Toronto-Danforth has its budget say

On Saturday, Toronto-Danforth’s new Liberal MP, Julie Dabrusin, held a public meeting at Monarch Park Collegiate with residents to discuss their concerns for this year’s federal budget.

Attendees came prepared with their concerns, contributing to a lively discussion that outlined what many in the riding believe are key issues.

In her opening statement, Dabrusin divided concerns that the 2016 budget will address, based on the Liberal party’s election platform. The categories include:

  • Social Infrastructure
  • Physical infrastructure
  • Environment and Climate Change Issues
  • Job Skills and Business Growth
  • Innovation
  • Other

Attendees were split into groups and given a sheet where they wrote down their top three priorities. A spokesperson then presented their group’s advice, which was written down directly into a letter addressed to Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

There are several themes that stood out among attending members:

  1. Affordable Housing: The federal government should be concerned about the creation and maintenance of affordable housing in the Toronto-Danforth area, or rather, in Canada. This year’s budget, then, should focus on revitalizing communities and supporting existing housing as their priority. Additionally, there should be increased collaboration between the federal and municipal levels of government in this issue.
  2. Public transit: There are benefits to using professional Torontonians to engineer transit services, one of them being innovative job creation. When building new transit, the government could end its mega-projects and specialize the funds for construction on a community level.
  3. Job creation and business development opportunities: This category was a major focus. Residents want a boost in permanent jobs that teach transferrable skills, so that people are learning skills at one job that can relate to another, say, six months later. Making rules around accessing funding for small businesses should be less confusing; someone suggested stronger patent laws; and better standards on goods would not only help Canadian businesses, but the environment as well. Funding should be given to finance education and job growth among those living with disabilities to increase equal involvement.
  4. Seniors: There should be financial support for the growing “sandwich generation” who will need help taking care of the aging baby boomers. The youngest attendee wanted to bring back “fun” to the Toronto-Danforth and that’s for seniors too. An innovative recreation center for seniors would provide infrastructure and stimulate cultural growth among older residents.
  5. Infrastructure: The web is an infrastructure too, a potential investment that is not being utilized. Arts and science should also benefit from infrastructure building. That seniors’ recreation center won’t build itself. As well as keeping First Nations and remote communities in mind when providing new infrastructure and transit services.

Honourable Mentions:

  • Informal think-tanks on cutting daycare costs. Tangental answer from one Toronto-Danforth resident: Health care funded by marijuana sales. (How’s that for creative?)
  • Sustainable food systems. With the falling dollar, many are wondering how to pay for that $7 head of cauliflower. (At least the kids don’t mind.) One attending member suggested that young people get involved. Think it’s just a free lunch? Answer: a mandatory year of service in the food industry when you turn 18 and then again when you turn 55. A more Canadian-ly plausible suggestion is the goal to have 80 per cent of Canadian household food items grown locally by 2030 with funding for greenhouses, and urban and local farms.
  • One group dedicated its discussion focus on Canada’s whole system of government. A general consensus among attendees shows citizens are frustrated with short-term goals that only temporarily fix problems. They want the government thinking long-term, with thoughtful leadership creating a vision, developing a plan and reporting back on the plan’s progress.

Quotable quotes

Julie Dabrusin, Liberal MP for Toronto-Danforth: “Together, when everyone is getting the best opportunities — that’s how we can build a better country.”

Mary Fragedakis, city councillor for Toronto-Danforth: [The issues discussed here] are the kinds of things we deal with on a daily basis at city hall. We’ve been asking the federal government to be our partners for a long time… because without the federal government working with the municipalities and us working with the province we’re not going [to] get anywhere. We [could] not make inroads on big infrastructure projects.