Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Is Food Bank Simply Photo Op For Council?

Posted by auroracitizen on January 13, 2010

Council Watch – issue #2, by Richard Johnson

What does it say about our collective priorities when Aurora Council donates not a single penny or a single square foot of vacant space to the Aurora Food Pantry?

The Town of Aurora spent tens of thousands of dollars on renovations at the town hall for offices that are not even used, they have increased funding for the arboretum despite the fact that less than half of last year’s budget was used, the town has incurred hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal charges that include some costs that the recently fired integrity commissioner suggested could be “politically motivated’ and groundless, the town has tens of thousands of dollars for a new cultural center, it has millions upon millions of dollars for new sports and recreation facilities and even money for a dog walking park. With the incredible resources at our disposal the best our town council can do to assist the most needy people in our community is to have the Mayor and a few of her friends dress up in Halloween costumes and ask the good people of Aurora to donate generously to the Food Pantry.

When Richmond Hill sold its power company they bought a fifteen year lease for their Food Bank in a Salvation Army building. Newmarket donated space in the old Town Hall to their Food Bank and when the Food Bank relocated recently the Council offered a contribution towards the next two year’s rent.

When Aurora sold our power company at a profit of over $34 million we set nothing aside for the food Pantry and when the Pantry explored the potential use of town space sitting vacant they were told that the town can offer nothing more than a one year guarantee given that the town does not seem to have any clear plan for the large inventory of vacant municipal space. Of course that logic did not stop the Cultural Centre from getting its new facility at great expense or the Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) from getting its new offices.  One has to wonder where our priorities are. The baseball field is being built, the soccer dome is being supported to the tune of $100,000 per annum, our trails are getting an overhaul and yet at the same time the town does not have a single dime for the food pantry that feeds sixty families all year long.

One can only hope that in the upcoming municipal election at least some people will see fit to ask those seeking office where they stand with regards to the town making more than just a token gesture of support through a photo op and news story asking the good people of Aurora to step to the plate. If we are lucky, maybe the next council will lead by example. I have to believe that if there is a will there is a way for the town to do more, but at the same time that is precisely what worries me.

Richard Johnson

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22 Responses to “Is Food Bank Simply Photo Op For Council?”

  1. Richard Johnson said

    More of our town’s money spent on good works… without a single dime being set asside for the food bank or other social services. Look at this quote from a recent Banner Story entitled “Nature reserve added to trail link design”, Jan 19, 2009 by Sean Pearce:

    “More than $30,000 has been spent on consultations and it’s time for a decision, she (Buck) said.

    More has been spent through staff costs and the project’s total budget is pegged at $335,000.

    “This has all been avoidance of making a decision,” Ms Buck said. “It says (in the report) that the seniors there are concerned about this and we should pay attention to the seniors’ valid concerns and that is how this council works.”

    The fact is, the plans for the Nokiidaa Trail have been on the books for many years, Ms Buck said, adding that, to the north, Newmarket has already completed its portion of the trail link, extending down toward Aurora.

    “There’s no reason why the town shouldn’t have made a decision yet,” she said.

    “You can’t please everyone all of the time. At some point you have to do something and, so far, we have spent about $50,000 on talking and done nothing.”

    • Brickbat Returns said

      Maybe we should start adding up all the monies on studies that are second and third on the same issue and where this money is going .

      The Petch House is a fine example of someone is getting paid and nothing is happening .

      We should have a report on why there are so many reports .

      This would be after we study why there are so many studies.

      How many friends can The Mayor or the GOS have .

      Oh I know the answer ,bullies only have bullies as friends .

      Bullies only think of themselves at ALL costs .

  2. evelyn buck said

    Now that food banks are an item of discussion, it occurs to me to wonder why there has not been a request for space made to the town before now?

    Since the Seniors moved out of their old facility, a group of parents have been operating a facility there for children who don’t fit in anywhere else. They are there on a month to month basis and it has turned into years.. There is no sign of any decision being made on those buildings.

