Archive for ‘Income’

April 1, 2014

A Toronto strategy on poverty

Poverty is a desperate, sad thing. It damns us all, but hurts some of us even more.

Single mothers face twice the poverty rate of couples with children. New immigrants, First Nations people and People of Colour find the labour and housing markets exclude them in very similar and harsh ways. Youth now enter a re-shaped labour market with limited prospects for success. People travel further within Toronto for poorer jobs, bad food and scarce housing. These are terrible awful things which we all well know.

So, then…

As the great Torontonian Ursula Franklin reminded us, “After you have finished awfulizing, then what?”

On March 17, the City of Toronto’s Community Development and Recreation Committee considered a motion to develop a strategy to address poverty. The motion passed and is the April agenda at City Council.

Last fall, the Alliance for a Poverty-free Toronto (APT) produced a report, delivered to every City Councillor, which builds a strong case for change and then points the way. This second half of the report, the call for action, offers some possibilities for the conversation which is about to begin. In it, the Alliance put forward some very specific recommendations for many of the ‘wicked’ problems which face low-income people.

The APT report, Towards a Poverty Elimination Strategy for the City of Toronto, calls for actions in the areas of:

1. Employment (e.g. living wage policy, stronger employment equity, paid internships for youth and newcomers, advocacy for a provincial/national jobs strategy)
2. Income support (advocacy for more adequate provincial income support programs and improved access to Employment Insurance)
3. Housing (address provincial wait list, TCHC repairs, inclusionary zoning, upgrade shelter services, enhance Housing Stabilization Fund)
4. Transit (increased operating support for TTC, barring fare hikes, discounting transit passes for low-income residents, advocacy for adequate provincial funding)
5. Community Services (increased access to mental health, addictions, disability supports; better funding for non-profit and community organizations, better access to affordable child care)

APT also offered a few broad recommendations:

► The first is that a coordinated approach to addressing poverty is needed. In poverty, problems are complex and intertwined, so one-off solutions will not work.
► The second is that every decision brought before Council requires a poverty lense to be used – will the recommendation being considered make poverty better or worsen it? How can the decision under discussion improve the lot of those without? This strong core is required to make a change.

It seems now that strategies are sexy, the new way for governments to respond, to demonstrate their commitment to respond. Last month the Director of Poverty at the Rowntree Foundation in the U.K. posted a cynical blog post about a new Child Poverty strategy. A strategy has to be more than priorities, he cautioned, but connect to specific targets and spark action; otherwise it is simply window-dressing.

The time for action is now. Why? Here’s why:

In an anecdote about his childhood, Mayor Naheed Nenshi explains the difference a city can make. He explained, that while he was from a low-income family, they were not poor. The library with any book he wanted was up the street, the City pool was down and around the corner. For him, downtown was an easy transit ride away. At school, he would have enjoyed a daily snack (something particularly poignant in Toronto given the recent testimony by a pediatric nutritionist on how the school snack program saved Jeffrey Baldwin’s sister from starvation).

Poverty is not inevitable, but it is a choice, of our own economic and social priorities. The City has a chance to make a difference.

This is a version of a text delivered earlier as a deputation by APT for a municipal poverty reduction strategy. A version is cross-posted at Opportunity blogs here

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November 1, 2013

Advocacy lessons from American race politics for Canada

“It is eerie and unsettling to hear the same issues in country after country. It lifts our common challenges in ways that are sobering,”

Angela Glover Blackwell said, after listening to each person’s introduction.

Squeezed into an early morning session, the walls at the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) were lined with people from the non-profit sector and advocacy groups, funders and even a former Cabinet Minister, all concerned with racial equity. The Colour of Poverty/Colour of Change had invited us to hear Blackwell, Founder and CEO at PolicyLink, and Dr. Manuel Pastor, Professor of Sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity, University of Southern California, both speaking at a recent conference in Toronto, and here to share lessons on how to advance the equity policy agenda.

“We need to continue to look for ways to capture the weary, to inspire those with goodness in their heart,” Blackwell explained.

“There is an immediate need to think long-term”

To do this, advocacy efforts must be attached to the issues which are the currency of the times, Blackwell explained. She drew examples from the 60s, 70s through to the present economic crunch. As an example, PolicyLink has shifted its most recent advocacy efforts from the Promise Neighbourhoods of Obama’s early days to an economic inclusion “All-In Nation” economic plan.

“Early on we framed what we’re doing as equity, allowing people to reach their full potential. Equity is the essential thing to do. In the U.S., your address is literally a proxy for your life opportunity:  what kind of schools you will attend, the job you will have, even your life expectancy,” Blackwell continued. “So, for instance, we attached equity to transportation – it is responsible for access to education, health, and jobs. Neighbourhood environments determine obesity. All of this is  connected to equity.”

