Ford’s Danzig Approach

From the Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale:

McGuinty’s government announced last year that it was giving another $10 million to TAVIS over two years, bringing the total to about $35 million since 2006. McGuinty suggested Tuesday that expiring funding for programs in Toronto’s 13 “priority neighbourhoods” could now be extended, but Ford indicated Wednesday that he is not interested in the offer.

“I don’t really believe that handing out free money is a solution,” Ford said.

On this, Ford is at least consistent, even if it’s an ideologically knee-jerk response. He recently voted against no-strings-attached provincial grant money for youth outreach workers and voted against six community grant programs (including violence prevention programs) in both 2011 and 2012. For 10 of those 12 votes he was the sole dissenter.

Ford said quite a bit on the Arlene Bynon Show (Talk 640) last night (last ten minutes):

FORD: I’m going to hopefully meet with the Prime Minister to see if they can toughen our gun laws. Once they’re charged and they go to jail, the most important thing is I don’t want them living in the city. They can go anywhere else, but I don’t want them in the city.

BYNON: How are you going to get them out of the city?

FORD: I don’t know and that’s what I’m going to sit down with the Prime Minister and figure out how our immigration laws work. Obviously I have an idea, but whatever I can do to get them out of the city I’m going, regardless if they have family or friends [here], I don’t want people convicted of a gun crime to have anything to do with the city of Toronto.

BYNON: You know, you’ve also said jobs might help over social programs, why do you feel that way? I mean, some of these people are criminals, they may not want a job.

FORD: Well it’s a proven fact that we had the most murders in the city at the same time as the most grants. I think we handed out over $50 million that year in grants. Throwing money at the problem and having these, I call them, ‘hug-a-thug’ programs, they just do not work…..

BYNON: Why do you think they do it [violent crime]?

FORD: They have too much time on their hands. I think they think it’s the cool thing to do. I just don’t think they’ve learned their lesson.

To be fair, Ford also added some nuance. He said blaming single-parent families is a ‘cop-out’ and while he agreed that exploring a stop and frisk policy for Toronto is worth looking into, he stopped short of supporting it. But this isn’t enough.

Overall the comments show Ford still lacks the nuance needed to tackle such a delicate and difficult problem. This single-minded focus is an asset on the campaign trail, but does not help the understanding of municipal governance (grants) or how to solve systemic issues like the ones that give rise to Danzig Street.

Over at OpenFile, Septembre Anderson looks beyond the surface issues:

While the problem is multi-faceted and the roots many, the causes of violence are well-known. Rampant poverty, insufficient and underfunded social services, a well-maintained pipeline to prison, a disengaging education system (that breeds illiteracy in the broadest sense), the absence of employment opportunities, misdiagnosed or undiagnosed mental health illnesses, and racism and discrimination that lead to feelings of alienation, isolation, anger, frustration and a yearning for a stake in Canadian society. All of these factors have played a contributing role in maintaining and preserving this cycle of destruction. In other words, these conditions create a “miserable, undesirable life” for residents of these communities already.

Rob Ford is right when he says more jobs for youth in the inner suburbs would alleviate violence. However, he is wrong to dismiss approaches that do not fit within his ideological worldview. The solutions to crime, poverty, racial discrimination and so many other issues need every policy tool at their disposal, not just a hostile ‘War on Gangs’.

If I was the Mayor’s speechwriter, this would be the statement I would write:

What happened on Danzig Street was tragic and difficult to comprehend. A community came together for a celebration and instead this incident, with it’s accompanying deep-seated issues, tore it apart.

I wish I could give you an easy answer to overcome the overwhelming grief and anxiety that currently grips Toronto. But there’s no easy answer in the face of such complex issues. Some people will point to broken homes or not enough police presence, while others will ask how social programs can fill in the gaps some communities face. Others have questioned the value of the priority neighbourhood program, or asked whether youth should be out at night at all, or used unfortunate racial stereotypes.

We owe it to ourselves to use our best approach: a thorough and thoughtful look at underlying issues that seek solutions more than blame. Let’s evaluate the programs we have, look at what works and what doesn’t, and seek creative solutions from within the community and beyond our city. This wide-ranging approach is what will do justice to the task at hand.

In the meantime the police will ensure that whoever committed this heinous act will be brought in and have to respond to the law.

Of course, this isn’t enough on it’s own. We have to move forward together to solve these systemic issues, just like the late Joshua Yasay contributed to his community through his outreach. Even if we aren’t him, we should approach the issue in our daily lives with the consideration and due thought it deserves. We need to challenge ourselves to think about what makes our city better, and that includes our attitudes and perspectives on parts of the city we many not interact with that much. It’s not easy, but it’s worthwhile, and it’s how we can best come together.

Also worth a view is this Global Toronto video of Ford resisting questions asking him to explain his opposition to community grants.


, Poverty, Violence

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