Hot! Toronto’s rainy day is now

TheStar.com – opinion/editorials
Published On Mon Dec 12 2011.

Mayor Rob Ford’s administration seems in full retreat from its destructive plan to kill school nutrition programs feeding 14,000 hungry children. Good. It was absurd, all along, to suggest taking a carving knife to this exemplary service.

That didn’t stop the mayor’s influential brother, Councillor Doug Ford, from defended the proposed cutback. At one point, he even attempted to blunt criticism by signing a personal cheque for $1,000 to save the food program in one Etobicoke school. But Doug Ford, too, eventually backed away from city hall’s ill-judged penny-pinching. In interviews late last week he and other administration stalwarts indicated that money to feed hungry kids will be found after all.

As Toronto’s budget committee resumes its deliberations Tuesday there are lessons for all concerned in this apparent reversal. First, Torontonians upset by service cuts have learned that it pays to fight back. If enough people speak out and raise objections, the Fords will back down. Second, city hall would profit from being more judicious in what it puts forward for elimination.

Imagine going from “guaranteeing” there would be no service cuts, as Rob Ford did on the election trail, to suggesting that this municipality — quite literally — take food from the mouths of children.

Imagine if that was actually allowed to happen. That the largest city, in one of the richest countries in the world, let kids go hungry out of an unwillingness to spend about $380,000 from a $139-million surplus.

The Fords and their backers want to use that windfall for capital projects and to pump money into a “rainy day” stabilization fund. But the rainy day is now if it means kids are left going hungry.

No wonder city hall is backing off. But not before subjecting thousands of vulnerable families across Toronto to needless worry over the future of the nutrition programs on which they depend. This city’s budget will be balanced next month. It is every year; it’s required by law. But the process didn’t have to be so thoughtless.

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