Privatization of Metro Toronto Zoo is made part of Toronto’s plan to tackle budget gaps
On Sept. 12, Toronto’s Mayor Rob Ford and City Manager Joe Pennachetti put forward a proposed version the city’s budget that would come into effect in Jan. 2012. It aims to cut core services in order to bridge Toronto’s $774 million dollar budget gap. The cuts extend to many community services that are described as adding to Torontonian “quality of life”. Services that are targeted include childcare, road maintenance, affordable housing and privatization of the Toronto Zoo.
Privatizing the Zoo would attract more donors, and accrue donations on a larger scale. For example, the Toronto Zoo has a “Discovery Zone”, consisting of a water play area, a theatre and a children’s zoo. Zellers, a division of the Hudson’s Bay Company, funded the “Discovery Zone”.
“They liked the fact that we have the same target audience: moms and kids,” said Shirley Freek, director of the Toronto Zoo Foundation. The Zoo ushers in 1.4 million visitors each year, 33 per cent of which are children. Creating attractions through such marketing initiatives help build revenue for the Zoo.
The Toronto Zoo employs approximately 268 full-time positions, and 330 part-time and seasonal staff. There is a possibility that changes in how the Zoo is managed could result in the loss of jobs. There isn’t any certainty of how privatization would affect the zoo, if at all.
Although there is concern about changes that may happen in the future, it does not necessarily mean that it will be negative.
Other options for the Zoo include shifting responsibility to the provincial or federal level, as it currently is the responsibility of the municipality. At the present time, the future of the Zoo is still unknown. It is just one of Toronto’s programs that are under scrutiny. The core services review will not be finalized until the New Year.
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