The shape of politics in Toronto now [exclusion]
TheStar.com – news
Published On Wed Feb 02 2011. By Joe Fiorito, City Columnist
What does a politician gain who spreads fear among the powerless, and who forces the poor to beg? What is the opposite of admiration?
Okay, some bus routes have been restored at the last minute; fine, good, bravo. Trouble is, such a reprieve is false compassion.
Because if those routes were worth saving, why were they on the chopping block in the first place? Did the mayor and the chair of the TTC not know that there were elderly women riding the bus in off-peak hours, along with the poor, the deaf-blind, the disabled, and those who work shift?
No need to answer.
Instead, let me introduce you to a few more of the people were threatened when Rob Ford and Karen Stintz started tinkering with the TTC.
Let’s go to Park Lane School.
I should explain that the children who attend Park Lane didn’t actually know that they were threatened, because they are severely developmentally disabled.
They will have to depend on their parents, or their caregivers, for the rest of their lives. They are non-verbal. Their cognitive skills are such that they cannot control their bodies. Because of the depth of their disabilities, none of them will grow up to be able to earn a few bucks at a sheltered workshop. They will need special care until they die. Some of them will not live long enough to graduate.
Why do they need the bus?
Wait for it.
Catherine Ure is the principal of Park Lane. She showed me around the other day; nice school, pastoral setting, sunlight pouring in through the windows, and many highly specialized mobility devices in the hallways.
Catherine said, “We have 70 kids right now. They can’t ride the bus alone because they don’t know where they are going. They can’t plan. They need help.” And then she got proprietary. “They’re delightful. Their parents love them to death.” Let me say, on her behalf, that the teachers at Park Lane love those kids just as much as their parents do.
But why the bus?
Catherine said, “The bus is for life skills training. We teach them to get on, how to sit, how to behave socially. We teach them to be good riders; we do it for them, and for their parents.”
Where do they go?
“They go bowling, they go to the science centre,” said Catherine, “and they go to the supermarket. We teach them how to find things, how to walk and not run; we facilitate that for their parents.”
That is important because, when the kids leave school at age 21, their parents will be responsible for their care, every hour of every day, for the rest of their lives. And it helps those parents immensely if their kids know a bit about how to behave in the community.
The corollary? It helps us; we need to see these kids as much as they need to see us.
The bus they use is the 162. It was going to be cut during off-peak daytime hours, between 9 a.m. and the evening rush hour, or precisely when it is needed most.
Okay, all you hard hearts: why doesn’t the school rent its own bus? Because they can’t afford it. And, said Catherine, “How do you train people to be on the TTC unless you use the TTC?”
She led me down the hall and handed me over to teacher Alicya Parrish and five of her kids, the ones who are able to get around. We were going to the supermarket to get the ingredients for dumplings to celebrate the lunar new year.
And so there was the zipping up of parkas, and the stuffing of hands in gloves, and there was lining up, and walking down the hall, and waiting for the others to catch up. The bus took us to a supermarket in Don Mills.
There were, in case you’re interested, several other riders along the way.
At the supermarket, everyone looked at the flyers to see what was on special. The tall boy held his flyer upside down, but he is the one who found the green onions — one, two three bundles — for Alicya. The quiet girl reached for the tofu. The boy who stamped his foot picked the mushrooms.
The timing of the trip was perfect; not many other shoppers at 10:30 a.m. The cashier was kind and patient. The kids packed their own groceries, one item at a time. And then they returned, by bus, to school.
And I return to my original point: why were these kids threatened in the first place? Is this the shape of city politics now?
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