“So be clear about the goals, but attach that to whichever issue is in currency,” Blackwell said, giving the example of how Policy Link attached the equity agenda to ideas of job preparation and entrepreneurialism after the 2008 crash. “That became the nation’s agenda,” she explained, so we developed America’s Tomorrow.”

In short, Policy Link is successful in pushing for racial equity by working in three steps, Blackwell said. First they begin by talk to People of Colour and advocacy groups about a strong narrative with People of Colour at the centre. Second they look for ways to attach these things to a national agenda. Lastly, they find ways to change the conversation.

Policy Link also works with allies, Blackwell explained, such The Center for American Progress which is “inside the beltway” to set a national agenda. “We’re showing if you just get rid of inequity, a lot of things will move forward,” Blackwell concluded.

Professor Pastor waded in next, offering his advice to those in the room.

“Race matters,” Pastor continued, “so it is important to put it into the conversation. There is a lot of talk about inequality, yes, but we have to answer the lasting legacies of racism.

To get race behind, we have to put race up front.

Pastor cautioned about concentrating only in the past, though. “Frame forward. Focus on 2042 when the majority of the population and the majority of the workforce [in the U.S.A.] will be people of colour. In 2019, the majority of youth will be. In 2012, the majority of births were.”

“Inequity has a dampening economic effect,” Pastor continued, explaining this was being said by many outside ‘the usual suspects,’ pointing to the IMF and the Cleveland Reserve. Both, he said, have stated that the single most dampening effect on the economy is inequality.

“The process of conversation is important,” Pastor continued. “The real problem is disconnection. So we need empathy.

A neighbourhood can be angry enough to burn itself down without being able to channel that.”

A good model of how to do this is the young, undocumented American residents who organized as the DREAMers. They have a forward focus, using others’ successful narrative of “coming out”. They have captured the narrative, the moment and the imagination,” Pastor explained. They are able, he said, to bridge different issues, be forward-looking, use moral & economic arguments, and have a values-driven narrative which successfully shifted the discussion to how Americans were related to each other.

‘Rock the naturalized vote’ is another successful example of visioning forward, Pastor said. 71% of Latinos and 73% of Asian vote went to Obama because wanted to “punish ‘stupid shit’. Immigration was central.

“The Economic Bureau has said that the debt would be reduced $1 trillion over 20 years if immigration was reformed. Does it make sense to pay $36-40 billion ( = one agent every 100 yards) to protect another border while we only spent $150 million on settlement?” Pastor continued.

Successful advocacy efforts must make a two-pronged argument, Pastor explained.

“To make the case for equity, both moral and material arguments are required,” Pastor continued. “Organize your work by addressing both areas, that is

  • Economic – episodic, interest-based
  • Moral – values, sustained, deeply held

“So first, to build the material case, consider framing and data issues. For instance, a California report looked at the number of undocumented Californians. Re-frame it. They are Californians. Half have been here for 10 years+. Immigration reforms help the next generation of Americans.

Pastor offered some other concrete examples of how framing works, such as the idea of developing regional equity profiles for municipal areas highlighting how rental tenancy is higher by people of colour in Fair Housing & Equity Assessment – HUD’s new frame used disaggregated data. Pastor also pointed to the access provided through San Francisco’s place-based initiative Communities of Opportunity.

At the most technical level, data disaggregation is important, Pastor said, because it reveals race neutrality is not real.

Similarly, “Nerd to Nerd” relations are key to laying an evidence base.

Those technical discussions that identify the right geographic focus, or compare the outcomes for various populations, or which match database variables, can open whole new perspectives on complex social problems, to understanding the layers of poverty.

Finally, Pastor said, the moral frame is vital too. Understand the moment, he advised, and consider the strategic target within the universal good, that is targeted universalism. Appeal to the larger value because

As Van Jones reminds us, Martin Luther King didn’t say “I have an issue.”

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September 10, 2013

Toronto District School Board census 2011: Unsettling picture of inequality revealed

English: Park School studentsClose to 90,000 parents, or sixty-five per cent, of elementary school parents answered the Toronto District School Board’s census sent home last fall. The results are coming out now and reveal the unequal opportunities which children of different family backgrounds enjoy. A recent TDSB research report presents a startling picture of class and racial inequality among our youngest city residents.

 As part of gaining a snapshot of its students, parents were asked to report their family’s total income. Divided into five income groups for comparison, the report shows
  • 28% families reported a family income of less than $30,000/year.
  • 21% reported $30,000 – $49,999/year.
  • 15% reported $50,000 – $74,999/year.
  • 10% reported $75,000 – $99,999/year.
  • 26% reported $100,000+.

When this data was broken down by each family’s racial background, the differences became even more unsettling:

Bar graph showing self-reported family income of school board students by racial background.

