Toronto’s students are experiencing overcrowded schools, growing levels of disrepair in schools, and systemic inequities caused by decades of underfunding during a period of unprecedented urban growth.
This report contains original research outlining the growth of Toronto’s urban development and population, the history of Educational Development Charges, how the missing money has impacted students and their families, case studies of how unfunded development leads to overcrowding and lays out the solution. Research co-sponsored by the Broadbent Institute, Fix Our Schools, Progress Toronto.
This original research is part of our Solving the Parent Trap policy series on education, childcare and inequities during COVID featuring ideas from Janet Davis, Nigel Barriffe, Marit Stiles, Beyhan Fahardi, Maria Dobrinskaya and is edited by Katrina Miller and Brittany Andrew-Amofah.
Toronto’s public schools are short hundreds of millions in dollars that ought to have been collected for infrastructure according to a report released today, “The Missing Money Our Schools Need Now: Education Development Charges in Toronto.”
The report finds that developers paid zero dollars in Educational Development Charges (EDCs) to Toronto’s public schools for over 20 years. Over the same period, the Toronto Catholic District School Board collected and invested EDC revenue of over $204 million. The cause is an antiquated provincial regulation that excludes the TDSB but not the TCDSB from collecting from developers.
COVID-19 has parents, teachers and school boards looking for solutions to problems including overcrowding in schools, working windows, inadequate lunchroom space, dated HVAC systems, long bus rides and systemic inequities.
Fix Our Schools, the Broadbent Institute and Progress Toronto launched a petition calling on the Ontario Government to amend the provincial regulation and allow the Toronto District School Board to begin collecting development charges and invest immediately in school retrofits, repairs and expansions.
“The overcrowded and crumbling schools in growing neighbourhoods is an equity issue. Toronto had 150 over-capacity schools before the COVID-19 shutdown and the pandemic has only exposed the public health risk of packed schools and infrastructure that is in disrepair. The missing money is creating another systemic barrier standing in the way of building healthy, inclusive communities, at the expense of equity-seeking communities.” Saman Tabasinejad, Progress Toronto
“We can fix our schools by fixing this outdated regulation. Our schools are old and cramped because developers exploited a loophole, pocketing hundreds of millions that should have gone to make our kids’ schools safe.” Katrina Miller, Broadbent Institute
“Our call for action has support from left-wing City Councillors to Conservative MPPs. Developers profit from building near good public schools and transit. These same developers ought to contribute monetarily to this public infrastructure. The fact that developers in Toronto have gotten away for so long without contributing one penny to public schools is maddening when so many Toronto schools are overcrowded and in disrepair.” Krista Wylie, Fix Our Schools
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Majority say they may not vote Liberal if government does not announce changes
New information from a survey commissioned by the Broadbent Institute shows that a majority of Canadians (54 per cent) want to see the federal government announce bold new ideas for how to fundamentally improve people’s lives and deal with climate change in next week’s throne speech. The desire for major changes is consistent across Canada and across the political spectrum. This is likely informed by the fact that only 19 per cent of Canadians think the worst of the pandemic is behind us and 65 per cent believe the pandemic has highlighted problems with how the economy and social programs are run that require major changes.
The survey, carried out by Abacus Data, also shows there is a political price to pay for inaction. Half say they will definitely or probably not vote Liberal if they do not present a plan with new ideas.
“Nearly half of Canadians think the worst of this pandemic is yet to come,” says Rick Smith, executive director of the Broadbent Institute. “People are worried, they want to see major action to address this worry, and there will be a political price to pay for any political party that doesn’t act accordingly.”
According to Canadians, the plan should include:
Help to build up Canada’s ability to produce key products like food and medical supplies domestically (74 per cent).
Investments to strengthen our health system including universal public pharmacare (70 per cent).
Focuses on helping people and doesn’t allow corporations to set the agenda and benefit the most from the recovery (67 per cent).
Increasing or creating new taxes on Canada’s richest people (60 per cent).
“The pandemic has highlighted many aspects of the economy and society that Canadians feel are not working right. From finding a good job to preparing for retirement to finding affordable housing – many recognize that the pandemic has made life harder,” says David Coletto, chief executive officer of Abacus Data. “There is clear majority support for new ideas to improve the problems the pandemic has exposed. Most Canadians expect strong action from the government.”
