By Peter D'Gama
Since the provincial government assumed control over education funding in Ontario, the physical condition of Ontario schools has been deteriorating. Inadequate funding set at a level below the actual costs incurred by boards has put many boards into having to choose between classroom instruction and facility maintenance.
The choice to defer spending on maintenance has resulted in a backlog. This was exposed in the Education Equality Task Force (Rozanski Report in December 2002, which identified identified a deferred maintenance backlog estimated at 5.6 billion and growing. Today this stands 1t 15.9 billion dollars.
To address this backlog, an independent assessment calculated that the Ministry of Education needs $ 1.4 billion annually to maintain schools in a state of good repair. The backlog in schools in Etobicoke North Ward 1 the constituency of Premier Ford is $ 186 million dollars.
Given this huge backlog, the cancellation of $100 million dollars addressed to deal with some of this backlog, the Premier betrayed his constituency by cancelling these funds which was merely a down payment towards addressing the 15.9 billion backlog.
We need to fix and green our schools. Implementing energy audit and updated energy standards to reduce the Cities Carbon footprint. In taking on this task to address the backlog we can also provide job training and employment opportunity to community residents and workers seeking opportunity in skilled trades and in the field of energy auditing and retrofits.
We need as a City to demand that the province live up to financial obligation to address this backlog. If it is unwilling to do so the City should embark on this project by instituting a Municipal Public bank that would issue municipal infrastructure bonds .
Put Health and the Environment First!
By Peter D'Gama
End the Opioid Crisis
Annual number of deaths from opioid-related causes, Toronto, 2013 to 2017*
Too many Torontonians have died as a result of opioid addiction. In 2017 there were 303 deaths related to opioid addiction. Drug addiction is a complex issue involving many systemic factors related to economic inequality, poverty, homelessness, racism, settler colonization. To address this crisis we need to veer from an approach of criminalization towards one that focuses on harm reduction. This involves funding harm reduction sites and keeping them open and making naloxone kits available to those prone to suffering from an overdose.
I will fight fiercely for measures to alter drug laws so that an approach based on the Portugal model is adopted. This adoption of harm reduction, public investment in treatment and prevention centres and decriminalization of minor offenses can make a significant effect in reducing drug addiction and deaths that result from it.
The over policing and criminalization of marginalized communities has a negative effect on public health and other issues commonly calling for greater militarization of police. The spate of gun violence in Toronto has spawned an overreaction, while understandable does not see the underlying causes and social determinants of crime culture. I will fight for the de-escalation of this militarized approach and call for immediately reducing the police budget by $100 million dollars to go back to the level of funding the Police Services received in 2008 and conduct a review on what a future role and spending on Police Services. The savings from such a review should then be allocated to a fund for fighting the opioid crisis and homelessness in the City.
I want to end the transmission of highly flammable substances, including by train or pipeline, through the city and put a stop to Line 9. Step up health and safety inspections and bylaw enforcement at rooming houses, nursing homes, swimming pools, spas and restaurants. Cut pollution and waste by rapid conversion to green energy generation as an alternative to burning carbon fuels.
I would also license more food trucks on the streets to offer consumers healthy, affordable and diverse local alternatives to restaurant dining. I think we must add a free school lunches based in what we have learned about nutrition over the last several decades and remove all surgery drink machines from our public institutions.
Cars and trucks are the primary local source of the contaminants filling the lungs of residents. In fact, pollution from vehicles on Toronto's routinely jammed streets and expressways contributes to about 280 premature deaths and 1,090 hospitalizations each year, underscoring the need to find healthier travel alternatives, including free public transit. In addition, the harm done by trucks can be reduced by requiring off-peak deliveries so that big rigs spend less time in gridlocked traffic. Adding a car entry fee to raise even more clean air funds in the fashion that London, England has applied to their traffic issues I support completely.
I say 'No jets, no extension of the Island airport runway.' Preserve and expand parks and recreation facilities. Demand that the federal government give Downsview Park to the City of Toronto instead of allowing Canada Lands Co. to toy with the idea of selling portions of the park for commercial purposes. Make it a priority to service and enhance the city's tree canopy both to minimize the potential for storm damage and to improve air quality.
By Peter D'Gama.
Curbed separated bicycle paths or alternative transportation paths.
With all the different forms of transportation entering the mix including almost silent running electric motorcycles we are at a point where we need to separate weight and speed (cars, trucks, motorcycles electric or otherwise) from light and agile (bicycles, unicycles, skateboards electric or otherwise). We just witnessed an electric skateboard critical mass blasting by. Because of the nature of weight and speed verses light and agile the in-traffic behavior is different and has been leading to confrontations, injuries and deaths and this is why I am proposing curbed separated bicycle paths or alternative transportation paths. Weight and speed need some form of warning they are drifting into light and agile’s lane and light and agile and the city need to write for light and agile rules for the roads and separation from opening car doors.