TDSB research report on 2011 census of parents with children in Kindergarten through Grade Six.

The impact of these different family income levels was also reflected, as would be expected, in the out-of-school experience of children. Parents in each income group were asked about their children’s extra-curricular and pre-school activities.

Consistently, income was tied to children’s experiences outside of school. The following presents some of these marked differences. (Although the Board’s analysis covers all five income groups, figures for the lowest, middle and highest income groups are reported here as the pattern remains the same across each category.)

Child care centre (before Kindergarten)

  • 25% children in lowest income families enrolled their child in a child care centre.
  • 29% children in the middle-income families enrolled their child in a child care centre.
  • 45% children in highest income families enrolled their child in a child care centre.

Pre-school program

  • 25% children in lowest income families attended a pre-school program.
  • 34% children in the middle-income families attended a pre-school program.
  • 56% children in highest income families attended a pre-school program.

Sense of safety on their street or in their neighbourhood

  • 80% parents in lowest income group said their child is safe on their street or in their neighbourhood.
  • 90% parents in the middle-income group said their child is safe on their street or in their neighbourhood.
  • 95% parents in highest income group said their child is safe on their street or in their neighbourhood.

Sports & Recreation

  • 64/% children in the highest income families are involved in sports or recreation activities outside of school.
  • 54% children in the middle-income are involved in sports or recreation activities outside of school.
  • 38% families in the lowest income bracket participate in sports or recreation activities outside of school.

Arts

  • 59% children in the highest income in arts activities outside of school.
  • 32% children in the lowest income families participate in arts activities outside of school.

The patterns are not isolated to Toronto. Noted social commentator Robert Putnam explains, “Kids coming from upper middle-class backgrounds are living in a different world now from kids coming from working-class or less well-off backgrounds.”

However, the second part of the survey was more heartening. When parents were asked about their child’s experiences in school, the differences, by income group, were much smaller, showing only a percentage point or two difference around such things as feeling safe or welcome in the school. This area is an improvement from the 2008 census, a period in which the school board has worked to make improvements.

Opportunity. It’s a powerful idea, that everyone should have an equal chance, that every child should have an equal start. It underscores our sense of civic sense of fairness. Now, as ever, our school system must face this challenge outside its doors too.

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November 27, 2012

Why are poor people poor?

This week I am guest blogging for United Way Toronto’s Imagine a City campaign. I wanted, in my post The answer to poverty isn’t simple, to challenge some of the stereotypes we have about poor people. The solution to poverty is not, I argue, as easy as the catcall, “Get a job!” implies.

To do this, I draw on Philosophy professor Charles Karelis who has written about the cumulative impacts of poverty and who illustrates why what appears to be an irrational choice can be quite appropriate given the number of challenges those in poverty face. Other, more “scientific” research has emerged to support Karelis’ argument.

When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist. — Dom Helder Camara

Behavioural psychologists and economists are now finding that simply the stress of deprivation leads to poor decision-making — that the condition of poverty creates psychological barriers. The evidence is showing how almost any of us react within the same straitened circumstances.

Compounding these individual, psychological reasons are the wider sociological barriers,  from racism to simple access to opportunity, which get in the way of moving out of poverty easily. (Much of this blog has tried to describe those barriers.)

Finally, people in poverty have to contend with the same economic, political and ecological tides that we all do and which are re-shaping our world. As Hurricane Katrina or global capital markers show, people who are poor are just more vulnerable among wider societal forces which buffet us all. Their resources for resiliency are already depleted by the daily demands they face.

It’s too simple to say poor people are poor because of individual (de)merit, character flaws, or moral decrepitude. As always, it’s much more complicated than that.

Get a job? If only it were so easy.

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July 5, 2012

“Addressing Urban Injustice: The Growing Gap and What to do about it”

On a panel Wednesday night at Innis College, academic luminaries such as UBC’s David Ley, CCPA economist Armine Yalnizyan and architect Ken Greenberg were given a few minutes each to address social and spatial segregation in cities. The speed at which they whipped through their presentations made for some Tweet-able moment. (“I’m not against mixed-income communities; it’s just how we get there,” said University of Illinois Professor Janet Smith at a session earlier in the day.)

David Ley described the process of gentrification within Vancouver and found that while the socio-spatial trends are not as sharp as in Toronto, the racialization of low-income tracts will mirrors Toronto’s own growing pattern of

segregation.

Montreal Professor Damaris Rose plunged straight to the question of why the gaps are growing. Research literature describes four causes, she explained:

  • Increased desire of high income people to live in an exclusive community. This means that spatial segregation can occur without any change in the shape of the labour market.
  • The diminished capacity of low-income people to live in non-poor areas because of factors such as discrimination or the rising costs that occur with gentrification.
  • The polarization of the labour market because of the effects of globalization

These trends matter, she explained, because the growing isolation means that affluent people may be less invested in the broader public goods. Low-income people are left in poverty either in a declining environment or, alternately, within a more affluent community. Each of these brings problems.

