As community economic development groups have responded (such as Centre for Social Innovation), Canada Revenue Agency recently released the new guideline for Community Economic Development activities in relation to charitable status (see the guideline from here).
As BC Centre for Social Enterpise points out, the previous guideline only dealt with Community Land Trust as a postscript. Often time, the CLT’s applications for the charitable status were evaluated on a case-by-case basis. But the recent guideline has its separate section about CLT (two paragraphs).
On July 23, in partnership with Maytree Foundation’s Building Blocks, Parkdale Food Network and PARC hosted an event on civic engagement and food security. This event brought together community members largely from PARC and representatives from all three levels of government representative offices for Parkdale-HighPark (City Councilor Gord Perks, MPP Cheri DiNovo, and MP Peggy Nash). The event provided opportunities for people to learn fundamentals of governments and policy issues related to food (in)security while identifying opportunities for neighbourhood improvement.
Terence Williams from PARC, who is trained as Maytree’s community leader, shared the key information and knowledge about how governments make decisions – civic literacy– with community members. For most of community members, complicated processes of policy making are sometimes a barrier to their participation. Unpacking this complexity was a central purpose of Terence’s presentation. His presentation covered the roles and responsibilities of different levels of government, the policy development process, and the key tactics for influencing policy making processes. The presentation can be downloaded from here.
A key goal of this Building Blocks initiative is “connecting civic participation with the goal of reducing inequality”. For Parkdale, one of such key issues related to inequality is food insecurity.
To bridge civic literacy with food insecurity, Joel Fridman, a graduate student from Department of Geography at the University of Toronto, discussed food system and key policy issues that affect the access and affordability of healthy food in Parkdale. These issues include: non-food related policy issues – housing and income support – are increasingly affecting people’s abilities to access healthy food; Nutritious Food Basket is updated occasionally, but it is not factored into setting up social assistance rates; and almost 78% of the retail market is controlled by the three large private companies, where we often do local food shopping.
Taken together, two presentations helped the participants connect policy issues with their day-to-day experience. Why is Nutritious Food Basket disconnected with how social assistance rates are set up (also see the city’s report)? Current social assistance rates are not keeping pace with increasing costs of food as well as housing: a key concern raised by the participants. This concern was connected back with the presentations by Terence and Joel. The rates for social assistant programs – Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program – are set up by the provincial government. Further, housing is also a key responsibility for the provincial government. To bring provincial government’s attention, participants were encouraged to use tactics they have learned from the event such as writing a letter to MPP and Ministry offices; participating ongoing networks and campaigns like Put Food in the Budget campaign. Also, one participant shared a creative response: “how to make a healthy meal on a limited budget”, which is Facebook page where people share receipts with limited budget.
The community discussion stimulated some of the strategies that we can do to make changes happen in the neighbourhood. For example, various community food programs are available in Parkdale, but there is no mechanism for sharing program information – when, where, and what time. As a result, community members have to always look up information by themselves; community program coordinators have to respond to unexpected changes because some programs may close temporarily for some reason. This gap may be what Parkdale Food Network may be able to fill by creating a website where community members can find up-to-date information about each program.
Another strategy is promoting urban agriculture as one way to increase neighbourhood-based food accessibility from the production perspective. A challenge is, however, how to secure a land for urban agriculture as there may be limited opportunities in Parkdale. Yet, some opportunities are coming. The Toronto Food Policy Council will launch the Toronto Urban Agriculture Action Plan that identifies available public lands in the city and promotes their use for urban agriculture. The plan will be officially launched at the Urban Agriculture Summit, where practitioners and community groups both from Toronto and elsewhere come to share innovative urban agriculture strategies. In addition, Parkdale Food Network/Parkdale People Economy project’s Community Land Trust group is undertaking a community mapping exercise to identify possible land and properties for community use including urban agriculture.
Victor Willis, Executive Director of PARC, concluded the session with an announcement that we will have the second meeting with Greenest City on August 21 (the third meeting is still TBD). Victor called for participants to come back in September after we finish all three community events; PFN will host an event to preset what we hear from community members through these three events. This event will be a unique opportunity to solidify ongoing food security activities by Parkdale Food Network while identifying key issues for policy advocacy.
*Many thanks to all of people and partners who made this first event great: PARC Kitchen, Drop-in and maintenance staff for accommodating this event; Brendon Goodmurphy from City of Toronto’s Toronto Food Strategy and Sara Corey from Toronto Food Policy Council for providing invaluable assistance; and generous support from Maytree Foundation and Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
West End Food Co-op has been working toward opening up a community food hub in Parkdale – coop store and community kitchen in the ground level of Parkdale Community Health Centre. This Saturday July 21st, WEFC is hosting a Open House of this exciting community hub that is opening soon!
Date: July 21st (Sat), 2012 Time: 12pm-4pm Place: 1229 Queen St West
On April 3rd, 2012, our first community meeting on “Parkdale Community Land Trust” brought together a wide range of participants: Parkdale residents, academic, city staff, community advocates, researchers and other passionate individuals. The meeting was to ‘kick start’ a community dialogue to envision, discuss and plan an alternative strategy and possibilities for action.
The meeting began with introduction from PARC’s Executive Director, Victor Willis. Victor put the event in a broader context of ongoing community planning efforts in Parkdale, particularly addressing food insecurity.
Photo 1: A wide range of participants interested in a possibility of CLT
After the exciting introductory remarks, Brendon Goodmurphy gave a presentation to explain why CLT can be an effective response to challenges facing Parkdale – lack of affordable housing, community space and supports for small business – and how “community ownership of land” can enhance community development efforts.
Photo 2: Susannah presenting interesting CLT cases from other cities
This was followed by Susannah Bunce, Assistant Professor at University of Torontoresearching community land trusts both in Canada and internationally. She, with her research assistant, presented different cases from other cities (from Calgary, Boston, and London UK). Her comparative research findings provided us with the opportunity to think of implications and possible challenges in establishing a community land trust in Parkdale.
These two presentations provided a broader context in considering a possibility of CLT in Parkdale. This was followed by the community discussion facilitated by Kathy Allan to discuss how we want to leverage a CLT mechanism to address challenges in Parkdale while clarifying some of the questions participants came up with.
Photo 3: Some ideas generated through the conversations
We will soon follow up with participants in the event and those who wanted to participate but could not make it. We are also hoping to hold another community meeting soon, while we are working to identify a couple of models appropriate to community land trust in Parkdale. Community land trust take different models in practice, particularly in terms of governance structure. What governance models would be suitable for Parkdale? Who should be involved? What expertise and resources do we need? These would be the focus of our next meeting.
The Parkdale People’s Economy Project is an ongoing collaboration among various community organizations to build a resilient local economy that provides access to affordable housing, healthy food and good jobs in Parkdale, Toronto.