    If the food bank wants to move out of their current space which everyone agrees is awful, Why have they not approached the town? Even since the discussion started here. why are they not coming forward? What is holding them back?

    I am certain of at least four votes to support such a request and I would be surprised if there were not more.

    Why are they not asking?

    We have eleven thousand dollars in the budget for a fence around the new garden for the York Regional Food Network this year. The parks department ploughs the ground and we provide mulch No rent is charged by the town.

    The old library is heated ,has lighting and is maintained .There is unused space in the building. It’s on a bus route. Again I ask,why have the people operating the food bank not asked for space before now?

    What’s holding them back?

    • Richard Johnson said

      “Why are they not asking”… that is an excellent question Councillor. I heard they had asked but there does seem to be some confusion on this front.

      The Food Pantry was apparently told that vacant town owned space could not be committed to for over a one year period because the town was not sure what they wanted to do with its vacant space. One would hope that some kind of plan is in the works and that space could be made available for critical social services given that environmental and cultural groups have already had their space needs accommodated for by the town.

      Given that the Mayor was recently dressed up in a costume asking for donations to the Food Pantry she can’t very well claim that she was unaware of the need.

      I also think that the York Region Food Network has asked for support from the Region but apparently they have received little or no support. As our Regional Council representative, the Mayor should also be aware of the requests that have been made at the Region.

      Maybe someone from the town should look into what it can do to support social services in the Region. I’m actually surprised that thought has not already occurred to anyone given all of the resources we pour into so many other community building initiatives.

  3. Richard Johnson said

    Check out this interesting find on CBC News regarding our New Integrity Commisisoner:

    ‘Tsubouchi diet’ causes uproar
    Broadcast Date: Oct. 20, 1995

    It’s a crash diet that is threatening to burn the new Ontario government. Rookie social services minister David Tsubouchi, overseeing drastic cuts to the province’s welfare system, has already infuriated opponents by suggesting welfare recipients could make ends meet by haggling with shopkeepers over tins of tuna. Now he’s published a welfare shopping list that includes pasta without sauce, bread without butter, and the elusive 69-cent tuna can. Critics are calling it “the nanny state at its worst.”

    LINK: http://archives.cbc.ca/politics/provincial_territorial_politics/clips/12459/

  4. White Knight said

    Since when did a town advisory committee have its own offices? When I was on one there certainly wasn’t anything like that.

    • evelyn buck said

      No town advisory committee has its own office. There is an environmental orgamnaisation, regional I believe, with Susan Walmer involved in an office in one of the houses in Sheppard Bush.

      The town provides all the maintenance that is provided in that facility. We are not compensated.

      A new management plan agreed to by Council indicates the conservation authority expects to have revenue of $240Ks annually.I asked if the money was expected to come from Aurora. The answer was not clear.

      I believe other organisations have space in one of the buildings.

      One day I will tell the story of Sheppards Bushand what it cost the townwhen it was “donated” to the Ontario Heritage Foundation in return for its assessed value as industrially designated land in tax relief to its owner.

      The food bank needs a location readily accessible to public transit. The old library building would be perfect. We are maintaining it with heat and light etc and making minimal use of it, I understand.

    • Richard Johnson said

      The Town of Aurora as well as LSRCA maintain The Sheppard House located at 93A Industrial Parkway South. The Windfall Ecology Center as well as Save the Oak Ridges Moraine (S.T.O.R.M.) occupy offices there and I was under the impression that EAC also uses these facilities, however I am not sure if EAC pays rent or financially supports the recent renovations out of the monies given to it by the town.

      I fully appreciate the importance of maintaining heritage homes as well as supporting various worthy environmental causes, but my point is that there are other causes that one would think would also be supported by the town with a higher, or at least equal, priority; namely the Aurora Food Pantry as well as other social services.

      On a related note, have you ever seen the Petch log cabin on Leslie, just south of Wellington ? Council is currently exploring (at a cost of thousands of dollars for the report) various options, but there is a chance that they could spend between $100,000 and $500,000 on this 165 year old structure that is seriously deteriorating. The house could lose its historical designation if they restore the building as may be required and it could cost $100,000 just to relocate it. Having studied history I fully appreciate the need to maintain and protect our heritage, but once again I am trying to rationalize our priorities when one considers the town does absolutely nothing for the Food Pantry other than ask others to give.

