Torontonians are making do as the city workers’ strike drags on. The fact is, though, some people find it easier to make do than others.
Money is the most obvious demarcation line between the citizens struggling to get by and those who are only mildly inconvenienced by the loss of city-operated programs and services.
Toronto’s exclusive Granite Club, for instance, is applying for a permit to dispose of garbage dropped off by its members. Such are the privileges of membership with a $53,000 initiation fee. The affluent can also escape to cottages where their children swim and canoe in glittering lakes.
Meanwhile, the 31 per cent of Toronto children who live in poverty are left to navigate garbage-strewn streets and gaze longingly at city pools that are closed. City recreation programs are cancelled. And the parks these children play in are doubling as garbage depots.
While the city’s poorest kids are the most obvious strike victims, women come a close second.
In a society where mothers still shoulder most of the responsibility for family organization, they are the ones frantically seeking alternatives to the strikebound city-run child-care centres.
“We’ve had a lot of calls from people checking out the possibilities,” says Bonnie Doucette, director of the privately-operated Green Apple Kids child-care centre. “They are mostly women and there are notes of desperation in some of their voices.”
Less obviously, the strike also has the potential to undermine the sense that we live in a safe, secure community. Police Chief Bill Blair fuelled such anxieties this week when he warned the cancellation of youth programs, particularly in troubled neighbourhoods, may lead to “bad choices” by idle young people.
But security and safety can be undermined in more subtle ways. Dishevelled parks, litter-strewn streets and random piles of rancid garbage, for instance, fuel the impression of a city where basic societal norms are being flouted and where nobody is in charge. The lack of substantive negotiations between the unions and the city suggest this impression is perilously close to reality.