...to residents of North West Toronto through the Toronto Community Benefits Network's involvement with the Metrolinx Finch West LRT.
By: Judith Otto
An architectural vision drawing of a possible structure along Finch Avenue housing community focused businesses and no-profit enterprises. The Metrolinx LRT maintenance facility and rail yard would be behind this structure.
Just who are the Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN)? According to their recent media release, they are a community-labour coalition who works alongside allies to ensure that the full diversity of Toronto can benefit from Ontario’s investments into infrastructure, through good jobs in the trades and related professions, opportunities in social enterprise, and neighbourhood and environmental improvements.
TCBN has already negotiated two years ago Ontario's first ever Community Benefits Framework with Metrolinx in relations to the Eglinton Crosstown transit system. That negotiation according to the Crosslinx Transit Solution required contractually "the developer CTS, to ensure that local communities and historically disadvantaged (persons) and equity seeking groups directly benefit from the province's investment".
Who Will Benefit?
When asked about what the criteria for people who may benefit looks like in an expanded way, TCBN Executive Director Rosemarie Powell stated that the people they deem to benefit most would be immigrants, newcomers, youth, racialized people, women, Aboriginal peoples and people who are living with various disabilities.
No Clear Job Reporting Systems in the Past
Regarding the Eglinton Crosstown LRT project Powell reported that there were no clear reporting systems set up in the past to capture specific statistical data on different tracking measures; however what is confirmed is that people benefitted from the criteria list in different areas of construction, technology, and administration employment.
Jamil Jivani of Osgoode Law School Sponsored a Well Attended Forum
Now there is hope that a similar project will occur in the Jane-Finch area due to the TTC and Metrolinx plans for the expansion of transit in Northwest Toronto. On November 30, 2016 a forum was held at the Jamaican Canadian Association for residents and local stakeholders to gather and discuss what accessible transit would look like in that area. After all, according to the Toronto Strong Neighborhood Study 2020, Black Creek and Glenfield-Jane Heights (Jane-Finch) was identified as the greatest in "need". That report pinpointed that out of Toronto's 31 neighbourhood improvement areas (considered to have serious inequities requiring immediate attention) Jane-Finch was in most need.
Community Stakeholders must be Present at the Negotiations
TCBN was in attendance at that forum and presented their ideas to the people on how they envisioned Jane-Finch benefitting similarly to the Eglinton Crosstown project. Their premise is that the community must engage and coordinate the right stakeholders to be present at the table at the time of negotiation. That means there has to be a holistic approach to this process, particularly engaging residents from the start of planning right through to the implementation stage.
A Fair Living Wage and Affordable Housing Must be Negotiable
According to James Nugent from the Department of Geography and Planning at U of T,TCBN wants people from the criteria list in Jane-Finch and other projects to benefit by negotiating with the powers that be to ensure fair living wage provisions, affordable housing, and more equitable income distribution across families and communities. He saw community benefit goals in the Eglinton Crosstown LRT project as involving targeted hiring, scaling up pre-apprenticeship programs, bridging programs for internationally trained professionals, and contracts for social enterprises just to name a few.
Premier Wynne Supports Apprenticeship Programs in C.B. Agreements
Powell envisions much of the same benefits for Jane-Finch especially regarding the pre-apprenticeship programs. As a matter of fact Premier Kathleen Wynne announced affirmation of this on December 7, 2016 promising that 10 per cent of all trade and craftworking hours needed for the project will be performed by apprentices and journeypersonscoming through the community benefits stream. This for Powell translates into at least 300 jobs that potentially can be targeted for work on the Northwest Toronto transit project and so the community must be prepared for this potential outcome.
Some Persons at the Forum were Doubtful About Jane/Finch Residents Receiving Jobs
This is very good news for Jane-Finch and brings much optimism. There are still doubts however as there were some negative comments made at the round table discussion part of the forum. There are valid concerns about people who actually live in Jane-Finch not benefitting from the employment opportunities as they have been "cheated out" in the past when it came to "employment opportunities".
Will Available Jobs be Only for Persons with Money and Higher Education?
The claims were that these opportunities are oftentimes for people with money who can afford a lot of the fees involved or who have higher education and training, which then automatically disqualifies the most marginalized people in the community who need the helping "hand up". There is also the belief that most of the hiring is for people who live outside of Jane-Finch coming into the community to work.
Help For Residents Who Cannot Afford Fees Could be Found!
When questioned about these concerns, Powell responds that she cannot guarantee that everyone who lives in Jane Finch will solely benefit, but TCBN will ensure that the criteria list is strictly adhered to and thus the hope is that many of the people living in Jane-Finch who fit the criteria will benefit. As for the additional fee burden for much of these apprenticeship programs, Powell stated at the round table discussion that they are looking into various ways to offset those fees for those who cannot afford to pay.
Residents Should be Optimistic
So there is much hope for Jane-Finch benefiting from the Finch West LRT and maintenance facility project. If the Eglinton Crosstown LRT initiative is any indication of what could happen with the help of the Toronto Community Benefits Network our residents and young people should be very optimistic about employment and facilities here.
Phone: (647) 496-6487
15 Gervais Drive, Suite 100
Toronto, Ontario M3C 1Y8