A Skateboard and BMX Park For Etobicoke.
I am proposing a large diverse terrain skateboard and BMX park for Etobicoke to add to what is already being built to give these two main stream sporting activities a little more equity in the city’s youth sports budgets that lean toward hockey, baseball and football/soccer. I would rather that our future X Games stars work out their budding careers in a well maintained sports facility than in the parking lots, court yards and streets and side walks of our city.
Doubling the street repair and maintenance budget.
The speed by which repairs and resurfacing are occurring are leading to a great deal of wear and tear and safety issues on all transportation vehicles individually, business or publicly owned. The City of Toronto must do a far better job at staying head of the up keep of our city streets.
City car entrance fee and city vehicle registration tax.
I want to put in place a vehicle city entrance fee on all vehicles entering the City of Toronto either on the commuting or tourism vehicles to cut congestion but also to raise funds to do the repairs our streets are in desperate need of. I also want to put back in place the city vehicle registration fee that Mayor Rob Ford removed slowing street repairs to a near stand still. Mayor John Tory was not much better. This needs to be turned around.
I am completely committed to implementation of the Vision Zero Road Safety plan (2017-2021). The amount of incidences of vehicle related fatalities and injuries of the most vulnerable citizens pedestrians, school children, older adults and cyclists is far too high and we must all support the Vision Zero Plan.
The recent flood events in Toronto that have effected road and public transport, the summer heatwave, and ongoing fires in Northern Ontario and BC show that despite retorts from the Tory provincial government to erase Climate Change from government documents, Climate change needs to be addressed if we are to have a livable city. Addressing this means that we have to transition to a green and sustainable economy and one that prioritizes human needs and addresses the human costs of this transition. One of these costs is to help transition workers trained for the fossil fuel based industrial economy to retrain or provide benefits that aid them in a transition to an economy based on renewable energy and phasing out of fossil fuels.
Municipal Living Wage
This transition has to begin by meeting the economic and social needs of workers and the priority is to address the declining share of income in Etobicoke North and Ward 1. A Socialist Action resolution called for an increase in the living wage to help workers meet rising housing costs. I advocate and will mobilize for a living wage in Toronto of $20.00 per hour to help workers meet costs of living in Toronto. Any infrastructure work or other work done for the City by contactors should pay their workers at a starting living wage rate of $20.00 per hour.
Raise The Rates for Welfare and Disability
Workers are struggling to live in this city working long hours just to pay the rent but those on Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Supports Program have an even harder struggle given the recent cutr backs in the increase to social assistance rates. We need to demand that the City ask the province to roll back the cuts and implement a raise that actually would help low income on those on economic margins to live in the city and to prevent needless deaths due to homelessness. The City Council should call for OW and ODSP rates to $1500.00 for OW and $1850.00 for ODSP.
Good Jobs and Climate Justice & Green Transition.
The Doug Ford government had as one of its first acts cutting $ 100 million dollars to fix schools in need of energy retrofits and implementation of renewable technologies to address climate change such as solar panels on roofs. Socialist Action remains committed to investment in green infrastructure spending such as investments in energy retrofits in schools and other institutional infrastructure owned by the City Of Toronto. We need to invest in training for new and existing workers and Indigenous Peoples, People of Color, those on low income or precarious employment, and others who are historically marginalized to install energy saving devices and equipment. We need to implement the Good Jobs For all Charter for Election Charter for Climate Justice prioritizing continued investment in public transit such as the Finch LRT and completion of Downtown subway relief line the. The City should invest in publically owned or cooperative renewable energy projects and seek amendments to building codes to be net zero carbon emissions for new buildings by 2030
Infrastructure projects, particularly those transitioning to renewable and green technologies present an opportunity for workers and communities. The Community Benefits Framework should be employed for all infrastructure projects over $50 million undertaken by City of Toronto with binding, equitable and inclusive targets and consultation with historically disadvantaged communities and equity seeking groups.
Tax The Rich and Big Business.
Toronto is becoming an increasingly divided city with a wide gap between the wealth of the rich and the poor and middle class. Like many working families who struggle to pay the bills like rent and hydro. This is due to the regressive taxes on which the City of Toronto relies. The City gets most of its taxes through the property tax which is an inherently regressive tax as the average home owner pays the same property tax rate as the wealthy homeowners of Rosedale or Bridle path.