Netherlands Professor Maarten Van Ham, given the task of describing the situation in Europe in his allotted eight minutes, presented the strongest narrative thread, connecting inequality to ethnic segregation to social unrest. He described the rounds of riots Europe has faced, from the 2001 Bradford riots which come called the end of multiculturalism in the U.K., to the riots in the banlieus of Paris in 2005 tied to youth alienation and unemployment, to the 2011 London Riots to which commentators attributed causes such as poor parenting, the austerity measures of previous years and concentrated poverty.

Even in one of the vaunted Scandinavian countries such as Sweden, 70% of immigrant children grow up to live in the same types of disadvantaged neighbourhoods as where their parents settled. This research, Van Ham explained, has been reproduced by Patrick Sharkey at NYU looking at African-Americans.

cabrini green demolitionCity planners responses has been the creation of mixed income neighbourhoods, literally blowing up buildings and creating home ownership for middle income households. Not surprisingly, Van Ham explained, indicators of social deprivation improved. Poor people had been moved out. [This gave rise to an advocacy campaign in the United States calling for “Better Neighbourhoods, Same Neighbours.”] Poor people may choose to leave, but often, they do not want to, Van Ham explained. Social networks are destroyed and their option is another poor community.

Where, then, next? he asked. The policy responses to the crises include the well-critiqued Big Society in the U.K. which ostensibly “helps citizens to help themselves,” and an emphasis on Social Innovation, an amorphous term at best.

Van Ham tried to end on a positive note, describing initiatives such as the U.K.’s Locality, which supports community-based organizations. We’re safe for the next decade he predicted as few governments will make the investment to do major urban restructuring.

Chicago-based Professor Janet Smith, in the spirit of the date July 4th, described acts of rebellion and organization which had changed Chicago’s landscape. Actively community organization at the local and city levels have been key to addressing the issues of control and control, she explained.

As discussant, Armine Yalnizyan underscored the weakness of relying on a “doing it for ourselves” model within the wider libertarian sentiments of the time in which people’s own sense of self-preservation has them fighting those with just a little more than them rather than the power-brokers who are reaping the rewards of economic growth. When knowledge is power, the fight in Quebec is much more than about a few hundred dollars of tuition, she said, and raising it is stupid.

Architect Ken Greenberg rounded off the panel discussion. Looking at spatial segregation, he quipped, urban suburbs are the “hand-me-downs” of the upper income groups, leaving them behind to those with less housing choice.

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April 20, 2012

Gentrification signifiers: A story of one neighbourhood

When two grandmothers stopped on my street recently to tell me their adult children had bought a nearby house, I didn’t tell them why the young family who lived there was moving out. They had moved in with high hopes to this same freshly-painted and pot-lighted house, ignoring the “as is” in the stipulations. The house had undergone a quick flip from a man who bought it after a house fire burned out the tenants who lived there. The house attached to them had also suffered fire damage, but those tenants, renting rooms, stayed on in a more deteriorated house.

And then last summer, it got bad. A man with a violent criminal history moved in — and took over. We neighbours sat on our porches and watched the drug deals and solicitation. It had happened before on the street. The normal knock-and-run behaviour of drug buyers played out along the sidewalks where kids pedaled past on their bikes, part of the ballet that Jane Jacobs described. But this time, it was scarier.

Physical fights became the norm, and the local men became protective, taking to long smokes at the ends of their porches. The police raided the house almost weekly through those hot months. By-law officers arrived and spent three days carting refuse away. The landlord, a former neighbour, was rumoured to be incapacitated, unable to intervene or maintain control. Then, too late, a woman died there of an overdose. The house was padlocked and put up for sale.

I couldn’t tell all this to the cheery women I met. But I recognized their story — their children had got “such a good deal!” But I did recognize this stage of gentrification – the grown children had moved eastward, having rented in Kensington Market – and had  been not able to afford a home closer to the downtown core.

When neighbourhoods shift from working class neighbourhoods to higher income ones, several signs and stages are notable.

Neighbourhood Market

Neighbourhood Market (Photo credit: omegaforest)

First arrivals were people like me, my partner and our new baby. We had some family connections to the community, but while comfortable here in the neighbourhood, we were no longer working class. Higher education had boosted our personal prospects. So, our arrival acted as a signal, that the neighbourhood was “safe.”

