I wish I could say I was surprised by Toronto City Councillor Rob Ford’s recent rant complaining about the funding the Lesbian Gay Bi Trans Youth Line receives from the city. But sadly, I wasn’t. If Ford is consistent in anything, it’s in his cynicism about government investment in communities. It brings to mind Oscar Wilde’s definition: ‘A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing.’
‘I just want to know if we fund hetero-sexual youth that want to talk or have problems,’ Ford asked the city’s administration committee.
Ford’s question is itself a strong argument in favour of supporting the Youth Line. Along with his inability or unwillingness to understand the marginalization faced by queer youth, his contempt of efforts to combat it demonstrates the need to fund such resources.
Anyone who watches city council meetings from time to time knows about Ford’s rants. On the surface, they’re about saving money. But, as is usually the case with so-called fiscal conservatives, there’s always more to it. Beyond the questionable assumption that cuts to social investment are fiscally wise, the question about whose funding gets cut is politically motivated.
Remember former premier Mike Harris? One of his first acts of government was to cut funding to the same Youth Line on which Ford has now trained his parsimonious glare. Maybe it?s a coincidence, but I think not. More likely it’s a sign that queer initiatives are targets whenever social ideology is being falsely paraded as benign fiscal policy.
The thing is, it’s not even good fiscal policy. The total funding the Youth Line will receive this year from the City Of Toronto is $3,210. To put it into perspective, that’s a tenth of a cent per resident, or less than one-half of one one-millionth of the city’s $7.1-billion budget.
Now, no one should be cavalier about the public purse, so let’s stop and consider ? is this $3,210 a good investment with a good return? In exchange the city gets an anonymous help line, largely staffed by volunteers, which queer or questioning youth can call for peer support if they’re struggling with questions around sexuality. I’m confident that most Torontonians would think we’re getting good bang for our bucks, especially if they were to hear the stories of the countless young people whom the Youth Line has helped to become more confident contributors to our city.
This is to say nothing of the lives the Youth Line has surely saved throughout Ontario by giving kids somewhere to turn to. I don’t know what kind price you can put on that, but a tenth of a cent sounds like a bargain to me.