      It is a matter of weighing priorities as far as I am concerned.

    • Richard Johnson said

      While taking a closer look at Sheppard House, I noticed the interconnection of Sue Walmer, Evelina MacEachern and Debbie Schaffer through The Sheppard House, STORM, EAC, CCKT and MegaWHAT.

      This appears to be a very close circle and it would explain a whole lot about how they handled the power supply issue and how Evelina’s role on council played out. I could not understand why some people appeared to refuse to even hear the facts or take the time to better understand the issue but it appears that there may have been interpersonal relationships and quite likely, preferred pre-determined outcomes all along. The facts did not matter and these ladies have to accept a large dose of responsibility for the outcome, which is not at all what it could have been.

      I guess that none of this should surprise me.

  5. Anna said

    Richard, now regarding what you said: ‘I would also like to suggest that the fact that there were no food banks fifty years ago in York Region does not mean there was not the need.’

    I didn’t grew up in the York Region, but 25-30 years ago I recall that where we lived, there were many that needed assistance, and neighbors would help each other. We lived on the semi-farm, so many times we would give fruits and vegetables, or even eggs, milk and poultry to those who had lots of children. The help was much more invisible then.

    You know Richard, you already said it, the cost of living is sky rocking, but the incomes are not, and many are losing jobs. The companies are gouging customers, unexpected fee increases, energy bill increases etc. I can see where one could have a very difficult time.

    But there is always a second side to the story, there are families that take the advantage of these services, it’s free and why not. This is something I can speak from experience (…no it’s not me).

    This topic can be a very lengthy one ….

    Anna [Living in Aurora Blogger]

    • Richard Johnson said

      I agree with you anna, but I would be happy to give to a few people that may not really need the help as much as others if it meant that those that REALLY need the help are not denied. It’s a fine line but I think that most people would not take food freely unless they had to.

      There was a great story on CBC Radio’s The Current this morning on this very topic. Check out the podcast on CBC.ca and note the lengths that the guest has to go to in order to survive. The food bank service is (sadly) critical !

      “18/01/10: Pt 3 – Seniors & Nutrition

      The United States has had a national policy on nutrition for seniors since the Nixon Administration. As for Canada? No such legislation. And some say that’s to the detriment of Canadian seniors.

      Right click to Download 18/01/10: Pt 3 – Seniors & Nutrition
      [mp3 file: runs 27:49]”

  6. Anna said

    Evelyn, sorry you misunderstood me. I don’t think you are pointing fingers. My statement was general, and now that I re-read your comment I kind of know where you are coming from. I just wished and think that there was a bit more initiative, and more ‘creativity’ from all sides on this matter. You made some really good points about the need of the food bank being a social disgrace in such an affluent society. Yes, there was no food banks twenty years ago. And this is interesting too, you asked – Why is it that people in receipt of social assistance do not have enough to put food on the table? The food bank is a great idea, and I supported many times, however, like you pointed out, we need to know what is the real issue. Food bank does not fixes long term problems. It is a temporarily bandage. That is why I think we need creativity and initiative to figure out what is the real root cause for one to need food bank’s support: loss of job, poor money management, too much spending, non-healthy life style (we know junk food is addictive), smoking and drinking may be another cost. Too me, and I know for the fact, because I met families like that – is all that above, not enough discipline to change also, and lack of knowledge. To me creating free social programs for those in need such as – skills upgrade aid, money management free seminars for those in need, how to spend your money wisely, may be eating habits free seminars for those in need. (May be we have this already, but I wouldn’t know.) Education, knowledge, discipline are some of the keywords. If a family lives and depends its food source from the food bank all through life of the child, there is a chance that child will repeat the same lifestyle. And yes children are affected, but they are also taught to be like that. I know it cannot be easy for those families, but putting food in front of them is a short term fix to me. I think we all know this saying: If You Give a Man a Fish He can eat for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he can eat for a lifetime. Here are some examples. I seen families that will complain of not having enough food yet they can afford Tim Horton large coffee, they can afford premium TV cable packages, cigarettes (this one totally blows me away) etc. but not enough food for children – why even bother being a parent? Other example are banks, television and telephone companies. They offer these great deals, sell them to the poor because they are the easiest to convince.