Others like us soon came, and the occupations of my neighbours switched from taxi drivers, factory workers, and train conductors, to book editors, teachers, and non-profit workers. Single women thronged to the neighbourhood’s small houses, and young families used the low housing prices as a launching pad until they could afford a larger place. Homes which had housed multiple children (and sometimes a couple of families) were converted to single households. Population density dropped, and racial diversity paled. As housing prices rose, residents told each other this neighbourhood was “arriving.” (One elderly neighbour, disbelieving the rising house prices, chortled to me, “Diane, we’re quarter millionaires,” as housing prices rose over $200,000 for a 12.5 feet wide lots.)

Next, come the speculators. Housing flips are common in the neighbourhood now. Another couple, lured by granite counter tops and a street-front entrance, all at the price of a condo, has moved in across from us, but lawsuits have ensued as the rotted timber covered by the new drywall had been discovered. Our neighbourhood had become a bit of a destination point.

As a critical mass of newcomers builds, another sign emerges: residents’ associations. Their focus is often on remnant parts of the neighbourhood: ‘common’ concerns such as traffic flow, garbage, run-down properties (like the ones up above), and most often the desire to “clean up” the neighbourhood. Every couple of years, these small citizen efforts have emerged. GECO (eerily echoing Michael “Greed is Good” Douglas’ character in Wall Street) is the most recent incarnation, springing out of some of the sentiments expressed in the comments section of BlogTO’s recent article, What ails Little India?.

One of GECO’s members explained to me she thought it was important to have “more diversity” in the neighbourhood commercial strip, that there are “too many sari shops.” Toronto Life described this more diplomatically as “new businesses…revitalizing a dreary stretch of empty storefronts, noodle houses, laundro­mats and hair salons.” Others explain they hope for a Starbucks or “nice” set of restaurants like nearby (upper-income) neighbourhoods have. After all, they say to me, they have paid a lot of money for their homes and they want the neighbourhood to look good. A neighbourhood blog cooed “A few more cool shops on gerrard (sic) and even the Queen Street hipsters will allow us Northerners to be part of Leslieville.” Academics have described this as commercial gentrification. In fact, some have described how Toronto’s “ethnic neighbourhoods” can act as a branding mechanism, in the same way artists do, attracting others and driving up housing prices. It’s a familiar process to those who know Little Italy or Greektown, where many of the original ethnic stores are closing and residents have moved on.

But tolerance for social difference is limited. Another long-time resident, one of the original working-class residents who’d watched these changes with more good humour than I, reported one of new neighbours were discomfited to learn a gay (!) couple lived next door. So he explained to the new couple that good people lived up and down our street.

But the revanchist sentiment has grown.

The final stage of gentrification is when the higher income folk arrive, when the place has been sanctioned as “clean” and “safe.” Cleanliness is defined by such amenities as granite rocks and Japanese maples in the front garden and new windows adorning the home. Safety is not the definition of old, of neighbours knowing when a new neighbourhood child has gotten a tooth or who can be depended upon to hold a spare key for nearby neighbours. Safety is more about beaming spotlights and alarm codes. This final stage concentrates wealth to the point that some researchers call it super-gentrification.

More and more of the neighbourhoods in the old City of Toronto are undergoing this transition. Affordable housing stock is disappearing. The latest move by Toronto Community Housing to sell off single family units means the touted ideal of mixed-income neighbourhoods will be further away. New developments aggravate the problem, filled with homes all in the same high price range, inclusive zoning not yet a practice.

As income inequality is carved into our housing structures, our neighbourhoods suffer. Those who work in neighbourhood shops, filling our coffee orders, or the education assistants in our children’s grade school, won’t live in our neighbourhood, won’t be our neighbours. Our children won’t know difference. This is not Toronto, our motto “Diversity, our strength.”

Driven by individual choice, we are losing a common good.

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November 23, 2011

Growing class divide means some children may be denied a generational legacy

Once, as part of a group exercise to identify personal values, I had to answer the question, “For what would you be willing to die?”

“I would rush into the street to save a child!” I said. My colleague nodded his agreement and we talked a little more about how becoming a parent changes your perspective on what should be valued. So, when it came time to report back to the larger group, I described our shared generational commitment to protect those younger.

“Oh!” he interjected, “I didn’t mean I’d die for any child; I was talking about my children.”

My partner’s narrow protection of his genetic progeny shocked me — and reminded me never to ask him to babysit. However, many of us do recognize a wider common good, a place where all children and youth are protected and secured by the village that is us.

Youth are cited as one of the top concerns for residents across our city’s neighbourhoods. United Way Toronto’s environmental scan, Torontonians Speak Out, identified this in 2002, so that it became one of the community funder’s top three priorities (neighbourhoods and newcomers being the other two).

More recently, Trish Hennessy, from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), has been doing focus groups with Environics, to understand Torontonians’ voting records and public policy priorities. Among other interesting findings, she has found some deep resonance around issues of legacy. This is among voters who have voted in the current municipal administration, they too are talking about the next generation. As this boomer bulge ages, it is considering what it wants to leave behind and to whom.

