Local leaders meet with NDP head to discuss issues and talk democratic process

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath stopped in Scarborough recently to speak with local leaders about issues for the spring provincial budget, but it was the recent win concerning the Toronto City Hall budget that had everyone talking.

Horwath visited the Karaikudi Chettinad South Indian Restaurant in the Dorset Park area on Jan. 18. The hour-long session allowed local leaders and “everyday Ontarians” to raise issues with the Ontario MPP, but the salient issue remained the Toronto budget.

“It really does show that the collective voice can have a positive effect.”

– Andrea Horwath

During the recent Toronto budget talks, 23 city councillors stood in solidarity against the mayor and saved $19 million in cuts from the operating budget. Horwath believes that what happened at City Hall was very instructive to the democratic process.

“It really does show that the collective voice can have a positive effect,” she said. “Things can change if you put your voice into the process, but they certainly won’t change if you don’t.”

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath talks about the importance of participating in politics.
[audio:http://www.torontoobserver.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/MW_Horwath_0128121.mp3]

The change that Horwath talks about is fresh in the mind of one of the local leaders who was in attendance at the Scarborough visit.

Tim Whalley, 33, is the executive director of Scarborough Arts, a community arts organization serving Scarborough and east Toronto. The 30-year-old organization recently faced city funding cuts. Whalley had concerns about how it would affect the local economy, so he took his fight online.

He joined an online petition called the “Friends of the Arts,” created by a group of arts advocates across the GTA. It was presented to city council in September.

“Any petition that gets 30,000 signatures is a huge success,” he said. “I was pleased that the executive committee recommended taking the arts cuts off the table.”

Pranavasri Iyathurai, 45, coordinator of the Tamil Workers Alliance and NDP supporter, attended Horwath’s meeting with the hope that she would take his issues up at the legislature. Iyathurai is fighting to make sure that Canada recognizes the education credentials of Tamil immigrants. He agrees that this fight could take a while, but with the recent win at City Hall, he remains positive.

“I feel great because even though there was pressure to pass the budget, the people fought for the change and were able to affect policy,” he said.

Horwath and the NDP hope to get some of their issues addressed at this spring’s provincial budget meeting.