More than 100 people gathered in a lecture hall at the College of New Caledonia Tuesday evening to hear about Toronto’s core service review experience.
CUPE 399 and 1048 along with the Stand Up for the North Committee and the CNC Faculty Association sponsored the event “A Critical Look at Core Service Reviews: The Toronto Experience” with the goal of learning from another community’s core service review.
Community organizer Sean Meagher was the guest speaker and told the audience about Toronto’s core service review and their experience with KPMG.
Meagher suggests that core service reviews have a bias for the lowest common denominator and that they aim to cut and contract out services not improve communities.
Meagher also pointed out several flaws with the Toronto Core Service Review and the ‘opportunities’ which KPMG suggested. One of the most notable was KPMG’s suggestion to sell off the City’s Zoo, perhaps an idea that Council could have entertained if they owned either the land that the Zoo was built on or the animals in the Zoo. Meagher said as it turned out the only part of the Zoo that the City owned was the cages.
However, Meagher said that what really turned things around in Toronto was the public talking with their city councillors. Torontonians held their own meetings and demonstrations and spoke directly to their councillors about what was going on in their neighbourhoods and how they would be affected.
He says that one of the reasons this worked was the diverse message from the public. Library users spoke about libraries, transit users spoke about transit even homeless men defended the shelters they lived in.
“Those diverse voices all added up to one message, which was the core service review wasn’t working.”
Peter Ewart from the Stand Up for the North Committee also gave a presentation which outlined ten issues with the Prince George core service review. These ranged from the disproportionate cost Prince George spent on the review to the complexity of the online surveys to the lack of input from community group besides the business community.
“It’s astonishing when you see all the similarities between the two reviews”, says CUPE 1048 president Janet Bigelow. “The main message I took away from the meeting was the need for our community to have an open discussion about what we want our city to be like. That will be the goal of the Town Hall meeting we are going to host after the final core service review report has been released.”
This event also took place in Victoria Monday evening which is a community that is just beginning a core review process. The City of Victoria sent out a request for proposal in mid-July and has since awarded the contract to Maximus Canada. No further details have been announced to date.