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May 10, 2001
Social development community consultation report finds local government most effective in meeting social needs
Community & Neighbourhood Services -- The City of Toronto is
considered the most effective level of government in understanding and meeting
social needs but it faces major challenges in protecting Toronto's quality of
life, according to a new report on social development. Preserving Our Civic
Legacy, which was prepared for the City of Toronto by the Community Social
Planning Council of Toronto (CSPC-T), reports on a three-month community
consultation process.

The report was released today at a news conference at City Hall by Councillor
Irene Jones chair of City Council's Social Development Strategy Steering

"As we emerge from the 2001 budget process, this report gives us an excellent
insight into the problems facing our communities and our city," said Councillor
Jones. "It tells us that if we are going to maintain our quality of life, we
have to invest in services for people, build the capacity of communities, and
make sure other levels of government accept their proper roles."

The report outlines the findings of 22 focus groups organized throughout the
city in November, December and January by the CSPC-T. Over 265 community
leaders, service providers and planners were brought together to discuss the
goals, principles and strategic directions of the draft Social Development
Strategy adopted by City Council in August 2000.

Both local-area sessions and city-wide, sectoral focus groups were held. The
report will be used to help develop more specific strategic directions for the
City's role in social development and to inform other City strategic documents
such as the Strategic Plan and the Official Plan.

Among the report's findings:
  • a growing polarization and inequality has become evident in Toronto during the past five years, and the city and the community have a diminishing capacity to address social conditions
  • major social vulnerabilities are not concentrated in pockets of the city but spread to communities in all parts of Toronto
  • growing deficiencies in social support, a serious decline in basic living standards, and limited access to education and training were identified as major sources of vulnerability within communities.
Participants agreed
almost unanimously that, of the three levels of government, the City best
understands and is most effective in dealing with social needs. However, there
was also agreement that the city must:
  • provide more stable funding support for community-based agencies
  • form alliances with neighbouring municipalities to deal with common problems
  • play an ongoing advocacy role with other level of government to ensure adequate funding for services.
Focus group participants felt other levels
of government must do more to ensure ongoing social development in Toronto.
  • the provincial government must re-commit to funding support for the city in social housing and social assistance
  • the federal government should re-assert itself into a national leadership role in many important areas of social responsibility.
The report also
describes the city's emerging role of stewardship, which it describes as "a
civic responsibility to actively promote the quality of social life throughout
Toronto for present and future generations." Marvyn Novick, a social professor
at Ryerson University, was a contributor to the consultation process and to the
preparation of the report on focus group findings. "The social fabric of
Toronto is one the city's great civic and economic assets," he said. "Community
and agency leaders want city council to make the Social Development Strategy a
local government priority."

Copies of Preserving Our Civic Legacy and a summary report are available by
calling 416-392-5187.

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