Once again, Mayor Rob Ford was the lone member on city council to vote against grant money earmarked for HIV/AIDS-related programs.
The grant was even supported by rightwing councillors Doug Ford, Doug Holyday and Michael Thompson.
But not the mayor. In a stunning 37 to one vote at the very end of the day on July 13, Ford said no to budgeted funding for the AIDS Prevention Community Investment Program (APCIP), a program that reaches more than 250,000 people through outreach and workshops.
Councillors who were absent from the vote include Paul Ainslie, Maria Augimeri, Josh Colle, Gary Crawford, Glenn De Baeremaeker, Giorgio Mammoliti and Karen Stintz.
The APCIP allocation was for $1,679,000, to be used between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2012.
The funding pays for outreach workers and funds projects at several vital community organizations, including at the 519 Church Street Community Centre, Action Positive, Africans in Partnership Against AIDS, the AIDS Committee of Toronto, the Alliance of South Asian AIDS Prevention, the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention, Central Toronto Community Health Centers, Fife House, the Hassle Free Clinic, Native Child and Family Services, Youthlink and Schools Without Borders, to name a few.
Black CAP’s chair, Angela Robertson, tells Xtra that the grants support a community of people who are often marginalized and face tremendous stigma and discrimination.
“The kinds of services that the mayor has voted against are part of invisible yet essential services in our communities,” she says. “We need the support of the city for prevention work that these grants support. It’s incomprehensible why the mayor would vote against these kinds of supports. But it’s heartening to know that these grants were approved.”
The projects target gay and bisexual men, injection drug users, women and men from countries where HIV is endemic, people living with HIV/AIDS, gay youth, trans populations, at-risk youth, sex workers and incarcerated men and women.
There is no financial impact beyond what has been approved in the city’s 2011 approved operating budget, the city report states.
The vote capped two days at council that saw Ford vote against six other community development grants programs that improve the lives of the city’s seniors, immigrants, the poor and the disabled. The community development and recreation committee recommended that the city give 259 groups a total of $7.2 million. Some of the groups include Etobicoke Services for Seniors, Cabbagetown Youth Centre, the New Canadian Community Centre and Variety Village.
The mayor was defeated 43 to one when he tried to halt funding for Access Equity and Human Rights, the Community Recreation Investment Program, the Community Safety Investment Program, and Community Festivals and Special Events Investment Program.
Much like his days as a city councillor, Ford made a point of telling city council he opposes them all. Ultimately, all the grants passed.
If he had got his way, the move would have further affected marginalized black communities that are targeted through outreach, Black CAP’s Michael Went points out.
“That’s funding that helps marginalized black communities. After the vote, he then goes out to celebrate the launch of Caribana.”
It’s not the first time Ford has voted against funding earmarked for HIV prevention strategies. In February, the mayor was the only member of council to vote against accepting $100,000 from the provincial government to establish screening programs for syphilis and HIV.
Ford has consistently voted against the APCIP every year since 2006.