Our Schools in Disrepair and Disarray

Our schools are valuable public assets. They help set the prices for homes in our neighbourhoods. They set the standard by which our children are able to thrive. They are central parts of our communities and their health affects everyone, whether directly or indirectly. Letting them fall in disrepair to the tune of $15 billion across Ontario, like the provincial government has done, is letting our communities down and putting our kids at risk.

Just recently at Derrydown Public School, multiple news sources reported an incident where three children were injured as workers were doing repairs to the school’s roof. Tar dripped down through the ceiling on children below during gym class. Two children were taken to hospital, but thankfully, they are expected to do fine.

The larger issue is that this is not an isolated incident. A website called www.fixourschools.ca details some of the incidents: scaffolding injuring a child; another child suffering cuts due to lack of lunchroom supervision; a railing in a playground giving way and resulting in a child breaking her wrist; the list goes on. These are recent incidents that speak to the backlog of disrepair and to the larger issue of inadequate funding for our public schools. Moneys needed for emergency repairs have been taken away by more immediate operational budget needs in our schools for years. This ultimately affects the quality of education in our classrooms over time as the budget gets tighter with the growing backlog of repairs. Today we have less specialized assistants to deal with children that need one-on-one help, we have fewer lunchroom supervisors, and parents are increasingly asked to fundraise more and more to fill in gaps.

In the 1990s, the Progressive Conservative government gave developers a tax break by structuring development fees in such a way that they would no longer have to contribute toward new schools in school boards like the TDSB. As a result of this, new construction projects in the City of Toronto have not led to more investments in public schools. This system has been maintained by the current Liberal government, despite their protestations about investments in our schools. Ultimately, developers saved hundreds of millions of dollars through this tax cut in Toronto. The tax cut reduced the funding school boards depended on for capital investments and, as a result, schools in Toronto have millions of dollars worth of disrepair despite the longest continuous real estate boom in Canadian history. The repair work that does take place is often done in case of emergencies, rather than to systematically maintain buildings in a financially responsible way.

We can all change this.

There are two million school children in Ontario. Our city is growing and we need to ensure that our schools are safe places of learning and that we invest in the public assets that we all own so that they can be used by future generations.

Elections Ontario not taking action on low voter turnout

In 2015, the Downsview Advocate featured an article illustrating the lack of accessibility to provincial voting locations in the area. Unfortunately, years later and with an election this summer, the issue remains unresolved. While Elections Ontario has recently completed an outreach effort to deal with accessibility to polling stations, with regards to ramps and other similar issues affecting people with disabilities, it did not properly address the low number of voting locations in the riding.

The west part of Downsview is now a riding called Humber River–Black Creek (formerly known as York West – the name was changed by Elections Ontario, although the boundaries have remained the same). This area had the second lowest provincial election turnout across Ontario.

Humber River–Black Creek has one of the province’s highest tenant populations and to account for this during municipal and federal elections, larger buildings have polling stations in their lobbies. As expected, tenant turnout in municipal and federal elections is much higher than provincial elections in relative terms. Elections Ontario knows this. Humber River–Black Creek only has 45 polling stations as compared to the neighbouring ridings of York Centre and York South–Weston which have 66 and 65 polling stations respectively. These ridings have almost 50% more places for residents to vote as compared to Humber River–Black Creek.

When this was brought to the attention of Elections Ontario in 2015, there was no response. Now, a few years later, with an election around the corner, it would be timely to see a response. Voters deserve ease of access to voting stations, and Humber River–Black Creek deserves the same standard as neighbouring ridings. This is unacceptable and those responsible in Elections Ontario need to take immediate action.

To see the 2015 article on low voter turnout, visit: http://www.downsviewadvocate.ca/2015/02/arent-people-downsview-voting/

Community Meeting on the Future of the Jane and Finch area

Dozens of community members from the area met at the former Regina Paget school site on Norfinch in early December to discuss the future of the area. The meeting was organized by Community Action Planning Group  – York West (CAPG), whose mandate is to influence the development of the area and its social environment.

Many problems in the area can be traced to poor planning decisions from 20 or 30 years ago, such as poor transit connections, which are made more difficult because of the physical layout of the neighbourhood. The group organized a meeting to inform community members of community benefits that may be used in the near future and how these can help shape the Jane and Finch area.
One of the biggest changes to the area will be the construction of the LRT along Finch, which is scheduled to see construction start in 2018-19. Not only will this create better transit for the area and clean up the roadways for drivers, but there are a number of other benefits for Jane and Finch. Participants at the meeting learned that there is a big push by an organization called Toronto Community Benefits Network(http://www.communitybenefits.ca/) to create local jobs out of it, but there are also other opportunities.
Metrolinx, the agency that will be building the LRT and creating the jobs in the process, also needs to have a place to park all those new trains. They have chosen to buy and re-purpose the empty field north east of Jane and Finch next to the mall. CAPG and the local City Councillor, Anthony Perruzza, have worked to have the City set out a number of policies to create more than just a car house for the LRT. You can see the details of the City report on what these added community benefits could entail once approved here: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2015.MM11.23
For more information or to get involved email the group here: jf-capg@mail.com