Hero and Villain of the Week: Lois Lilienstein and the Budget-Makers
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Hero and Villain of the Week: Lois Lilienstein and the Budget-Makers

Every week, Toronto is filled with Heroes and Villains. These are their stories.
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Hero of the Week: Lois Lilienstein

Few people get to do a job they love, have a positive impact on thousands of children (and parents), and leave an enviable legacy that can be summed up in one word.

But then you have Lois Lilienstein, and the word “skinnamarink,” and you have an elephant’s stampede worth of nostalgia and good feelings.

This past week, at age 78, Lilienstein passed away after a battle with cancer. Along with Sharon and Bram, Lilienstein entertained children in a way that wasn’t flashy, but accessible, down-to-earth, and slightly silly.

For many kids, the infectious and simple song “Skinnamarink” may have been their first earworm, and it’s also one that might persist to this day. And that speaks to the legacy that Lilienstein leaves, and why she’s a hero.

Villain of the Week: The Budget-Makers

This past week was a bad one for John Tory’s mayoralty. Both the provincial and federal government launched their 2016 budgets, and there wasn’t much in the way of help for Toronto’s top priorities.

Much of the attention focused on transit. After all, the federal government promised to create a dedicated national transit fund…next year. Even then, they will phase in the funding over three years, and even if it gets fully funded at $1 billion annually, it still doesn’t buy much transit across the country. That funding comes with qualifications, too: it will only fund projects that also get private investment, which means only late stage projects will qualify.

The provincial government made a polite gesture towards John Tory’s SmartTrack project in their budget, but they didn’t provide any direct funding either. The budget indicated some GO lines would be electrified, but this is separate from the SmartTrack plan, which needs over $8 billion across three levels of government to make it work.

But there was an issue more important that a shiny new transit toy.

Much worse was that an urgent crisis was completely overlooked. There was absolutely no additional funding for TCHC, which is $1.7 billion less than was asked for. If budgets express our values, then what does it say when we continue to neglect the housing of some of the most vulnerable residents in Canada’s largest city?

If there is a moral accounting to be done, then the budget-makers are surely in deficit.