Toronto Community Benefits Network
by Tam Goossen, co-chair Good Jobs For All Coalition
The Toronto Star has been running a big ideas series, and on Feb 24, Colette Murphy, Executive Director of the Atkinson Foundation wrote about Expect More From Public infrastructure Investments Expecting More From Infrastructure Investments. She talked about how Toronto, like Los Angeles, Edinburgh, New York and San Francisco, are demanding more from urban redevelopment initiatives. The palpable excitement in her article is that Metrolinx, a provincial agency since 2006 which is currently overseeing the building of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, is negotiating a Community Benefit Agreement with the Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN).
The Urban Alliance, through our active participation and leadership role in the Good Jobs For All Coalition, have had a front row seat at these negotiations with Metrolinx.
We believe that a priority for a thriving and inclusive city is the continued expansion of transit infrastructure and neighbourhood improvement to meet the needs of all residents. Accessible transit is critical for the social, environmental and economic wellbeing of our city today and in the future.
The Good Jobs For All Coalition is a community-labour alliance formed in mid 2008 to show solidarity and respect for the many workers whose livelihood was taking a rapid downward spiral even before the financial meltdown. The Coalition organized a very successful summit in Nov 2008 with over 1,000 participants and has since focused its work on how to ‘raise the bar’ for people’s living and working conditions in Toronto.
It is crucial that all Torontonians have access to the good jobs and other economic opportunities that will stem from infrastructure investments such as the expansion of transit. As such, we believe that the diversity of the workers on the LRT project should reflect the diversity of Toronto residents.
Toronto Community Benefits Network and Metrolinx -Towards Mutual Commitments
At the end of 2012, the Coalition sent a letter to Metrolinx to urge them to enter into a Community Benefits Agreement with the community. One of Metrolinx’s key responsibilities is to oversee $16 Billion worth of transit building projects in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas. The Eglinton Crosstown LRT is its first project in Toronto.
As members of Toronto communities, we are committed to working together with Metrolinx and all other partners on a Community Benefits Agreement that can advance our vision for an inclusive, accountable, and thriving City.
By January 2013, after months of preparatory work, the Toronto Community Benefits Network was formally established as a group of community and labour representatives aiming to leverage transit investment for good jobs and equitable economic opportunities for all. The Good Jobs For All Coalition is one of the Network’s key partners, and as co-chair of the Coalition, I am on the steering committee of the Network as well as on the negotiating team with Metrolinx.
After much hard work by many, including the Labour Education Centre, the United Way GTA, as well as support from the Metcalf Foundation, we have almost reached the stage where a framework agreement can be attained. Our goal is for an eventual legal Community Benefit Agreement.
The Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN) is in the process of actively engaging more community partners. Its vision and commitment statement reads:
We envision Toronto as an inclusive, thriving city in which all residents have equitable opportunities to contribute to building healthy communities and a prospering economy.
Learning from the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE)
On Sunday April 30th, 2013, the Urban Alliance on Race Relations (UARR) Labour & Civic Leaders met with Patricia Castellanos from Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) to hear her insights on Community Benefits Agreements.
LAANE is a leading advocacy organization dedicated to building a new economy for all. Combining dynamic research, innovative public policy and the organizing of broad alliances, LAANE promotes a new economic approach based on good jobs, thriving communities and a healthy environment. – laane.org
During her visit to Toronto, Patricia Castellanos was able to share information on various strategies that are used in Los Angeles to build healthier communities and foster sustainable jobs.
We also heard of efforts in the Greater Toronto Area to secure Community Benefits Agreements for Metro Linx transit expansion of the Eglinton Crosstown Light Rapid Transit (LRT); redevelopment/revitalization of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation among other initiatives, through the Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN).
Related Information on Community Benefits Agreements
- Expect More From Public infrastructure Investments
- Vital Signs report 2013: Youth unemployment in Toronto high (Photo: Steve Shallhorn is chair of the Toronto Community Benefits Network, an initiative aimed at linking residents with jobs, including immigrants and youth.)
- Weston-Mount Dennis residents look to Metrolinx to create jobs when it builds Crosstown LRT
- Community Benefit Agreements – A New Tool to Reduce Poverty and Inequality
- What are Community Benefit Agreements
- Community Benefit Agreements currently in effect
- Agreements for transit-oriented development
- Community Benefit Agreements Handbook (PDF)