Tag Archives: John Tory

How do cities and school boards secure sufficient funding for infrastructure?

In the February 16, 2017 Toronto Sun article entitled, “Mayor Tory urges province, feds to step up to the plate”, John Tory states that, “Toronto is locked in a pair of “prehistoric handcuffs” and senior governments have the keys.”

Tory made these comments outside of a Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) building in Etobicoke as he urged the provincial and federal governments to help address the $2.6-billion repair backlog that has been allowed to accumulate in the city’s social housing buildings. Tory goes on to say, “Another year of tweaking and fiddling on the budget front without real help from them just won’t cut it in terms of our responsibility that we have to the people of this city.”

In the January 27, 2017 CBC News entitled, “Mayor Tory decries ‘short-sighted’ road-toll rejection by province”, Tory says that, “he’s tired of Queen’s Park treating him like a “little boy in short pants,” when he’s trying to to secure money to pay for billions of dollars worth of infrastructure projects.”

And in a February 21, 2017 editorial in the Toronto Star, entitled, “The Province must deliver long-term funding support to Toronto”, Mayor Tory continued this general theme.

Mayor Tory is understandably frustrated by the fact that he feels a great responsibility to meet the needs of the people of Toronto and yet is unable to accomplish this because the provincial government holds more power and access to funding.

School board trustees throughout Ontario are likely very familiar with Mayor Tory’s “prehistoric handcuffs”. For years, they’ve undertaken to do what is best for the students, families and communities they serve – but must rely on the province for almost all funding. Given that the Province routinely blames school boards for not meeting the needs of students, Ontario school boards are also familiar with the frustration of trying to secure adequate funding when they can’t control the sources of those funds. Ontario’s 72 school boards must be able to access stable and adequate funding to repair and build new schools so that the real people in short pants, our children, can go to school in safe, well-maintained schools.

Public Schools in same pickle as Toronto Community Housing

While reading this blog post, please keep in mind that Toronto Public Schools are facing an eerily similar challenge to that being faced by Toronto Community Housing. There is a $3-billion repair backlog plaguing TDSB schools that must be addressed immediately. However, the provincial government – the sole funder of public schools in Ontario – refuses to take accountability for this massive issue. As you read the remainder of this blog post, keep in mind that the combined repairs needed in TDSB schools and in Toronto Community Housing units exceeds $10-billion. We are on a scary trajectory if these billions of dollars of repairs aren’t addressed – and soon.

On March 30, John Tory and Toronto Community Housing revealed a plan to address the $1.7-billion of additional funding required to address the $7.5-billion of repairs required in Toronto’s Community Housing units over the next 30 years. This plan’s success hinges on the federal and provincial governments funding a large part of these repairs. In his column in the Star, Edward Keenan suggests this is unlikely. He estimates that for the City to take on the additional $1.7-billion required for repairs would require a dedicated property tax increase of 3% for the next 30 years.

Keenan agrees with John Tory’s argument that “the moral and business cases illustrated by this study make a bullet-proof case for why the Ontario and federal governments should invest now to repair housing.” However, Keenan points out that while the moral and business cases for supporting social housing have been clear for a long time, higher levels of government have continued to download responsibility and accountability for this important public good.

Keenan suggests that if Torontonians do not take on the responsibility to fund these repairs and the higher levels of government also refuse, then Toronto Community Housing units will crumble around the existing tenants, many units will be closed as they become uninhabitable and those tenants will be forced into a private housing market where they might become homeless.

Toronto Public Schools are in the same predicament. Schools are starting to crumble around students and teachers. Will we close schools as they become uninhabitable and force parents to send their children to private schools? Ideally, the province and feds need to step up and start funding public schools as an integral part of our public infrastructure. The province, in particular, which holds all the power over funding at the moment, must start working with the TDSB and the City to figure out funding solutions to ensure that students attend school in safe, well-maintained buildings. While heartening to see the City so engaged in these issues, it is equally disheartening to see Kathleen Wynne’s government so disengaged in real discussions on funding.

 

City interested in public education

In a letter to Education Minister Sandals and the Chairs of both the TDSB and TCDSB, Toronto’s Mayor John Tory says he wants the City to be meaningfully consulted before any decisions are made about the sale of surplus schools by the TDSB.

Toronto’s Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat said that “the Province needs to recognize that schools fulfill a greater purpose within their communities than simply classrooms for school-aged children – for example, as daycares, gathering places for seniors and greenspace for neighbourhoods”.

Hurrah! City politicians and staff are interested in public education! Let’s hope this interest evolves into involvement.

Will our new mayor give public education the attention it needs?

On his first official day as Toronto’s Mayor, John Tory met with Premier Kathleen Wynne to discuss priorities and how the two levels of government can work together towards the best possible decisions for constituents. Wynne said the two have committed to meeting regularly.

The agenda included transit, housing and investment opportunities.  While public education is arguably as important to Toronto’s future success as transit, it is notably absent from this morning’s meeting agenda.

With 246,000 students attending almost 600 schools, the TDSB is a $3 Billion bureaucracy that requires attention not only from the TDSB Trustees who govern the board but also from our new Mayor and City Council.  Last week, the TDSB finally got the attention of the Province with Liz Sandals announcing that outside expert Margaret Wilson will be conducting a review of the TDSB.  What is required next is for the TDSB to get the attention of the City too.

John Tory and the TDSB arguably have similar visions – a vibrant city filled with educated, healthy citizens.  So let’s hope that our new Mayor will also forge new relations with our local school board. With regular meetings between our City Council and the TDSB, we could see a stronger Toronto.