Perruzza holds town hall meeting to discuss budget with residents

By David RosEditorIf the 2012 Toronto city budget were to be approved in its current form, it would provide disastrous results for the residents of York West, and the city as a whole, according to Councillor Anthony Perruzza.Perruzza made these comments at a town hall meeting he held on Jan.5 at the York Woods Library Theatre in order to inform residents of the proposed budget.“Here's what that budget does for us,” Perruzza said. “It closes or reduces the hours that John Booth Arena is open and it locks out a whole bunch of people, it takes out of the 17 daycare centres that we have in this area, it puts 60 per cent of them at risk of closing.“Once we lose those places and those spaces for the kids, I don't think we're going to get them back.”According to Perruzza, another area where the proposed budget could have a negative effect on the community is in public transit as the TTC is now deliberating over whether to reduce service on different bus routes, including the 36 Finch West bus, the busiest in the city.Perruzza told the crowd on hand that the 36 bus carries more than 40,000 people on any given day during rush hour and that just a year and a half ago, the city had provided additional buses to the route because they were running full.Perruzza also lashed out at Mayor Rob Ford for scrapping the Transit City project in favour of creating additional subways, saying the cancellation came with a large price tag. He told the audience that up to $15 million of provincial funding for Transit City had already been spent along Finch Avenue and up to $70 million had already been spent on the scrapped Light Rail Transit (LRT) project along Sheppard avenue, construction for which had already begun before Ford came into office.“Imagine that, day one on the job, you basically flush $70 million down the drain,” Perruzza said, adding that those numbers are only the tip of the iceberg, adding that additional costs are almost certain to come later.“What I mean by that is as part of the project you go out and you buy cars, you write out a contract,” Perruzza said. “[The contractor] bid on the job, they got the job and they expect that they're going to have work for a couple of years on that project.“You come along and you say, 'Well, we're not doing that anymore. That's it, it's over today.' [The contractor] comes back a bit later and says 'Well hang on, I've lost something here, I didn't do other jobs because I took this one,' so those claims and those moneys are not part of that $65 million to $70 million plus, so that could escalate to $100 million to $150 million, we don't know how much money was basically flushed away on that.”According to the budget, some service cuts are required in order to ensure the city debt does not reach the debt ceiling of 15 per cent of operating costs. One of the ways, the city plans to save money is by closing the doors to many city owned community centres during the non-peak hours between 9:00a.m., and 4:00p.m.Iolanda Canzona, president of the women's group at the John Booth Arena said that many seniors would be greatly affected by these changes.“We use that centre every day,” Canzona said. “There's English classes from 9:00 a.m., to 1:00 p.m., us ladies use it from 1:00p.m., to 3:00p.m., and then there's the men who enjoy themselves playing cards.“We have the right to enjoy this time of our lives now, not after eight o'clock at night, we don't go out at night.”Canzona said that if John Booth Arena were to close its doors during the day, it would mean that many seniors who make use of the meeting rooms inside the facility would simply not go out.“Please, tell our mayor, we voted for him, he proposed to cut the fat, but he's cutting service and this is not right,” she said.Perruzza questioned the policy of closing the community centres during the day, saying that it wouldn't save the city very much money.“What ends up happening is that someone downtown looks at the broad spectrum of stuff, looks on the program sheet and doesn't see that at John Booth, there's a very active community there on an ongoing basis, which does not cost the city any real money,” Perruzza said, adding that all that is required from the city to keep it running during the day is to have someone open the doors in the morning.Perruzza said that while the budget argues that many of these changes have to be made in order to avoid hitting the 15 per cent debt ceiling, those numbers are somewhat misleading.He said that these numbers don't take into account the fact that only around $400 million of the $2.5 billion Spadina subway extension was paid for by the city and thus would contribute to the city debt, and the remaining $2.1 billion was funded by the federal and provincial governments as well as York Region. He added that these numbers also don't mention the revenue the subway would generate once it begins operation.However, he argues that city council has made the 15 per cent debt ceiling so firm that it drives the entire budget.“It drives the budget and it closes your community centre,” he said. “That story's not there, They don't want to hear that story.”According to Eva Smerdon of Toronto Children's Services, there are two main factors that affect the number of childcare spaces in the city.“The childcare community is rather unique because it's not only the city funding that's impacting the number of spaces, but there's also a transfer in the system where a lot of the children will be going to full day kindergarten and that's another piece that's impacting childcare spaces," Smerdon said. “At children's services, we are working on things to mitigate the amount of spaces [that will be cancelled], but the system will shrink because 4 and 5 year-olds are going to full day kindergarten, so for sure, we're in a transitional period and things will change, but we're hoping that the impact isn't too great."