Tag Archives: Toronto

“Not the kind of S@#* we need

14 Aug

The other day I spent a couple of hours weeding the Diversity Garden that takes up a small rectangle of the park near my home. Just over half of its space is cultivated by local families – and they are a diverse bunch – while the other half is tended by volunteers, the organic carrots, lettuce, tomatoes and cukes going to a variety of food banks.

The weeds had come up thick and fast after some summer showers but the proliferation of vegetables remains truly impressive. The problem is, to keep up this kind of productivity, we need more natural fertilizer, and the city has not been forthcoming in delivering compost. Yes, what we need is some good, strong, old-fashioned animal manure –  I suggested contacting the police to see what they might be able to give us from their herd of urban horses. Our volunteer coordinator Marc, meanwhile, was wondering how he could rent a truck and drive north into the countryside to see what he could pick up from a sheep or cattle farmer.

However our lack of inputs – in such a contrast to the abundance of beautiful and healthy produce – seems part and parcel of the current city administration’s corresponding lack of interest in our efforts. I certainly didn’t vote for our Rush-Limbaugh doppleganger mayor Rob Ford. In fact, not many in our downtown ward most likely did. But Ford is a man of the suburbs, and vegetable gardens in the suburbs are rare and never collective; food banks or homeless people are non-existent; and the idea of devoting a few hours a week to some healthy physical labour something to be avoided at all costs when there is a handy couch and cable TV at hand.

Rather, Mayor Ford, who during his campaign promised neither to raise property taxes or cut services, has found problems where none existed before. Basically he wants to pay down more of the city’s debt from annual deficits than has been done in the past, and to do so by cutting what he considers frills – libraries, school meals, parks maintenance, the Farmers’ Markets, community centres – basically all the stuff poor and lower-middle class people need and use.

And, really, how much can Farmers Markets or urban gardens cost the city? On the contrary, encouraging people to grow their own food in summer, giving urban farmers a venue to expand and improve their businesses, and turning handfuls of seeds into tonnes of healthy produce must surely save money. Not to mention beautify and humanize a city that, contrary to many, I find still pretty unattractive.

The real cost to the municipal budget – about 80% I gather — is very clear: salaries for city staff, including firemen and police (among the highest paid in North America).  So raise property taxes a small amount and add a tax to liquor or hotel rooms. It’s not rocket science. And give us some free compost from all those well-fed horses or the compost we already separate and pay to have picked up every week.

Even former mayor Art Eggleton – no progressive by any means – came out recently in the Huffington Post sounding like a paragon of reasonableness. “In particular we must avoid cuts that would affect the most vulnerable among us,” he wrote, “ the poor, the elderly, racial minorities, the disabled and at risk youth, to name a few. These individuals rely on programs and services like nutritious meals for low-income children, child care, libraries, and affordable housing every day. Without these, their quality of life would be drastically reduced, and at what cost? Many of these programs are just a drop in the proverbial bucket that is the city’s budget. Remove them for a small gain, or maintain them for a tremendous upside; it seems like a simple decision.”

Unfortunately, it’s actually simpler for Rush, I mean Rob, to attack things he doesn’t seem to understand: physical activity, healthy produce and reading. And that’s the kind of crap we don’t need.