Culture

August 3, 2011

Ford Trims Fat: What It Means For Those Living With HIV

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Written by: Steven
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ford cuts

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s executive committee is set to consider cuts totalling more than $740 million to police, transit, public health and environment programs.

Independent accounting and consulting firm KPMG identified the possible cuts as part of a review of the city’s services in order to cover an estimated $774-million budget shortfall.

In 2010 CPIP issued grants to community groups like the AIDS Committee of Toronto, Pride Toronto, the 519 Church Street Community Centre, Casey House and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, just to name a few organizations.

ACT Director of Programs and Services, John Maxwell, explained in a recent interview with The Gaily that “…what we have now with Mayor Ford is someone who has a history of voting against these grants. He is now calling them into question and using the opportunity of the KPMG report to say, we should just cut this – to him, he sees this as just gravy.”

Since 1983 ACT has developed programs and services that respond to the changing needs of the communities it serves. ACT provides support services that empower men, women and youth living with HIV to achieve self-determination, informed decision-making, independence, and overall well-being. This is achieved through programs such as counselling, information provision, social support activities and programs that help people with HIV return to work.

“Most of the funding we get is for HIV prevention amongst gay men, and I think this is a very important point, because the fact is that 1 in 5 gay men in this city are HIV+. This proposition will have a huge impact on the health of gay men, and ultimately health care costs. There are studies that have shown that preventing one HIV infection saves upwards of a quarter of a million dollars in direct health care costs. So prevent one infection, you save the system two hundred and fifty thousand dollars”, Maxwell explained.

“HIV is complicated because you are dealing with issues such as stigma, discrimination, social isolation, mental health issues, whether you go back to work or not, disclosure of HIV and non-disclosure and criminalization; and in fact, as an AIDS services organization we are increasingly dealing with those issues. HIV is extremely complex in nature, on a variety of levels. So this funding is crucial, now more than ever.”

At a time when there are more people living with HIV in Toronto than ever before, and two Torontonians are infected with the virus every day, the City of Toronto would be scaling back its efforts to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. The elimination of city funding for ACT programs would be the deepest funding cuts in an almost 30-year history.

“Ford was just recently quoted as saying that the definition of a city is clean roads, no graffiti, and safe streets. So, he has a very 1930’s idea of what a city is and doesn’t actually recognize that a city today is very complex. When he came in and talked about getting rid of the gravy and rid of the fat he, I think, had this perception that within the city there is a lot to be cut; when in fact, the KPMG report showed that about 95% of what the city is doing is provincially mandated or is necessary”, stated Maxwell.

ACT currently receives $271,400 for community education and outreach services for gay men. Although these funds come from the province, they flow through the City of Toronto. Twice this year, Mayor Rob Ford has voted against accepting provincial funds for public health services.

If City Council votes against accepting these other provincial funds, ACT’s entire gay men’s community education and outreach programming will be eliminated. The total funds vulnerable is: $454,000. “With all of these proposed funding cuts, it is those that are most vulnerable that are going to suffer”, stated a passionate Mr. Maxwell.

“For ACT, and a number of other organizations that do prevention work with gay men, for instance, if the proposed service cuts go through, the impact will be huge. I think it will be devastating, especially to the health of gay men. For us, all of our gay men’s prevention programming would cease to exist. We are committed to the health of gay men, and we would figure out how to do this work, but we are talking about a huge amount of money in an already under-resourced area. I think it will be devastating for the gay community in general.”

On July 28th, in one of the longest committee meetings in city history, councillors, including Rob Ford, invited over 300 members of the public to present their case and weigh in on the controversial KPMG report.

But by the end of the meeting the executive committee, which was stacked with Ford’s allies, wasn’t swayed. Councillors voted unanimously to send the KPMG report to the city manager and consider it again at their next meeting on September 19.

In a plea to all Torontonians, especially those living as part of the gay community, Mr. Maxwell presented the plan for action, “The only way we can affect change is if people contact their city councillor. A councillor will listen to a constituent way more than Ford. Gay men should say, I live in this city and I have a right to live in a city that’s healthy and I believe that these programs are important to me and my community. It’s time for our community to sit up and recognize that rights are earned, and can be just as easily taken away.”

For more information to how to take a stand against the proposed cuts to HIV/AIDS funding visit: http://www.actoronto.org/actnow



About the Author

Steven
Steven
|Toronto Contributor| Steven began his career in the television industry during the late 80’s working as on-air host for The Life Channel Satellite Network. In 2003 Steven founded Madog Productions Inc. – a Toronto based marketing and communications firm. Creatively, he has a passion for the written word, and strives to provoke thought, contemplation and hopefully affect change through the power of the pen.




 
 

 
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8 Comments


  1. Ty

    Breaks my hear to hear: ‘Two Torontonians are infected with the virus every day..”

    Why aren’t we doing MORE?!


  2. Steven

    Many people who are diagnosed these days are thriving members of Toronto society – they contribute to the life and well-being of Toronto like anyone else, and of course pay taxes, and thereby contribute fiscally as well. With the new drugs on the market today, they will most likely go on to contribute in a myriad of ways.

