WiTOpoli Weekly: Friday, November 6

A roundup of some of the latest news in women, Toronto, and/or politics this week. What stories did you read this week? Tell us in the comments.

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed 31 new cabinet members, 15 of whom are women. This will be Canada’s first gender-balanced cabinet (see the full list here). Plus, check out the TVO blog for some thoughts from WiTOpoli’s Alejandra Ortiz and others on gender parity in the cabinet.
  • Trudeau also announced that the long-form census will be reinstated, a key tool for researchers and city planners.
  • All 40 Toronto councillors endorsed TO Prosperity: Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy, marking a commitment to reducing poverty in 20 years. However, councillors largely disagree on how to fund the strategy.
  • Ontario elementary school teachers (ETFO) signed a tentative agreement with the province, avoiding a legal strike which would have included an extracurricular withdrawn. Secondary school teachers (OSSTF) employed by the Toronto District School Board, however, are engaging in a local legal strike action, as local issues remain unresolved, but extracurricular activities will not be affected by this job action.
  • Following a Toronto Board of Health report, Toronto councillors vote 34-3 in favour of a motion banning the use of hookah pipes in restaurants.
  • On November 5, Hydro One Ltd. hit the Toronto Stock Exchange with 15% up for sale. The sale of Hydro One shares is the first step in privatizing 60% of the electrical utility organization.
  • Auditor General will release a report by next spring reviewing the $3.75 million given by the Ontario government to three teachers unions for bargaining costs.
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WiTOpoli Weekly: Friday, October 30

A roundup of some of the latest news in women, Toronto, and/or politics this week. What stories did you read this week? Tell us in the comments.

  • Ontario drafts new rules for carding and sets the parameters for certain forms of street checks to continue. Here is how the provincial regulations differ from the Toronto Police Services Board’s carding policy.
  • Stephen LeClair, Ontario’s new Financial Accountability Officer, calls into question to partial sale of Hydro One in his report.  The Report claims that Ontario’s debt would initially decrease, but will increase to amounts higher than it would have been without the sale.
  • Ontario aims to end chronic homelessness in 10 years. The province has a $50 million poverty reduction fund, $10 million of which will be spent over the next two years on initiatives to eradicate poverty. The Ontario government is set to hold hearings to get feedback to address the persistent wage gap.
  • On October 27, Tracey MacCharles, Ontario Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues, introduced a new legislation that targets sexual violence, workplace harassment and will increase support for survivors. This legislation proceeds the Ontario government’s anti-sexual violence campaign.
  • A Toronto resident recorded a video of TAVIS officers trying to block his camera as she tried to film an arrest happening at Jane and Lawrence.

Ask Your Candidate: Labour

By: Cherise Seucharan

Issues related to labour, such as wages and employment, are generally governed at the provincial level, but city councillors can still have significant impact on labour conditions. Recently, the Ford administration has claimed the drop in Toronto’s unemployment rate as one of their major achievements, and while this may have been true for the first three years of Rob Ford’s term, statistics show that unemployment has actually been on the rise since May 2014, coupled with increased in the number of precarious workers. Sandy Houston, President of the Metcalf Foundation, which recently released a report on Toronto’s workforce, says that, “The increasing numbers of people working and poor in the Toronto Region paints a troubling picture. When people can’t fully participate in society, it costs us all.”

Women are especially affected by labour policies. The gender wage gap in Ontario is currently 28%, which means female workers earn 72 cents to every male worker’s dollar. Women are also more likely to be employed in the service sector, which is more vulnerable to cuts, and are more likely to be supporting families on their income. Ask your candidate about how they plan to address these issues.

2009 City of Toronto inside and outside workers strike Mel Lastman Square. By CeciliaPang (Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3A2009TorontoStrikeNY.jpg

2009 City of Toronto inside and outside workers strike Mel Lastman Square. By CeciliaPang (Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons.

Do you plan on making improvements to the City’s Fair Wage policies? Will you introduce policies to support the growing number of precarious workers, and address the gender pay gap?

Toronto’s Fair Wage Policy, established in 1893, guarantees that people employed by contractors for the city are paid market wage rates and benefits for their respective fields. The policy needs to be continually updated to account for inflation and other factors, but in 2013 the policy had its first update in 10 years. Despite the fact that wages now take into account the new minimum wage rates and market levels, many of the wage rates still fall below, $16.60, the rate recommended by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives as a living wage in Toronto. Ask your candidate if they will push for continuous updates to the Fair Wage Policy, and for wages that take into account the high cost of living in Toronto.

