Toronto has been an angry place during this municipal election. OneToronto is angry about that.
A coalition of community and political organizations, as well as concerned individuals, OneToronto was formed about three weeks ago with a goal in mind: engage voters in a positive, constructive conversation about Toronto’s future, as an alternative to the gloomy rhetoric that has dominated headlines throughout this year’s municipal election.
With less than three weeks to go before election day, it seems fair to point out that OneToronto’s campaign is probably coming too late in the cycle to have a profound impact on the outcome of the mayoral race, or any of the lower-profile municipal races currently underway.
But their press conference this morning, was, if nothing else, a valiant effort to inject some positivity into a political atmosphere where the only apparent way to connect with a majority of voters is to promise them tax cuts and austerity.
The turnout at the presser, at the Church of the Holy Trinity by Nathan Phillips Square, was low. All the best City Hall reporters were elsewhere, covering Rob Ford’s complete fiscal plan, which he was unveiling, ironically, at almost the exact same time. Ford’s plan calls for tax and spending cuts in order to deliver a claimed $1.67 billion surplus after four years, as part of his “respect for taxpayers” platform.
The OneToronto message was somewhat different. The organization’s position is that Toronto’s financial situation is not untenable, and that the City doesn’t need to cut services to survive.
Former (and possibly future) Parkdale-High Park MP Peggy Nash delivered a PowerPoint presentation that had been prepared by economist Jim Stanford, who was absent due to some unspecified medical emergency.
The presentation—which you can watch in its entirety above—pointed out, correctly, that the property tax bills of Toronto landowners are the lowest in the GTA, and that roughly two-thirds of the City’s operating budget goes to things like transit, emergency services, and provincially mandated social services that can’t be blithely cut. It also attempted to make political hay out of Toronto’s 2009 operating surplus of about $355 million. But the Board of Trade has pointed out that the City is reliant upon unsustainable, one-time cash infusions to balance its annual budgets, and so a 2009 surplus is not necessarily a guarantee that Toronto’s spending is perfectly under control. We might just have been lucky.
Gail Nyberg, executive director of Daily Bread Food Bank, took the microphone to speak in protest of the lack of attention paid to the underprivileged during this municipal election cycle.
GTA food banks handled 1,187,000 visits this year, a 15% increase from 2009.
“Be angry if you need to be angry,” said Nyberg, as though addressing the four front-running mayoral candidates in absentia. “But also decide the kind of city that you want to live in not today, but four years from today.”
Get more municipal election coverage from Torontoist here.