45 per cent of Canadians believe the worst of the pandemic is still to come, while only 19 per cent believe the worst is behind us.
The survey found broad support for a new wealth tax on the wealthiest multi-millionaires and billionaires in Canada (76 per cent) and for a new tax on corporations who have made large profits during the pandemic (73 per cent).
Most Canadians think the economic and social well-being of youth, racialized Canadians, and women have been negatively impacted. In contrast, almost all Canadians (82 per cent) believe that the wealth of Canada’s richest people is better off or has not been impacted by the pandemic.
The Broadbent Institute is Canada’s leading progressive, independent organization championing change through the promotion of democracy, equality, and sustainability and the training of a new generation of leaders.
Seth Klein, former Director of the BC office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, is not the first to draw an analogy between war and the needed response to the global climate crisis. But his just-published new book, A Good War: Mobilizing for the Climate Emergency (ECW Press, 2020) stands out as a sustained and closely argued attempt to show that we can and must act on an almost unprecedented scale, drawing on the lessons of Canada in World War Two.
Klein begins by attacking the new climate denialism, the view that half measures like putting a price on carbon are sufficient to avert a climate catastrophe. Indeed, we have made almost no progress to date in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions at a national or global level. While the oil and gas industry, the banks and vested economic interests generally have worked to block effective action, there has also been a major failure on the part of political and even civil society leadership to effectively galvanize the public.
The war analogy and a close analysis of the World War Two experience provide grounds for optimism that big things can be accomplished given political will and popular support. Canada, almost overnight, became a major industrial power providing ships, planes and trucks as well as troops to the allied war effort. We went quickly from the Great Depression to full employment. Despite the sacrifices, such as rationing, living standards for many workers improved considerably due to abundant jobs, the rise of mass industrial unions, and expanded social programs such as mothers’ allowances and unemployment insurance.
When it came to financing the war, what had to be done was indeed done. Federal government debt soared, financed by the sale of billions of dollars of Victory Bonds to the public, with the assistance of the Bank of Canada which also directly financed war spending. Excess corporate profits were taxed heavily, personal income taxes were made much more progressive, and an inheritance tax was levied on large fortunes. The shift of productive capacity back to civilian use after the war ensured that the war debt fell quickly.
Klein shows in great deal that the war economy was essentially a planned, democratic socialist economy. Indeed it was lauded as such by Tommy Douglas and the CCF. All production was subordinated to the war effort, with resources allocated by central planners, including the famous “dollar a year” men seconded to the government by business. There was a major expansion of public ownership as crown corporations were established to build capacity where none had existed. Klein argues that the usual constraints of a so-called free market economy were cast aside, though the private sector still continued to exist as a means to an end.
Advocates of a Green New Deal such as Klein have argued that dealing with the climate crisis also requires climate justice, a full-scale assault on inequality to build social solidarity. This was largely achieved in war time. Today, climate justice will further entail recognition of Indigenous rights and taking the goal of just transition from the oil and gas economy for workers and communities very seriously.
It is often argued that painting too dark a picture of the magnitude of the climate crisis and playing up the scale of the needed transition works against effective mobilization of the public. Klein disagrees, though he is very aware of the dilemma, and manages to convey a great sense of optimism that radical change is both feasible and desirable.
The book does raise some questions for needed further discussion. First, how much resistance can one expect from corporate Canada to a radical economic agenda? To the extent that some in the corporate elite such as Mark Carney understand and are prepared to mitigate the climate crisis, the test will be the need to frontally challenge private control of investment. However, there are rather few signs that corporate Canada is prepared to really break from the dominant model of extractivism and staples driven economic growth.
Lastly, how does the global political economy constrain policies for climate justice in Canada? Klein rightly notes the need to support transition in the global south, but he says little about the constraints of trade and investment agreements, the pressures of competition from countries, like the United States, which remain wedded to the production and use of carbon, and the lack of national control over international capital flows.
Seth Klein's book should be read by all those who recognize the daunting scale of the climate crisis, and want to help build a movement which will lead to real change.
Andrew Jackson is the former Chief Economist of the Canadian Labour Congress and the Senior Policy Advisor to the Broadbent Institute.
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