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.














Community of Downsview: Come Aboard the New Line

Community of Downsview: Come Aboard the New Line
by Jessica A. Pointon

It’s time for an upgrade.

Toronto’s average commute is 30.4 minutes, almost 50% more than the national average. Some evenings, Downsview commuters wait almost that long at the subway station, just to catch their overcrowded bus home.

Construction on the Finch West Station site

Hope is on the way. The Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension will add six new subway stations between Downsview Station and Vaughan Metropolitan Centre.

Lillian Rodriguez, a local resident, can hardly wait, “I’m looking forward to cutting my travel time, to have more time for other priorities.” With train departures expected every four minutes from the new stations, local residents will have a faster and more predictable commute to work and school.

The extension has also boosted Lillian’s sense of pride in her community: “it’s making our neighbourhood a priority for transit.”

The Downsview community will no longer be on the margins of city life, but an integral part of a solid transportation link between Toronto and York Region. The extension is expected to attract visitors and business to the area. Two of the new stations – Downsview Park and Pioneer Village – are strategically located to make local tourist attractions more accessible.

The extension promises other benefits too. Car traffic between Toronto and York will decrease, aiding efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in highly populated areas. Three commuter parking lots – at Finch West, Pioneer Village and Highway 407 – will help encourage drivers to leave their cars behind.

The extension is expected to open by autumn of 2016. Already, the two tunnel producing machines – affectionately named the “Yorkie” and the “Torkie” – have completed their labours. “Torkie” reached its final destination at Vaughan Metropolitan Centre on November 8, 2013. The next phase of the journey requires fortifying the tunnels, installing the tracks, and preparing the signal systems.

Construction can sometimes be a bumpy ride. Although residents may find the detours inconvenient, it is a short-term sacrifice for a necessary long-term investment in our neighbourhood. The Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension provides a template for other transit- famished areas across the GTA. The population is only going to increase, and it`s time to build the proper infrastructure to uphold the transit-related prospects of Downsview, Toronto and the GTA.

Fasten your expectations, Downsview is on the move.

Residents are encouraged to check the TTC website for updates.  http://www.ttc.ca/Spadina/index.jsp