On City Building

As Toronto’s budget debate rages and the debate around Ontario budget looms, I am struck by the ways in which we are increasingly encouraged to think of ourselves and our neighbors as taxpayers, rather than citizens or community members.

There is a kind of historical revisionism occurring in which our public services are being painted as a result of our collective excesses and unreasonable senses of entitlement, rather than a reflection of shared values and visions for our communities and country.

Massive cuts to government services and government funding are seen not just as inevitable – but as wholly reasonable. Progressive social policy is increasingly seen as a frill, rather than a cornerstone of a healthy, successful society.

While on one hand, the meaning of society is being ferociously challenged, on the other, it is being ferociously defended. Witness the Occupy movement and mobilizations of citizens defending Toronto programs and services. Notice the interesting conversations about the importance of taxes such as Warren Buffet’s call for the super-rich to be taxed at a higher rate or the Toronto Board of Trade call for a 3% property tax increase. At YWCA Toronto, we are also inspired by the thousands of donations we receive from Torontonians who want to help build an inclusive City in which all can thrive.

It seems to me that we are at a critical moment in which we are required to grapple with what it means to be a community member – and what we are willing to contribute to build the communities we want.

 Sarah Blackstock is Director of Advocacy and Communications at YWCA Toronto.