The question is what shape that legacy will be, and for whom will we leave it?

Recent comments from Bowling Alone author and professor Robert Putnam cast a dreary light on the future of North America’s children. In the interview cited in Harvard’s Social Capital Blog, Putnam argued that, while Americans are seeing more

integration along religious and racial lines, there is an opposite trend when it comes to class, mainly, he believes, because of the widening gap in incomes. Americans are less likely today to marry outside their class. Children from lower classes are less likely to spend time with their peers or take part in community activities and have less confidence, while the trend for middle-class children is the opposite.

In sum, he explains, children have very different access to life opportunities dependent on who their parents are.

This growing income gap is not news to Hennessy’s colleagues at the CCPA; economists Armine Yalnizyan and Hugh Mackenzie have shown that unless we think about growing levels of inequality, many more will be further left behind on an economic level. The lack of economic opportunities has similar echos around access to education, housing, and other social determinants of health.

Mobility between classes may also be on decline in Canada, although the Conference Board of Canada ranks us 5th out of 11 peer countries.. American mobility is even worse, according an editor at Time magazine and others those who monitor such things.

Yet, youth are still hopeful. For instance, Joseph Rowntree study released this fall in the U.K. showed that youth from low-income families in the U.K. do have aspirations for higher education. Parents, too, want high achievement for their children. In the last Toronto District School Board (TDSB) student/parent census (2008), almost 9⁄10 parents said they want their kids to go to university. Among low–income families, that only fell to 8⁄10.

So, are these our children, too? Will we provide them the opportunities and encouragement they want?

I believe we will. We must.

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November 15, 2011

102 Things NOT To Do, If You Hate Taxes (Canadian version)

Adapted by Sandra Guerra and Diane Dyson from Stephen D. Foster Jr.

Posted in: http://www.addictinginfo.org/2011/05/18/102-things-not-to-do-if-you-hate-taxes/

– May 18, 2011

So, you’re a citizen who hates taxes? Please kindly do the following.

