Cut back transit, police and fire services: Toronto city manager

Unions deem budget recommendations unfair, unsafe
|labour-reporter.com|Last Updated: 09/12/2011

The union representing Toronto transit workers is condemning the city’s manager for recommending decreased transit services as part of 2012 budget cuts. The report suggests reassessing the transit system’s crowding standard, as well as reducing or eliminating late-night routes.

"This is a war on commuters, low-wage workers, the disabled and the environment," says president of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 113, Bob Kinnear. "What this report says is, 'Let's punish low wage night shift workers who cannot afford cars and let's cram more commuters into already intolerably-crowded rush hour vehicles'."

Toronto’s Manager Joseph Pennachetti made the recommendation as part of the cutbacks suggested in July 2011 by consultant KPMG as part of the city’s “core service review.” The cutbacks were identified by the firm in an attempt to cover the city’s estimated $774-million budget shortfall for 2012.

In the report, the city manager suggests cutting back on library services, reducing snow removal, as well as making reductions at the city’s 56 childcare centres and 10 long-term care facilities.

Pennachetti also recommends Toronto Police Services reduce or eliminate the hiring of new officers, as well as reducing police presence at construction sites and implementing one-officer patrols in “appropriate circumstances.” Additionally, he says the City should consider “reducing the range of medical calls to which the fire department responds.”

“Toronto Firefighters currently only respond to medical calls which are determined to be life threatening,” says Toronto Firefighters’ president Ed Kennedy. “As Fire Service response times are several minutes faster than EMS response times, any further reduction in the scope of fire department responses would mean that response times for life-threatening calls would increase. In many cases, these few minutes can mean the difference between life and death.”

Pennachetti estimates that his recommendations will save the city $200 to $300 from 2012 to 2014. KMPG estimates its recommendations — if implemented in its entirety — would save the city more than $740 million.

Toronto’s executive committee will select which proposals should be implemented when they meet on Sept. 19, 2011. Those selections will then be sent to the budget committee, which will hear public deputations on the reductions. Full city council will finalize the cutbacks in a vote to be held in January 2012.

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