In our efforts to improve population health, the Wellesley Institute has been working alongside countless inviduals and organizations over the past few months to inform budget-related decision-making at Toronto City Hall. The cuts and modifications to city-funded programs and services currently being debated both inside and outside city hall have critically important health and health equity implications.
The Wellesley Institute has been a vocal critic of Council’s unnecessarily rushed budgetary decision-making, of a decision-making process that doesn’t consider the health and well-being of Torontonians, and of a host of unnecessary proposals for cuts and modifications to public services that would have dire consequences for Torontonians’ health, while doing relatively little to affect the city’s bottom line.
The Wellesley Institute has created two important reports for councillors and all Torontonians to consider with regards to budget deliberations:
In The Real Cost of City Cuts, a Health Equity Impact Assessment of three key policy and program changes proposed by the city is performed: reducing child care funding and subsidies, eliminating the Hardship Fund, and limiting the development of affordable housing to completing only what has already been approved and funded. The assessment concludes that if implemented, each of the three changes will have a disproportionate impact on already vulnerable groups, compromising the current and future health of many vulnerable Torontonians. Toronto cannot reduce its costs at the expense of the most vulnerable; consideration of the health equity implications of proposed budget decisions needs to be built into Toronto’s budget process. Applying Health Equity Impact Assessments to budget proposals would help to avoid compromising Torontonians’ health and the health of the city through budget decisions.
Countdown To Zero: Balancing Toronto’s Budget shows that the City of Toronto can balance its budget without gutting city services and selling off valuable assets, just as it has done in each of the past five years. The report shows how the fiscal challenges facing city council this year are nothing new and demonstrates, step-by-step, how the city can balance the budget in the same way this year. Contrary to the rhetoric coming out of the mayor’s office, it isn’t too late; councillors still have options: they can make budgetary decisions that build our city, rather than compromising Torontonians’ health by cutting the programs and services that make the city liveable for everyone. Watch a presentation about Countdown To Zero by the report’s author, Sheila Block, here.
Links to Toronto Budget 2012 Information and Resources from the Wellesley Institute:
- July 20, 2011: Housing first to end homelessness, but first Toronto needs homes (submission to the City of Toronto’s Community Development and Recreation Committee)
- Nov. 9, 2011: Countdown To Zero: Balancing Toronto’s Budget
- Nov. 23, 2011: Toronto’s 2012 Budget: Issue Update, Reports and Resources
- Dec. 7, 2011: Service Cuts Are Costly, Consider Our Health. Here’s How
- Jan. 23, 2012: Toronto’s proposed housing and homelessness cuts threaten health, lives of many people
Links to organizations and campaigns working to ensure that Toronto’s 2012 budget protects the health and well-being of Torontonians:
- www.togethertoronto.ca: A website that houses petitions in support of Kids, Arts, Hardship Fund, TTC and Heritage Museums.
- www.onetoronto.ca: A network of environmental, arts, student, labour and social justice groups representing hundreds of thousands of Torontonians
- www.ttcriders.ca: A public transit advocacy group that gives transit riders a voice
- Toronto Environmental Alliance: An organization that encourages the participation of local people on local issues in the interests of building a green, healthy and equitable city with economic activity that sustains our environment.
- www.ourpubliclibrary.to: A network of people dedicated to preserving the Toronto Public Library System.
- www.kidscounttoronto.ca: An ad hoc group of Toronto families involved in recreation, schooling, student health and nutrition, childcare, swimming and skating programs in our city and organized around the 2012 city budget process.
- www.mothersforchildcare.ca and www.childcaretoronto.org: Mothers’ Task Force on Child Care is a project to investigate the accessibility, quality and affordability of child care services in Toronto and The Toronto Coalition for Better Child Care is a broad-based organization working to establish a comprehensive, high-quality, universally accessible, non-profit publicly funded child care system.
- City Budget Watch 2012: Regular updates by Social Planning Toronto on the 2012 budget situation, including resources and actions to take.
- Toronto Stop the Cuts: A network of community groups across the city, organizing to stop the cuts to the public services and programs that are important to Torontonians.