    Evelyn, I told you this topic can go on and on, lol. Sorry for misunderstanding, and these were very good questions brought to the table.

    Anna [Living in Aurora Blogger]

    • evelyn buck said

      Anna..
      the need for food banks became more pressing when Mike harris took over the government of Ontario from Bob Rae in the mid nineties.

      David Tsubouchi was Minister of Community and Social Services and presided over twenty-two per cent cuts in welfare assistance
      .
      In debate in the legislature he stated mothers on assistance should negotiatet with supermarket managers for the price of dentedcans of tuna. he also said they had several weeks notice to find jobs before the cuts came into effect.

      The name was changed from social assistance to workfare. They said they would provide resources to get imothers into the work force.

      Single parents receive assistance only because they have dependent children.

      Children are the primary recipients.The current government decided they would go after “dead-beat” dads. Again it was the mothers and children who bore the brunt.

      No civilised society argues that children without resources should have to beg for food.

      It is the symbolism of a food bank.Like the Victorian concept of the poor and undeserving.

      It’s a complete reversal of the philosophy of Ontario’s government during the sixties and sevnties when the emphasis was on human dignity and breaking the welfare cycle by providing privacy and promoting self worth to break the generational dependence on public assistance.
      Of course there are people who exploit the system.There is greed and mendacity in every sector of our society. As the cost of some services grwo out of control less is available for the people with the greatest need and the least political clout.

      Those who know how to manipulate politicians. Hold them to ransom.the more they get, the less funds are available for the ones on the bottom. Social housing and other programs are dimished and disappear.

      And the need for food banks grow proportionately.

  7. Anna said

    Richard, thank you so much for your reply. It tells you how much I know what is going on behind the scenes, lol. Hope everything works out for the lady who is doing the current media relations job. I personally think that information flow in our town is good and I don’t see a further need in this area. Thanks for the updates Richard, appreciated. Anna [Living in Aurora Blogger]

  8. Anna said

    May be I will add few cents of mine, lol, hopefully they will count. A very interesting post, and lot of good points made. I really think that there should be money or free space automatically allocated to the food bank pantry without asking. Aurora will be a better living place if we all work together, and help each other, as oppose to point fingers. According to Richard’s post, looks like society very well accepted this: ‘rich get richer, poor get poorer’.

    BTW last time I visited here I forgot to say how interesting this blog is. The other day I was reading an article in Aurora about hiring new media relations person for 75-95 K – I rather put my tax dollars here. Well done!

    Anna [Living in Aurora Blogger]

    • Richard Johnson said

      Hi Anna:

      Thanks for your feed back.

      The interesting thing about the change in direction with regards to the town’s media relations / spokesperson is that the lady doing essentially the same job for the past eight years has to reapply for her own job. She has done a great job but the powers that be tweaked the job description just enough (in their mind at least) to require a new set of skills.

      It sounds to me like there could be grounds for an effective dismissal lawsuit, but I’ll leave that to the parties involved to asses with their lawyers if they so wish. It all seems very consistent with the “new and improved” style of management in Aurora.

      As far as my above posting is concerned, I think the same logic could be applied to any number of other social services that are offered or required in York Region. We could do a lot more as a town but the town is leaving it to others, which does say something about their priorities as far as I am concerned.

