On February 10, 2011, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was to meet with the budget committee of Toronto city council to discuss potential cuts to Toronto’s operating budget.
Toronto residents feared this would include cuts to social service and community programs run by the city — these include cuts to transit, hostel/emergency shelter services, community programs and tenant services.
Driven to have their voice heard, a People’s Delegation of concerned citizens occupied the Toronto city hall committee room and demanded that its voice be heard regarding any potential cuts which activists feared would amount to Ford’s “war on the poor”.
According to a statement by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, “Ford campaigned on the basis of stopping the ‘gravy train’ at City Hall, but his budget plans show how exactly he defines ‘gravy’.”
“With a record 76,549 people on the affordable-housing waiting list in Toronto, Ford intends to slash spending on shelter beds for the homeless. The Budget Committee is looking to CUT 40,000 shelter beds (approximately 100 beds PER night), replacing 6,000 with motel rooms for ‘refugee claimants’ who according the them ‘need less support’. Cutting these beds also means cutting the supports of food and shelter services that people depend upon; 34,000 beds will be completely lost, 6,000 motel spaces will mean total isolation and lack of support. Apparently to Ford, the basics of food and shelter for those on the streets is a part of the infamous ‘gravy train’.”
The People’s Delegation included members of OCAP, No One is Illegal, Disability Action Movement Now, Community Solidarity Network, Common Cause, Rhythms of Resistance, and other people from the community. The Budget Committee meeting was shut down and two arrests were made.
According to an OCAP press release regarding the action, “As bad as the present round of cuts are, they are only the first round. Ford has made clear he intends to contract out services to low paying employers and take a knife to vital community needs. He is bringing high paid consultants to plan a vicious series of attacks.”
“His regime is the local expression of an austerity agenda that people are facing and resisting across the world. We are calling on workers facing the loss of their jobs and communities the loss of basic services to unite and stop the Ford Agenda. The February 10 action was strong and important but it’s only a first step. Ford and everything he stands for must be defeated.”
During the occupation of the budget meeting, committee vice-chair Doug Ford yelled at one of the demonstrators to “get a job”; he later denied he made such a statement but an audio recording has surfaced with his words.
Mayor Rob Ford’s brother, Doug Ford, had made similar comments towards Toronto activists in 2002 and 2005.
OCAP organizer John Clarke addressed the People’s Delegation saying, “This year, they are only delivering the first blow. Much worse is to come. The vision Ford has of this city is a police force and privatized services operated by non-unionized labour.” He called upon union leadership and union rank and file members to stand up to Ford.
During the occupation, video by activist Will Dean shows activists demanding the identification of certain officers involved in the arrests. Dean also singles out one Toronto police sergeant who was involved in the illegal search of an activist outside an anarchist convergence in January 2011; in both cases Dean notes that this officer was not wearing his name tag.
The police even admit on camera that it is illegal for a police officer to not identify himself. At this point, more activists report officers in the crowd not wearing their ID.
Ninety-one officers were reprimanded for not wearing their mandatory identification during the G20 Summit protests in late June, 2010.
On Wednesday, February 23, 2010, Toronto city council will begin debates on the proposed Ford budget for 2011. Council will then vote on the budget by Monday, February 28.
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