  1. Do not use a hospital.
  2. Do not use Canada Pension or Old Age Security.
  3. Do not become a member of the military.
  4. Do not ask the Canadian Forces to help you after a disaster.
  5. Do not call 911 when you get hurt.
  6. Do not call the police to stop intruders in your home.
  7. Do not summon the fire department to save your burning home.
  8. Do not drive on any paved road, highway, and interstate or drive on any bridge.
  9. Do not use public restrooms.
  10. Do not send your kids to public schools.
  11. Do not put your trash out for city garbage collectors.
  12. Do not live in areas with clean air.
  13. Do not use a rehabilitation centre after your operation.
  14. Do not visit National/Provincial Parks or Conservation Areas.
  15. Do not visit public museums, zoos, and monuments.
  16. Do not eat FDA inspected processed food.
  17. Do not eat any Canadian food Inspection Agency or Health Canada inspected meat or produce.
  18. Do not bring your kids to public playgrounds.
  19. Do not walk or run on sidewalks.
  20. Do not use public recreational facilities such as basketball and tennis courts.
  21. Do not seek shelter facilities or food in soup kitchens when you are homeless and hungry.
  22. Do not apply for educational or job training assistance when you lose your job.
  23. Do not use food banks when you can’t feed your children.
  24. Do not use the judiciary system for any reason.
  25. Do not ask for an attorney when you are arrested and do not ask for one to be assigned to you by the court.
  26. Do not apply for any student loans.
  27. Do not use cures that were discovered by labs using federal research dollars or provincially funded university research facility.
  28. Do not fly on federally regulated airplanes.
  29. Do not watch the weather provided by Environment Canada.
  30. Do not listen to severe weather warnings from Environment Canada.
  31. Do not listen to tsunami, hurricane, or earthquake alert systems.
  32. Do not apply for affordable housing.
  33. Do not swim in clean waters.
  34. Do not allow your child to eat school snacks, lunches or breakfasts.
  35. Do not ask to implement the Federal Emergency Response Management System (FERMS) when everything you own gets wiped out by disaster.
  36. Do not ask the military to defend your life and home in the event of a foreign invasion (or a snow storm).
  37. Do not watch television
  38. Do not use your cell phone or home telephone.
  39. Do not use the internet.
  40. Do not use any Health Canada FDA regulated medication or health products.
  41. Do not apply for government grants to start your own business.
  42. Do not apply to win a government contract.
  43. Do not buy any vehicle that has been inspected by government safety agencies.
  44. Do not buy any product that is protected from poisons and toxins by Health Canada’s Consumer Product Safety.
  45. Do not save your money in a bank that is CDIC insured.
  46. Do not use Veterans benefits or military health care.
  47. Do not use Department of National Defence Education Allowance to go to school.
  48. Do not apply for unemployment benefits.
  49. Do not use any electricity from companies regulated by the Natural Resources Canada.
  50. Do not ride trains. The railroad was built with government financial assistance.
  51. Do not live in homes that are built to code.
  52. Do not run for public office. Politicians are paid with taxpayer dollars.
  53. Do not ask for help from the RCMP, CSIS, ETF, the bomb squad or the Provincial Police.
  54. Do not apply for any government job whatsoever.
  55. Do not use public libraries.
  56. Do not use Canada Post.
  57. Do not visit the National Archives.
  58. Do not use any form of home care.
  59. Do not use airports that are secured by the federal government.
  60. Do not apply for loans from any bank that is CDIC insured.
  61. Do not ask the government for a grant or to help you clean up after a natural disaster.
  62. Do not ask Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to provide a subsidy to help you run your farm.
  63. Do not take walks in National Forests.
  64. Do not ask for taxpayer dollars for your business.
  65. Do not ask the federal government to bail your company out during recessions.
  66. Do not seek prescription care when you age.
  67. Do not use OHIP/medicare.
  68. Do not use any form of income supports, worker’s compensation or disability payments.
  69. Do not use electricity generated by Niagara Falls.
  70. Do not use electricity or any service provided by the any of the Power Plants.
  71. Do not ask the government to rebuild levees when they break.
  72. Do not let the Coast Guard save you from drowning when your boat capsizes.
  73. Do not ask the government to help evacuate you when all hell breaks loose in the country you are in.
  74. Do not visit museums or historic landmarks.
  75. Do not visit fisheries.
  76. Do not expect to see animals that are federally protected because of the Endangered Species List.
  77. Do not expect plows to clear roads of snow and ice so your kids can go to school and so you can get to work.
  78. Do not camp in provincial or national parks.
  79. Do not work anywhere that has a safe workplace because of government regulations.
  80. Do not use public transportation/transit.
  81. Do not drink water from your tap.
  82. Do not whine when someone copies your work and sells it as their own.
  83. Do not expect to own your home, car, or boat. Government organizes and keeps all titles.
  84. Do not expect convicted felons to remain off the streets.
  85. Do not eat in restaurants that are regulated by food quality and safety standards.
  86. Do not seek help from the Canadian Embassy if you need assistance in a foreign nation.
  87. Do not apply for a passport to travel outside Canada.
  88. Do not apply for a patent when you invent something.
  89. Do not adopt a child.
  90. Do not use elevators that have been inspected by federal or provincial safety regulators.
  91. Do not use any resource that was discovered by the Geological Survey of Canada.
  92. Do not ask for energy assistance from the government.
  93. Do not move your parents into a nursing home.
  94. Do not go to a beach that is kept clean by the local or provincial government.
  95. Do not use money printed by the Royal Canadian Mint.
  96. Do not complain when millions more illegal immigrants cross the border because there are no more border patrol agents.
  97. Do not attend a university.
  98. Do not see any doctor that is licensed.
  99. Do not expect that all drivers are licensed to drive.
  100. Do not complain when diseases and viruses, that were once fought around the globe by the Public Health Agency of Canada, reach your house.
  101. Do not work for any company that is required to pay its workers a livable wage, provide them sick days, vacation days, and benefits.
  102. Do not expect to be able to vote on election days.

The fact is, we pay for the lifestyle we expect. Without taxes, our lifestyles would be totally different and much harder. Canada would be a third world country. The less we pay, the less we get in return. So next time you object to paying taxes or fight to abolish taxes for corporations and the wealthy, keep this quote in mind…

“I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

January 14, 2011

Federalizing school fundraising

There’s a secret the Toronto District School Board doesn’t want us to know:

In some schools, chocolate-chip cookies cost a quarter and, in others, they cost a Toonie. So, if I bake 5 dozen cookies for a child in one school, we will raise $15 for the school’s coffers. In the second school, we would raise $120.

What the school board doesn’t want to tell us is just exactly how much money schools are able to raise from their parents and just how little others are able to raise. They don’t want this public because it’s part of the agreement that was made when school council bank accounts were closed and fundraising was brought, properly, under the authority of the school board’s finances; the commitment was that  individual school totals would not be revealed.

But that doesn’t mean the questions should be verboten.

  • How much money is raised by the richest group of schools compared to how much is raised by the poorest? How big is the gap?
  • How many schools have set up private foundations?

The Inner City Advisory Committee, as part of the provincial consultations on fundraising and fees, was able to pry some information out of the school board administration at their December meeting, but it was not provided in writing and was not minuted.

People for Education has been tracking school fundraising for more than a decade. In their 2009 report, they said

Fundraising is a reality in schools across the country, and fundraising activities can be an effective method for engaging parents and school communities, but high levels of fundraising lead to inequities among schools.

