Groups Tell City Council to ‘Have a Heart’

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Groups from across Toronto, including The Stop, came together this morning for the #HeartAHeartTO rally at City Hall, demanding that the Mayor and City Council approve a budget that stops the cuts and protects and funds critical services, including shelters, affordable housing, child care, and transit.

Throughout the rally, people shared stories about the barriers they’ve faced in accessing affordable, reliable, and accountable city services. At one point, residents busted open a piñata in the shape of the Gardiner Expressway, demonstrating that new revenue tools could provide a better way to fund the critical services that Torontonians need.

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In partnership with our allies, The Stop has been calling for a budget that builds a healthier and more connected city: one where fewer children live in poverty, affordable housing ensures that no one is left out in the cold, public transit is accessible and reliable, and critical services are dependable.

The budget is being presented and approved beginning today. You can send a message to the Mayor and your City Councillor through the Toronto Can Do Better campaign, and you can follow news and updates using the hashtag #TObudget.

FEBRUARY 17 UPDATE FROM OUR FRIENDS AT COMMITMENT 2 COMMUNITY:

With great energy, about 125 people, passionate speeches and the climax of ‘smashing’ the Gardiner Expressway, we put the human needs of the city front and centre for Council’s budget debate. … We set the tone for the day. We packed Council chambers with people wearing felt red hearts. Thirteen Councillors took turns presenting 3,000+ post cards calling for a fair budget that improves housing, transit, child care, and recreation.

When the debate started, Councillors in favour of low property taxes for homeowners and cuts to services were clearly on the defensive, trying to justify an approach that serves the interests of homeowners, while hurting renters, transit riders, and service users who can’t access or afford housing, transit, child care or recreation programs.

Disappointingly, in the end, Councillors approved Tory’s low 2% property tax increase — and therefore a continued lack of funds for critical city services. …

Many of you worked hard mobilizing and advocating residents throughout the budget process. You deserve much gratitude. While we didn’t make a breakthrough in the budget, we did put service cuts and the city’s unacceptably long waitlists for services front and centre in the debate, which clearly hindered Tory and his allies from claiming a full victory for his budget. And more importantly, we have continued to build a growing city-wide network for change moving forward.”

Read the complete update, and visit the Poverty Reduction TO Facebook Page to see more photos from the rally.