    • evelyn buck said

      Anne
      A recent letter to the editor took Council to task for the shabby and unsuitable location of the food bank.
      A subsequent letter from a food bank spokesperson apologised for the letter writer’s misunderstanding of the situation and acknowledged support from the town.
      I am not pointing a finger at anyone when I give advice about how to get consideration for use of a town facility. I understand there is space available in the old library building. The location would be convenient. Trinity Anglican Church provides services as well. It would be ideal and i would be surprised if the majority of council would not support such a request.
      My own feeling is the need for food banks in such an affluent society is a social disgrace.
      There were no food banks twenty years ago. How is it that people earning low wages do not have sufficient resources to feed their families.
      Why is it that people in receipt of social assistance do not have enough to put food on the table.
      Where is the respect for human dignity when people are obliged to accept free food.
      I think the problem is far greater than a suitable location for a food bank.
      Supporting food banks may make affluent people feel better about themselves.
      The majority of the poor are Canadian children .
      What are we teaching them about self-worth and dignity by making them dependent on food banks to keep body and soul together.

    • Richard Johnson said

      Evelyn:

      Regarding your quote: “What are we teaching them about self-worth and dignity by making them dependent on food banks to keep body and soul together.”

      I’m not sure I totally agree with what you are saying here. We’re not making anyone dependant, we are giving those in need a helping hand and demonstrating that we care. Many people use the food bank in order to pass through a difficult stage in their lives and thank goodness the resources are there for them. There is no loss in dignity when one receives assistance in a time of need.

      I would also like to suggest that the fact that there were no food banks fifty years ago in York Region does not mean there was not the need.

  9. someone who loves this town more than politics said

    The Environmental Advisory Committee got new offices? oh come on now, what Hippocrates. Aren’t they supposed to be advising the town on conservation and how to do more with less? What a dud this committee has become.

    As for the Food Pantry it is my understanding that one of the councilors was not aware of the location of the Aurora Food Pantry when asked at the Aurora Farmers Market to assist in delivering donated food this past summer.

    I’m not going to say who it was, but it certainly illustrate where the priorities are.

    Token gestures, photo-ops, throwing support behind wholly political groups during their fund-raising efforts for the food pantry have already helped those clamoring for positive press, but done little for the Pantry itself. Getting your picture taken with volunteers doesn’t make you one. Why don’t these plastic people get their hands dirty once and awhile and get involved in their community.

    I’d like to get Nigel’s and Evelyn’s thoughts on this one as they are the only ones who seem to have the courage to enter into a public discussion here on the real issues. The struggling in Aurora is a big one.

    It is my opinion that going forward Aurora needs a “real” team, not some boyband-wanabe “wet dream” team.

    • David Heard said

      I believe any citizen who knows me somewhat does indeed have an idea as to my opinions and direction as to outreach .

      In York Region we have in excess of TEN THOUSAND homeless and a growing number of working class poor .

      There are so many events , volunteers ,and outreach right here in Aurora and I would like to ask the moderator of the Aurora Citizen if I may guest post to bring these amazing causes and events to the attention of citizens and to those who may need this information passed on .

      I am familiar with many as I have been involved with several and some on a daily basis for several years now .

      Aurora is a wonderful Town and so many caring people but there is tons ,yes tons more we can do .

      Many many months ago I met with a Councillor and spoke about my concearn about the “Aurora Food Pantry “.

      Let me just give you perspective of a student I spoke to recently .

      “So this is a place where people come for help and its in a basement and there are bars on the windows “.

      Yes that is a true conversation .

      Sounds more like a dungeon or a prison but then again if you are down it may seem like that .

      We need to make these people smile and ” Reach out ” to them and that is what community is all about .

      “PEACE IN “

    • David, we would welcome your post — as we would welcome any other contributor. Please email it to input@auroracitizen.ca

      Thanks for your concern and community involvement.

  10. evelyn buck said

    The Town’s budget is a reflection of Council’s priorities. It cannot it be seen otherwise. Council obviously believes their collective decisions are a reflection of the communities priorities. They may be right. Only an election will provide an answer.
    The fact is however, the food bank in Aurora has not requested space or assistance in finding space from the Town.I am very sure if space was requested,there would be support

    Whether support would be sufficient, can only be determined if a request is made.

    People who use food banks do not normally represent a cache of votes. But people who understand the desperate need can certainly make their presence felt.

    Delegation status is normally granted on request.

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