So, the Ontario Ministry of Education has heard the call and is conducting consultations on the topic of school fundraising this spring. They should hear some good ideas.

Max Wallace, a self-described rabble rouser, has an idea – federalism: the have-not should receive transfer payments from the haves to ensure a common standard. He has started up a Facebook group, the Coalition against Public School Inequality (CAPSI), to advocate for the idea, and he is making the rounds, talking to administrators, trustees, and journalists. Another parent, Nadia Heyd, has pointed out that the TDSB already has a way to do this. When the TDSB fundraising policy was put together, ten years ago, that idea was enshrined in it:

In its policy documents on fundraising, it also says “To ensure equity, a central equity fund shall be maintained that will hold funds voluntarily donated through a system-wide, curriculum-based fundraising criteria”

But who has heard of it since?

It’s time we talk about this fundamental inequality.

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September 6, 2010

NIMBY – hear the middle-class roar

They came with their hairy dogs, determined looks on their faces and helmeted children scootering ahead of the adults holding picket signs. The people of the Beach and Birchcliffe had come to protect the Quarry.

A former dump, at one point, the Quarry is roughly 50 undeveloped acres southeast of the Main subway station. Environmentalists sing the praises of the wildlife. However, the area was zoned in the 1960s for highrise development, and the developers are exercising their legal rights. So, the community was out to defend it.

I happened on the protest by chance, with a friend. We had to stop. The banners said “Save our neighbourhood” and “1960s planning is bad planning.”

The proposed 7 twenty-story buildings would provide 1,455 units of housing, at a density 7 times what the surrounding area is now with its detached, single-family homes.

“Affordable housing!” I whooped. No one took up the call.

It’s hard to know what to think about these kind of events.

People were rising to the defense of the community, but against whom? The developer. Yes, probably. The newcomers (interlopers) – new renters or condo buyers.  Perhaps some of them.

It was easy to see what we were against, but what were we fighting for? About every person here probably has a different reason, my wiser friend explained.

It reminded me of other protests I’ve seen. The outrage against the possible arrival of big box store in South Riverdale pitched local residents against each other, often split along ethnic and income lines. The Salvation Army and Seaton House faced fierce community meetings when they moved to house homeless men in other neighbourhoods, even if only temporarily such as on Pape Avenue. (The Sally Ann, bless its soul, has a webpage on the topic of NIMBY-ism.)

These debates too often deteriorate into a debate about who is moving in, or they erupt, under a more politically correct guise, such as “Social services should not be concentrated here. We have our fair share already.”

Another recent example close to home was the call from near-by residents to have Felstead park’s playground equipment upgraded – something already on the schedule, but not soon enough for their liking. They too used the blind that as a mixed income neighbourhood, they had been ignored to the benefit of richer neighbourhoods near-by. However, as a gentrifying neighbourhood, the press was on.

Or more recently, neighbours to the south of here, feeling protective of their “own,” confronted members of a church congregation for bringing their faith to the streets, unfortunately by a fire hydrant where a gay couple live. This well-meaning crowd ended up as a “Was my face red…” front-page story in the Toronto Star.

Within the past year, another of my neighbours closed down his family restaurant when he heard an apartment building next door to him was being built to provide supportive housing to people with mental health problems. More plain in his prejudices, he refused to stay near “crazy” people.

Examples from other parts of the city include the conversion of the “Entertainment District” to a residential area and almost any neighbourhood where condos have been built close to a slaughterhouse or other industrial area. If the City of Toronto mapped out where building orders occur, they are in concentrated in the areas with higher and mixed-incomes – the gentrified and the gentrifying areas of the city.

What under lies all these is fear. People don’t want to lose what they have. When people (re-)act from a fearful place, any larger vision gets lost.

But the reality that the neighbourhoods with the highest complaints are not the places with the most problems, but rather places with the most privilege. These are the neighbourhoods where the “sharp elbows of the middle class” claim the resources seen to be due to them.

Flawed as the Priority Neighbourhood Areas were, what they did do effectively was to re-focus resources away from the noisiest, squeakiest parts of the city, to areas that hadn’t had any attention for a very long time. This leveling of the playing field probably led to some of the strongest critiques of the mayor, David Miller, that he had let things slide in the areas where, frankly, people are more likely to vote.

Instead, the Strong Neighbourhood strategy has evened some things out. The new Community Partnership Strategy is also building an evidence base so that neighbourhood comparisons can be done more accurately.

These strategies show we are a more generous city than these other NIMBY stories tell about us. When given a chance, we can dream of a common good.

But, until we Torontonians see our backyard as the entire city, inequality will continue to split neighbourhoods, into “good” and “bad’ places to live, into places where we fight each other.

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