. Jacob Hoover would be proud.

(Much of the information in this article comes from Pioneering in York, by Patricia W. Hard, General Publishing, Toronto, 1968.)