While renters in Kipling towers, homeowners in Rexdale struggle to pay rent or property tax, the corporations to whom owners pay their mortgage and renters pay their rents accumulate growing profits on which they pay less tax and hoard these profits offshore. We need to make these corporations pay their share of taxes to reflect the wealth that they extract from the workers that build this city. Two solutions to offset this tendency is a mansion tax and making large corporations pay a higher rate than the residential property tax rate.
Mansion Tax Now!
The Imposition of a Mansion Tax of slightly higher mill rate for properties valued in the 5-10 million dollar band and those above 10 million dolllars would raise additional revenues to help fixing existing housing stock and the building of public housing units on city owned land. In Vancouver the imposition of such a tax would bring in $170 million dolars a year. In Toronto in a bigger market this would raise 400-500 milion dollars a year.
Tax on Big Business.
Commercial property taxes are calculated at a flat rate like residential property taxes. This is an inherently regressive tax. The large financial and property holding corporations extract huge profits and are able to pay a much higher share of taxes. Their share of taxes relative to those of residential owners has been decreasing since 2005. The recent debate around shifting the tax burden from businesses to residential properties was a red herring. Our problem was not that businesses were disadvantaged compared to homes, it was that small businesses were suffering relative to big businesses and that lower-income homeowners were suffering relative to those with mansions and luxury properties.
We need a progressive property tax system that protects small businesses like neighbourhood stores in Albion Islington BIA and tax large corporations like big box stores and bank towers and large shopping malls. Using the definitions of business size from federal regulations, we propose a progressive tax with a:
Inequality is growing in Toronto and in Ward 1 and this is reflected in in growing poverty rates. Families find themselves struggling to pay rent and hydro. It is difficult for many parents to find work as finding daycare spaces that are affordable is increasingly difficult due to shortage of subsidized spaces in Ward 1. According to a report by Commitment to Community TO (https://prosperityplatform.ca/) 1 in 4 children live in poverty.
One way that we can address economic and gender inequality is through a policy of Universal and affordable Child Care. ACORN is a campaigning for $10 a day child care that would increase spaces by creating daycare in community hubs, schools, apartment buildings and other spaces convenient to the work schedule of parents.
A study entitled Child Care Deserts has shown the unevenness of child care availability in Toronto. There is high availability between downton and north to 401 but as you go further north to North Etobicoke and our ward 1 and other parts of Toronto such As North York and Scarborough, coverage drops markedly. Opportunities to obtain accessible and affordable childcare is difficult and restricts career and economic opportunities of parents and caregivers.
This needs to change . We need to increase the spaces and in particular subsidized spaces in Ward 1 and other areas of the city which are currently child care deserts. A good starting point is one proposed by Commitment to Community TO in its prosperity platform. It calls for a target of 11500 new child care spaces including 5000 subsidized spaces. I would ensure that areas currently poorly served would be given priority for the increase space and that a 10$ a day sliding scale cap is put in place to ensure affordability. If we are to address child poverty, then we have to ensure that children are given the best start in life and universal and affordable child care is a must.
By Peter D'Gama.
Public Transit like housing should be a right not a privilege. It effects the ability of workers to go to work and maintain social relations. In a period of accelerating climate change we need to focus on making public transit free and accessible.
This involves working towards reduction of transit fares for low income and seniors. We should move towards making transit free which would encourage ridership and move people from dependency on fossil fuel based transportation.
The Current pass for low income is 115.00 and $2.00 cash fare. This should be reduced to $50.00 and $1.00 cash fare as an intermediate step towards Free public Transit. People in Ward 1 need more accessible and affordable Transit. I will fight for finishing construction of Finch LRT planned to go from Humber College to Finch West Station. This could be in peril as the Doug Ford PC government has stated its preference for subways which is not an alternative for Ward 1. The incumbent Councillor has sided with Doug Ford on the subway issue and this could possibly jeopardize construction Of Finch LRT in favour of a 3 stop subway in Scarborough.
Free Transit is no longer a utopian goal and is one that many Cities have adopted. The city of Talinn in Estonia has adopted Free Transit for its system of buses and streetcars and it has proved popular among its residents.
Free Transit would make life easier for worker's Toronto job commute and also enhance the community by making it easier to get around the city. We can test this through implementation of No Fare on Sundays and Free Transit during summer during high smog days to get drivers out of cars and onto buses. I commit to making Public Transit accessibility and affordability a priority and work towards implementation of Free Transit for all.
By Peter D'Gama.
