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Residents speak out about saving city services at Danforth meeting - InsideToronto

September 13, 2011
Danielle Milley

A warm and sunny late summer Sunday didn't keep more than 150 people from coming out to express their opposition to service cuts in Toronto.

Toronto-Danforth councillors Paula Fletcher (Ward 30) and Mary Fragedakis (Ward 29) hosted a town hall called Preserving Our Great City at Eastminster United Church on Sept. 11.

The councillors organized the event in the lead up to the release of a report from the city manager that came out Sept. 12 outlining recommendations for cuts to city services to alleviate a projected $774 million budget shortfall. The report follows the release of consultant KPMG's report earlier in the summer outlining core services in the city and proposals on what could be cut.

"(The KPMG report) didn't evaluate how these cuts would affect people's lives and it didn't evaluate how these cuts would affect Toronto's future economic prospects," Fragedakis said.

The executive committee is to consider the city manager's proposal Sept. 19 and then it will go to council the following week.

Fletcher and Fragedakis urged residents to speak with friends and family who live in other areas of the city to urge their councillors to protect public services.

The event was the opportunity for Toronto-Danforth residents to ask questions and make comments, but it was also a chance for them to hear from a panel of guest speakers on different programs possibly on the chopping block including Maureen O'Reilly from the Toronto Public Library Workers Union, Anne Pastuszak of Save Riverdale Farm, Liz White from the Animal Alliance of Canada, Franz Hartmann from the Toronto Environmental Alliance and Claire Hopkinson of the Toronto Arts Council.

O'Reilly said the fight won't end after the September council meeting.

"This fight is going to be going on for the next several months so it's important to keep signing petitions, to keep coming out to meetings like this," she said.

Ward 29 resident Victoria Pearson Cooper spoke in favour of libraries.

"What an amazing community resource our public library system is," said the new mother.

She said has taken advantage of the mother and babies program at the S. Walter Stewart branch with her five-month-old.

"I would pay to make sure every other mother and child in the community has access to that community service," she said.

She also spoke glowingly of the services offered to new parents by Toronto Public Health.

Ward 30 resident Lisa Brooke wondered if de-amalgamation was the answer.

She said she's only recently become politically active, but protecting services has become important to her.

"I want to be able to be part of the movement that keeps the Toronto that I know," Brooke said. "It's not a time to be quiet."

Most of the people in attendance were strongly in favour of no cuts as evident by the loud applause and standing ovation the speakers received - though one woman did speak in favour of removing fluoride from municipal water.

It was Beaches-East York Councillor Janet Davis speaking about child care who received the standing ovation when she spoke about how at every public meeting residents have said they want to protect Toronto's services and they're willing to pay more to do so.

"Back off you big bullies," she said is the message people need to send to councillors who want to cut services.

White spoke about protecting animal services, which she said costs just $8 million of which $3 million is offset by revenue.

Hopkinson spoke about how for each dollar the city invests in the arts, more than $17 is leveraged from other areas. Hartmann spoke out against eliminating the Toronto Environment Office, which he equated to the provincial ministry of environment, and the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, which is funded entirely through an endowment fund established in 1992.

"We can make a difference," he said. "The sort of Toronto we want is one that builds on our success and where we help people - not one where we destroy things."

As originally published here: http://www.insidetoronto.com/print/1080389