    But when first diagnosed it can be, for some, a huge shock – physically as well as mentally. So, we need these support systems in place to help people through that difficult period, as they adjust to a new way of being.

    ACT is a great organization. And meeting John Maxwell and chatting with him, I felt his passion and drive to make a difference. We cannot, in all good conscience, let Ford strip us of the 30 year foundation that has been laid – there is still so much more work to be done.


  3. Ty

    There is still so much more work to be done..

    Good on you for posting this.


  4. Toby lake

    “But by the end of the meeting the executive committee, which was stacked with Ford’s allies, wasn’t swayed. Councillors voted unanimously to send the KPMG report to the city manager and consider it again at their next meeting on September 19.”

    How much of the kpmg report was sent back? Which specific parts of it?


  5. Steven

    From my understanding everything is still on the table until September. This is why it’s so important that people speak up now and contact their local member of council.


  6. Shane B Moxey

    I’m curious, if cuts are made to PWA , ACT, 519 and even Buddies. Does the public have a right to know the reasons for the cutting. (My question) If KPMG has ‘Identified’ possible cuts, what were the reasons or criteria of these proposed ‘Identification’? My second question is; if Ford’s Executive Committee in consulting the KPMG’s ‘Identified’ recommendations, is this committee responsible to the public to disclose it’s reasons and criteria for their cuts? I’m Poz and owner of two small businesses that employs people of this city. My concern is this; any Cuts are applied fairly and equal (if needed) and the cuts not used as political vengeance (see Ford’s voting record on HIV prevention). If a organization or service applied openly to the city for funding help, followed the rules and was accepted. Therefore the public, organization and service should be told why their de-funding was identifies? I think we know the reasons, I just what Ford to say to my face. Where could one get this info if available.


    • Steven

      These are very astute questions….thanks Shane. I too am a poz business owner in Toronto, so I think we need answers to these very points. I have written to my Ward 28 Toronto Centre-Rosedale Councillor, Pam McConnell in order to get to the bottom of things.


  7. Steven

    Here is the response I received from Centre-Rosedale Councillor, Pam McConnell:

    Steven,

    Thank you for your message and article on the Core Service Review, the list of options for service cuts presented by KPMG, and the impact on funding for community agencies and programs. I apologize for the delay in replying. Our office has received many e-mails on this.

    These reports are clearly demonstrating that well over 80% of the services that the City provides are either mandatory (under federal or provincial legislation) or essential to keeping the City functioning. Meanwhile, the consultants have found very little fat or waste that can be trimmed to balance the budget. As a result, any service or function that adds to the rich fabric and liveability of the city is being considered a frill. It is incredibly short-sighted that programs related to HIV/AIDS prevention and reduction and student nutrition are being considered as expendable.

    Councillor McConnell remains extremely critical of the “opportunities” being put forward in the KPMG reports and sees them as a knee-jerk race to the bottom. She is strongly opposed to cuts to services that residents in our community depend upon, such as funding for community agencies and programs, access to child care and decent long term care, and to the programs that make Toronto an attractive place to live and raise a family, such as the Riverdale Farm, our library system, and our parks and recreation system.

    At the consultation session that Councillor McConnell co-hosted with other downtown Councillors, residents were unified in their desire to maintain and enhance these services. Councillor McConnell remains committed to fighting the cuts that will further marginalize our vulnerable people and make our city a less desirable place to live and do business.

    Regarding your follow-up questions, Councillors are not required to offer their rationale for voting on a specific item. Most items that pass through Council will do so without many of the Councillors standing to speak on the issue. This does not mean that the public cannot keep their elected officials accountable by asking why they voted a particular way on a certain item – through either direct contact with them or their office staff, or through probing by the media. The public has every right to an explanation, but there is no mechanism in place to make that widely available.

    As noted above, KPMG took a narrow view of what they consider a core service, and they would stick to that reasoning by stating that they have been “objective” and that this funding is neither mandated by other governments nor required to keep the city running day-to-day. Certainly, their sense of objective negates the obligation the City should have when dealing with vital public health concerns. In the case of this funding, it would likely be targeted as a whole, rather than selectively cut to exert a specific world view. But more to the point, all of the agencies and groups that receive City funding are leveraging that money into more funding from other governments and the private sector, and all are filling a vital need in our communities. While the cost of everything continues to rise, these agencies have seen their funding frozen and are trying to accomplish the same with less and less. Councillor McConnell opposes any cuts to this important funding.

    Thank you, once again, for your message and your support for our city. If you haven’t already done so, please make sure that you forward your concerns to the Mayor and other Councillors, to ensure that the voices of the people are heard at this critical time.

    Regards,

    Glenn

    ____________________

    Glenn Gustafson
    Executive Assistant
    Councillor Pam McConnell
    Toronto Centre – Rosedale, Ward 28
    100 Queen Street West, Suite A7
    Toronto, ON M5H 2N2
    Phone: 416-338-5158
    Fax: 416-392-7296
    Email: ggustaf@toronto.ca



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