Budget for an active Toronto
I am one of those people that anxiously awaits the always entertaining federal and provincial budget announcements every year from Ottawa. I hope for the best, expect the worst and keep my fingers crossed that maybe this will be the day that they wake up and realize what will actually make this country and our cities a better place.
I have to admit, though, I am constantly amused by the number of complaints upon complaints from every single person that wants their needs to be met, their programs to be flooded with resources and their lives to be bettered. I find it ironic that it becomes a battle between provinces and a clash between people and certain groups that are all out for "me."
To be honest, I am not going to sit here and say that I haven't thought of my needs over others and preach to all of you to be more altruistic. But I will say that on the whole I think we all need to commit to think about what's best for all of us: WE all owe it to each other to make this a better place to live.
Realistically, it all ends up with the privileged few politicians that hold the fate of our city in their hands. The last few years it has become increasingly more apparent that Toronto has one of the largest municipal infrastructure deficits across the nation. This has been a weight that we have been struggling under for years and it shows.
In November 2009, the city declared that more than half of its capital budget for 2010 will be going towards the maintenance and expansion of the TTC. Actually, transportation is eating up about 70 per cent of the entire budget over the next 10 years, putting aside $11.7 billion.
To put it into perspective, Toronto is already running a $382 million debt and balancing the books calls for, you guessed it, higher taxes and service cuts. But hey, we're going to have some new streetcars out of it. This is a classic case of when all else fails, just cut programs. It seems to be the easiest thing for our government, so they can say they're helping our city by getting us out of debt, when in fact hundreds of thousands of people are going to suffer for it.
Last year 39 public pools were closed leaving 700,000 kids, students, athletes and adults with nowhere to go for physical activity. With not only childhood, but adult obesity on the rise and health care costs going through the roof, we are cutting after-school programs and increasing the time our citizens can opt for the couch over getting active. You'll be hard pressed to find modern, up-to-date community centres in areas that are desperate for that kind of facility. The access to get active is lacking.
The connection between sport, physical activity and health is a no-brainer. We know this, our politicians know this. By investing in real, quality programming through schools, community centres and local recreational groups, there is the great potential to reach the lives of thousands of Torontonians. Healthcare costs would decrease, albeit not over night, but the development of a city that prides itself on being active is a long-term solution that would dramatically help these costs over time.
Cutting services and programs is just a means to look good on paper, but off the page is an uglier picture that even a smoother road or faster streetcar can't fix.