Prior to the chaos that engulfed city hall Tuesday night, there was a massive rally opposing Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's budget cuts that would impact various social and community initiatives. Unions, activists and community workers vowed to fight back.
Protesting in the rain. That’s what hundreds of union members, community representatives and local activists did Tuesday night outside of city hall, during city council’s 2012 operating and capital budget debates.
Carrying anti-Rob Ford signs, the large crowd chanted various slogans, such as “Stop the war on the poor make the rich pay,” “Shame” and “When poor people are under attack, what do we do? Stand up fight back.”
As the 5:30 p.m. rally got underway, elevators heading up to the council chamber did not work. It was learned that security disengaged them in order to not allow protesters to access the chamber to avoid disruption. During the early part of the debate, community health organization members held a banner in protest of cuts to health initiatives.
Anti-poverty protesters issuing Toronto Mayor Rob Ford a "notice of termination" during a huge rally outside of city hall.
Various chapters of the Stop the Cuts network, members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Canadian Auto Workers union employees and City workers attended the rally and demonstrated their opposition to the cuts.
All of the speakers denounced cuts to City services and employees. Each speaker, whether it was a garbage worker, a library employee or a social housing resident, all urged each level of government to stop cuts to community services, such as libraries, social housing, pools and others.
At one point, an exuberant teacher asked the crowd, “Who’s running city hall? Is it Mitt Romney? Is it Ron Paul?” Those who knew both 2012 Republican presidential candidates chuckled at that comment.
Two community activists performed a song for the audience. The song included lyrics, “Fight back the crisis! Stand together! Stand united!” “Make education free for everyone” and “Worker’s united, never defeated | Union is strong – why we succeeded.”
Hundreds of people watching the projection screen at the rotunda of city hall. No one was allowed to enter the council chamber in the late afternoon/evening.
Towards the end of the rally, the co-hosts urged everyone to join their “brothers and sisters” in London this weekend to support the union’s fight against Caterpillar. They encouraged a march around city hall, but that failed as clashes between activists and police officers exuded the entire area. Visit Digital Journal’s coverage of the event.
Former City employee speaks outDigital Journal caught up with Jack Davis, a former employee for the City, who opposed the cuts that the mayor and his supporters at city hall included in the 2012 budget, which was swiftly passed Tuesday night.
A Stop the Cuts chapter entering Nathan Phillips Square chanting "stop the cuts."
Davis, a retired gentleman who lives on a fixed-income, explained that the City was doing just fine until Ford entered office. He believes Ford and his advisors orchestrated a crisis to push forward a “neo-conservative agenda.”
“All of a sudden, we have this crisis on our hands. We have a budget deficit, we have a debt and everyone has to lose their services and jobs. It doesn’t make sense,” said Davis, who carried a “stop cuts!” sign. “The only good thing about Ford is that he has brought people together who equally dislike him and his policies. I don’t remember a crowd this big protesting city council in a long time.”
He further explained that if the City was facing a budget problem then they should have looked at other methods to increase revenues and taxes. One of the sources of revenues that Davis believes should have stayed was the $60 vehicle registration tax, which many people like Davis feel should have never been repealed. Also, Davis urged a higher property tax increase – the City approved a 2.5 percent hike.
“I have spoken to a lot of people who didn’t mind paying the $60 if went towards city services and helped residents,” stated Davis. “I don’t own a vehicle, but think about the amount of cars in Toronto. How much revenue would that generate? This mayor doesn’t know what he’s doing and should resign.”
Davis spoke in jest that all of the protesters should have delivered their “notice of termination” banner, which was signed by dozens of attendees.
Despite the protesters’ best efforts, the 2012 budget was approved, but approximately $15 million was saved for services due in part to Councillor Josh Colle.