Posted April 29, 2020
Toronto must rebuild itself with a “bold, green and just recovery plan,” that shrinks the growing gap between rich and poor, fights climate change and combats racial inequity, activists say.
“We cannot return to what was normal in Toronto,” before the COVID-19 crisis shut down much of the city, a coalition of social, labour, housing, race relations and environmental groups wrote to city council in a letter Wednesday.
While successful in many ways, Toronto has problems, including a growing income gap, affordable housing and homelessness crisis, opioid overdose epidemic, climate emergency and systemic racial discrimination, the letter states.
The pandemic crisis has exposed and heightened inequalities between Toronto’s rich and poor, they wrote, including homeless Torontonians, low-wage earners and non-white citizens most at risk from the disease and its non-medical impacts.
“We are writing to encourage you to seize this moment to create a new future for our city, a new normal, underpinned with a bold, green, and just recovery plan,” says the letter being sent from: Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre; Parkdale People’s Economy; Progress Toronto; Social Planning Toronto; Toronto ACORN; Toronto Community Benefits Network; Toronto Environmental Alliance; Toronto & York Region Labour Council; TTCriders; and Urban Alliance on Race Relations.
“And we are ready and willing to help you in this,” with 10 principles to build a better Toronto.
They include: a transparent, community-led recovery and rebuilding process; evidence-based decisions with data; a “new deal for Toronto” with fairer funding from provincial and federal governments; keeping workers at the centre of recovery plans; prioritizing low-carbon infrastructure, procurement and equitable local job creation; investing in public and community ownership of land and housing; and maintaining pandemic-triggered boosts in city services, such as homeless shelter spaces.
Michal Hay of Progress Toronto said in an interview that rebuilding Toronto without such principles will leave it vulnerable when the next shock, such as another pandemic or weather emergency, hits the city.
Tory in mid-March announced the formation of an “economic support and recovery task force.” It includes city councillors of various political stripes reaching out to business, labour, institutional, education and social groups to work on plans.
Last week the mayor announced Saad Rafi will lead Toronto’s recovery and rebuild office, with public health direction from Dr. David Mowat.
Rafi retired last year as partner at management consultancy Deloitte Canada and is former chief executive of Ontario Retirement Pension Plan Administration Corp.
Previously he led the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Parapan Am Games Organizing Committee, and held senior civil service posts in the Ontario government.
Tory and councillors are expected to discuss Toronto’s recovery and rebuild plans Thursday when they meet online so as not to break physical distancing rules that outlaw the gathering of groups that could spread the potentially deadly virus.
That will include dealing with city finances decimated by the shutdown.
Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, recently said she believes the city is at or near the peak of infections, but activities must remain locked down, with people spending as much time at home as possible, until infections subside.
Article by David Rider for the Toronto Star