TToronto is in the midst of a housing crisis. Renters and those seeking to buy their first homes are in precarious economic situation paying more than 45% of their income towards rent or mortgage. While the cost of housing continues to go up workers incomes are going down. This has given rise to growing inequality. According to a report conducted by the Canadian Centre for policy Alternatives, Born To win the 87 wealthiest families “now have 4,448 times more wealth than the average Canadian family and they collectively own the same as the lowest 12 million Canadians.
While climate change ignited forest fires rage in northern Ontario another type of economic FIRE (Finance Insurance Real Estate) is engulfing urban cities such as Toronto with increasing rents and housing costs putting people on the streets while corporate profits and income s of the elite and Real Estate Income Trust rise higher.
To combat the decline in affordable housing stock urgent action is needed. To put out the economic flames ignited by neo-liberalism and free market economics I will put forth a Workers Agenda which has as a main pillar policies to dampen the high cost of Housing.
A Rent Freeze on all Rentals that includes:
Rent Freeze Now! Four-year rent freeze: The median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Toronto has been climbing. Altough CMHC figures put the Average Median at $1202 in Toronto, the real asking rates range from $1600.-1800. This approaches the entire monthly income of a full-time minimum wage worker -- about $2200 as of June 1, 2018. Low income and middle income families have to scramble to pay for transport, food and clothing and other amenities. Rents continue to rise despite a limited form of rent controls in Ontario. Workers , unemployed and those on social assistance need a Rent Freeze Now! If elected my first act would be to ask that Toronto City Council should officially request a 0% rent increase be set over the next four years.
Tie rent control to the unit: While the current allowable annual rent increase is 1.8% the regulation does not apply between tenancies, also known as ‘vacancy decontrol’. Every time a tenant moves out, the landlord can increase the rent as much as the market will bear. As a result, overall rents in the city have gone up by astronomically in the last year. Tenants have been moved out of rooming houses or as one case in which Iwitnessed at landlord tribunal their tenancy is declared unauthorized and landlord tries to enforce a new tenancy agreement at much higher rent.
The Province can immediately stop renovictions across Ontario by removing the incentive for renovictions. The Province needs to modify the Ontario Residential Tenancy Act to apply rent control to the unit and not to tenancy -- as is the case now. We need a Workers Agenda at City Council that will pressure the Province to make this change and put a stop to such unjust and predatory evictions once and for all.
Improve living conditions for tenants: Another way to prevent renovictions is to ensure rental buildings are well-maintained. If landlords are incentivized to renovict tenants, they are also incentivized to let affordable rental buildings get run down until they must be renovated and as a result become less affordable. I will demand changes to the Residential Tenancies Act of Ontario to remove one-year time limit on complaints against a landlord, to exclude landlords from the tribunal operating under the Act, to widen tenants’ access to free legal representation at the tribunal, and to make the Investigations and Enforcement Unit of the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs really work for and with tenants. Create a structure to enforce Landlord Tenant Board decisions.
Enforce standards of maintenance by law: The City needs to have inspectors regularly check building conditions. If repairs are not done, the City needs to take the responsibility for carrying them out and bill the owner. If the owner doesn’t pay their bills or fines, the City will have the power to expropriate the building for and include them in City Of Toronto-owned housing stock or provide incentives to develop a tenant cooperative.
Build Affordable Public Housing Now: The Market has failed residents of Toronto. Workers that work here find it difficult to live here and forced to move out due to pressures of gentrification which have seen long established working class neighbourhood redeveloped to suit the needs of developers and REITs seeking to maximize and accumulate profits. This needs to be stopped by the City promoting an aggressive build out of public housing utilizing city owned land. As a modest step forward, create a public land trust, incorporating air rights above city property. Institute inclusionary zoning whereby private developers are required to provide a certain number of affordable housing units and contribute funds for public amenities such as parks and community centres. Abandoned property that developers just sit on should be expropriated on a develop it or lose it basis.
Empower Create TO and Toronto Community Housing Agency to own all the city’s public housing, under democratic tenant control: This new non-market housing will be on city-owned land. Toronto should use land it currently owns within its portfolio as well as acquisition of new land to build new affordable housing at the rate of 20-25000 units per year. Unlike luxury development, the supply of affordable, public, non-market housing open to all will help counter displacement and gentrification.
Implement inclusionary zoning:
Inclusionary zoning requires developers to provide a portion of new residential projects
for affordable housing. This would help ensure that low- and modest-income families
could still live in the central city instead of being forced to move further away in order to
meet the expense of accommodation. The Target should be 35% reserved for affordable housing defined as30% of income and should not be time limited but run in perpuity or for 99 years.