January 6, 2012
Councillor Gord Perks panned Mayor Rob Ford’s “good news” that the budget wouldn’t cut student nutrition programs or funding for 12 community centres.
Ford’s office announced Thursday night that city staff recommend stopping $400,000 in cuts to grants that fund 58 student nutrition programs and $2.1 million in cuts to programming in 12 community centres in Toronto District School Board facilities. Staff want to use around $2.5 million from $8.8 million in larger than budgeted tax assessment growth.
Perks told the Sun Friday that Ford “doesn’t deserve any congratulations” for the change.
“I don’t know why the mayor thinks he should get a pat on the back for threatening to make children be hungry and then deciding not to follow through on the threat,” he said. “This is a program that we should never have considered for cuts and quite frankly, given the economic circumstances of a lot of families in Toronto, we should be expanding it.”
The Ward 14, Parkdale-High Park councillor predicted there is still a fight coming over cuts proposed in the budget.
“He’s got a long way to go before he’s going to make Torontonians comfortable with his budget proposal and a long way to go before he gets anywhere near 23 votes in support of his radical conservative budget,” Perks said.
Councillor Josh Matlow said it was “smart politics” to avoid the cut now before the budget debate.
“There were never a majority of councillors who wanted to see the community centres and nutrition programs cut in the first place,” he said.
In the same statement heralding the staff recommendation to scrap cuts to student nutrition and 12 Toronto District School Board community centres, Ford made it clear he, like Budget Chief Mike Del Grande, wants to put money from the projected $154 million 2011 budget surplus towards $700 million in yet-to-be funded capital costs made by previous city councils.
“This money will help us pay for capital purchases we need to improve transit in Toronto,” Ford stated.
Mark Towhey, Ford’s director of policy, stressed Thursday that the city has to put a portion of the 2011 budget surplus towards the capital budget, to start to save the money to pay for the TTC’s fleet of new streetcars and other future costs.
“All of this money was spent by councils years ago … there is $700 million worth of stuff coming from ‘Amazon-dot-transit’ that nobody has money to pay for,” he said.
Budget committee members meet Monday to finalize the budget before sending it to Ford’s executive committee and then council for final approval.
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