The Coming Cuts & How To Stop Them: Migrants, Unions & the Fight for Public Services

On September 27th or shortly after, Rob Ford will put in place a plan to cut up to $800 million dollars from public services in Toronto. He will attempt to privatize TTC, public housing and more, shut down shelters, youth centres and arts programs and will begin charging fees for free public services. These changes will impact two communities the most: Migrant, undocumented, racialized and poor communities that use these services and unionized workers that provide them.

Unless we stop him.

We write today to inform our communities of the upcoming fight. Please see full details of the budget changes below. We are calling on unionized workers and community activists to organize fighting neighbourhood committees across the GTA to intervene in the ‘public engagement’ strategy. We ask that you commit to solidarity, mutual aid and respect in the struggle ahead. We insist that the fight now is not only to stop and reverse cuts to public services but to expand them, making them accountable and accessible to all people, irrespective of immigration status.

An escalating assault is being mounted against migrants and workers in this country. Good decent jobs are on the chopping block and the public services we rely on to survive are being gutted. Early this year Harper slashed $53 million in settlement services. He intends to spend $39 billion dollars on planes and $10 billion dollars on jailing our communities. At the same time the $11 billion hole in the Federal budget will require cuts healthcare, postal service and other workers to fill. The Ontario budget cut nearly 1,500 public service jobs and axed the Special Diet while giving a $2.4 billion dollar tax benefit to corporations. Robbing us of our wages, benefits and public services to pay for more corporate tax breaks, jails, cops and wars is what they call “Austerity”.

The worst impacts of coming cuts will be felt by those of us already shut out of public services, those without full immigration status, immigrants, people of color, those of us who experience the violence of police and border guards every day. For those of us without papers, with empty stomachs, working for slave wages, with peanuts in our pockets, the fight against austerity has always been ours. For those of us who don’t have the luxury of paying for education, health, food, housing, transit and recreational programs, the struggle against austerity is the struggle to live.

On May 1, 2011, nearly two thousand people took to the streets in the shadow of a Supreme Court of Canada decision to stop migrant farmworkers from unionizing – the latest in a series of attacks on unions and migrants (See reportback at The next day we saw right-wing, anti-immigrant Stephen Harper win a majority in Canadian parliament. We now face a federal government that will push through further racist immigration laws and dismantle basic support systems for our communities. In the months ahead, No One Is Illegal – Toronto will be keeping close watch on Harper and his cronies as we fight against Ford’s cuts. You can hear about breaking news at and follow our Cuts related facebook page at We will be using this as a central informational hub so please link these pages on your website and email strings.

On Tuesday, April 26, members of No One Is Illegal – Toronto packed into City Council Chambers side by side with CUPE Local 416 workers and union activists to defend 300 unionized solid waste jobs against privatization. Though 70 deputations argued late into the night against the privatization measure, the committee voted to pass the motion in a matter of minutes and the final decision is to come down on May 17-18. It is obvious that the Ford administration has already made up its mind to sell off, privatize and cut back essential services. It is just as obvious that we need to fight back. What we said to the Councillors at City Hall that day, we say here again: ‘This is just the beginning.’

We know that Public Sector Unions in Toronto, in Ontario and federally will fight against these cuts and these attacks. CUPE Local 416 and 79 are determining their responses. The Canadian Union of Postal Workers are in a legal strike position as of May 25th. In Toronto, a broad network of allies are beginning to speak about neighbourhood based organizing. A broad group of migrants, undocumented people and immigrants will be part of this effort.

It’s time to get organized. It’s time to build neighbourhood committees, organizing against local cuts and connected to a city, province and country wide mobilization against austerity. We need to meet in our community centres, in our schools, and in our parks, to create plans to challenge what’s coming at us from every turn. For the next few months, we at No One Is Illegal – Toronto commit to focusing our energies towards building a local movement for public services. In the proud history of the Union movement, we echo: An injury to one is an injury to all!

The Ford Austerity Agenda

– what he has already done –

  • Cancelled plans for an 11km railway line connected to the Spadina subway, shutting out 40,000 daily riders, low wage service workers, part-time and shift workers in the eastern Scarborough and Finch West areas.
  • Cut 41 weekend and late evening bus services – affecting mainly retail and service workers (industries with higher concentrations of migrant and undocumented workers.)
  • Spaces for homeless and vulnerable youth are being cut. Dufferin Mall Youth Services has been closed and many shelters are under severe financial pressure.
  • Shortened contracts for employment counsellors.
  • Sold twenty-one Toronto Public Housing homes.
  • Increased Toronto police salaries by 11.5% making the unaccountable Toronto police the highest paid police force in Canada.

– what he intends to do –

  • Pay $3 million dollars to consultants so that they can cut $530 to $775 Million from the City’s 2012 budget.
  • Cut off or privatize shelters, housing & support, solid waste management, transportation services, parks and recreational services, childcare, art funding, TTC and libraries. These services are primarily used by migrants, by poor and working people and by people of color.
  • Institute user fees, charging money for community services that were free until now. The Ford logic is that fees should be charged where “a service provides a direct benefit to specific users or groups of users.” What that means is that services that are beneficial *only* to immigrants or women or children or poor people will now have user fees.

– the Core Services review timeline –
(note: There are three reviews under way, Core Services, Efficiency and User fees but we are only ”allowed” to engage with the Core Services review)

  • May – June 2011: Web and phone surveys and by-registration focus groups
  • July 2011: Special Standing Committee Meetings on Core Services, Efficiency, User Fees and Childcare
  • August 2011: City managers report to Ford and his Cronies (aka Executive Committee)
  • September 2011: Executive Committee makes recommendations for cuts
  • September 2011: Special meeting of the entire City Council to set Budget directions for the next three years.

– public consultation around Parks and Recreational services –

  • Scarborough: May 11, 7 p.m. at Don Montgomery Community Recreation Centre – gym
  • North York: May 19, 7 p.m. at Mitchell Field Community Centre – gym
  • Etobicoke York: May 30, 7 p.m. at Etobicoke Olympium – gym
  • Toronto East York: June 9, 7 p.m. at Wellesley Community Centre – gym

No One Is Illegal-Toronto is an all volunteer, unfunded, grassroots migrant justice organization that fights for a decent livelihood, food, education, healthcare, childcare, shelter, accessible services, freedom of movement, justice and dignity for all people, particularly undocumented and migrant worker communities in Toronto. We also act in solidarity with Indigenous movements for self-determination and organize against wars, economic and  environmental attacks that push people out of their homes in the first place.

Check out our updated website:
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