The Fair Wage Policy also represents the type of initiatives that can work with provincial and federal labour policies to improve worker conditions, especially for minority groups. As noted above, women in Ontario still earn less than men overall. Additionally, racialized workers earn 77.5 cents per dollar, while immigrant women earn even less, and are more likely to be working for minimum wage. Ask if your candidate would support expanding these policies to include provisions that help close the gender pay gap and support immigrant and racialized workers.

Would you privatize more city services?

While there are pros and cons to the privatization of city services, deciding to privatize any service would have a major impact on the labour force. With the numbers of precarious workers steadily rising across the GTA, unionized services address this issue by providing steady employment and a living wage for thousands of Torontonians. Under privatization, city workers have less power to negotiate and less protections overall, which have already come under fire during the past few years.

Ask if your candidate aims to privatize city services, and if so, are they willing to prioritize the right of workers in the process.

Does you support funding for Toronto’s libraries and public services?

Cuts to the infamous “gravy train” of funding to libraries and public services often translate to reductions in the staff that keep those programs running. The result is that public service workers have to take on a greater workload with the same resources. Often, full-time positions are downsized to part-time, non-salary jobs. In 2012, cuts to libraries reached a tipping point when Toronto Public Library workers held an 11-day strike in reaction to the increasing funding cuts, which greatly affected the employment of part-time workers (who were primarily women). The strike highlights the need for greater worker protection at these services which benefit many people across the city.

Ask if your candidate supports maintaining or increasing funding to Toronto’s public services.

Ultimately, the candidates we elect to City council are responsible for creating the labour climate that many of the city’s unionized workers will live in for the next four years, from outside workers to parks and recreation staff, from police officers to garbage collectors to library workers. Electing a council that will be fair and just when dealing with labour issues should be a priority for Toronto voters.

 

Ask Your Candidate: Arts Funding

By: Lauren Simmons

The arts are integral to the fabric of a modern city like Toronto. Statistically, the arts employ more women than they do men, but Toronto lags woefully behind most major cities in its per-capita arts funding (by 2017 it will finally reach $25/capita, a figure first set in 2002, and which is still less than half that in cities like Montreal). Budget support for the arts has consistently been under attack in the last four years at City Council, most recently with a planned increase in funding being pushed back to as late as 2017. When you ask the candidates in your ward how they plan to support the arts, you’re also asking how they’ll support the important cultural contributions of some of our city’s most precariously employed citizens

1. Do you support privatized arts funding?

During Rob Ford’s tenure as Mayor, much of the city’s arts community has lived in fear of Council’s overwhelming support for privatized arts funding, which benefits large, highly visible and commercially viable endeavours (e.g. the Toronto International Film Festival), at the expense of smaller, more cutting-edge projects. Where do your candidates stand on privatized funding? Are financial benefits like tourist dollars a necessary condition for your candidates’ support of the arts, or do they have other reasons for doing so?

2. Where do you stand on the Beautiful City initiative?

In January 2013, Mayor Ford’s Executive Committee approved a budget that included restored funding in some areas, including funneling $6 million of billboard tax profits into programs for the arts. However, as recently as the last budget cycle, council pushed those increases back to 2017. Will your candidates support the existing practice of using the billboard tax for increased arts funding? User fees like water rates and TTC fares have increased beyond the rate of inflation in recent years but the billboard tax has been frozen. If your candidates are arts-friendly, they may support increasing the billboard tax by at least the rate of inflation retroactive to its introduction in 2009 so arts funding in real, inflation-adjusted dollars doesn’t decrease.

3. What is your stance on public art and graffiti?

Mayor Ford has made no bones about his public war on graffiti, but many, particularly youth in marginalized communities, have seen this as attack on the arts. Further, programs in such neighbourhoods have found themselves closed with little explanation. Where do your candidates stand on graffiti, and on public art in general? Toronto pales in comparison to many other major cities in terms of accessible public art. What do your potential councillors think can or should be done about that?

Funding for the arts may not get all the buzz on the campaign trail, but a candidate’s position on the arts can reveal much about the Toronto they envision.

With files from Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler