Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Immigrant settlement costly for city: Mammoliti

TORONTO - Officials at City Hall are trying to get out of the immigration resettlement business.
Stopping payment on the city’s share of payments to help newcomers settle in Toronto will help to alleviate some of next year’s projected $774 million budget shortfall.
Proposed cuts to the funding of immigrants and refugees will mean chopping their welfare, public housing, medical and language training costs.
The proposal has outraged Toronto immigrant and refugee groups who claim government auditors are targeting the most vulnerable people.
Some Toronto councillors said about 60% of the more than 250,000 immigrants arriving in Canada yearly resettle in the Toronto area and its time Ottawa and the province dish out more funds to help the cash-strapped city cope with the influx.
Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti estimates “tens of millions of dollars” are spent by the city to help resettle newcomers, who include refugees and immigrants.
That cash could be going towards the city’s deficit, he said.
Mammoliti said he is being stonewalled by city bureaucrats as he tries to obtain documents to determine the full costs of immigration services to taxpayers.
“This is definitely something that has to be looked at,” Mammoliti said. “I am flabbergasted by a lack of information and the city should not be in the welfare business.”
Most of the funds spent on newcomers goes to social assistance and housing, he said. The cost of resettlement is shared with the provincial and federal governments.
“Maybe its time we get rid of the program completely,” Mammoliti said. “We don’t want to be subcontractors any more to the provincial and federal governments.”
Most newcomers don’t speak English and require language training and help in finding a job, he said.
“The city is going through a tough time and we have to look at every expense,” Mammoliti said. “The province and federal governments are relying on municipal programs to carry out their work.”
Newcomers to Toronto are provided free services that include interpretation and document translation, some medical, dental and vision care, hearing aids, diabetic supplies, transportation costs to medical appointments and help to support a guide dog.
Ontario gets 140,000 newcomers a year and about half of them settle in Toronto, with 75,000 going to Peel Region and 32,000 going to York Region and 7,000 to Halton Region.
Queen’s Park and Ottawa are in the process of negotiating a new deal after the expiry of Ottawa’s $920-million, five-year agreement for new immigration funding for Ontario.

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