On Thursday night, Rob Ford, the mayoral front-runner, said that he “hasn’t seen the benefits” of money sent to Toronto’s 13 priority neighbourhoods. Westonâ€“Mt. Dennis is one of those neighbourhoods.
In a debate with the other mayoral candidates, Ford said â€œI haven’t seen the benefits from these initiatives. As you know, I coach football in a priority neighbourhood and I haven’t seen the benefits. I wouldn’t commit to anything… If we aren’t seeing results…. I can’t sit here and say I’m going to keep throwing money away at an issue that’s not getting results.â€ Â According to The Star, he said “that as he has not yet seen any proof the initiative is working, he has trouble committing millions of city dollars to the program.”
Outgoing mayor David Miller says that scrapping the investments would be a “tragedy”. He says “the mayoral candidates should be competing to say how much more money theyâ€™ll put in. Thatâ€™s how important it isâ€. He watched the debate with â€œincredible frustration and distress because what I see is candidates who want to tear this city down”.
The priority neighbourhood plan was started in 2005, and Westonâ€“Mt Dennis was added to the list in 2006. The idea is to strengthen the most vulnerable neighbourhoods in Toronto by improving their community groups and social infrastructure , things like parks and play areas. The Jane St Hub, which will open next week, came to Weston as part of the initiative.
Joe Pantolone said “‘I would extend it, and I would expand it. The 13 neighbourhoods project has been very successful.”
George Smitherman extolled the community health centres he helped start as Health Minister and criticized the instability of funding to the neighbourhoods. He said, though, that funding shouldn’t be restricted to the 13 neighbourhoods: Â “I support priority neighbourhoods…. But I’m interested in priority people. I think you have to sustain those funds for priority neighbourhoods. But don’t stop there… It’s not good enough to tell those young people that are struggling to find community space [in other areas] that because they’re not on the list, they don’t matter”.
Rocco Rossi criticized Ford to loud applause and said “the programs are working and need to be expanded.”