Budget in jeopardy

The future of the Hassle Free Clinic is in the hands of a “vindictive” city budget committee.

“There’s a lot of political posturing,” says the clinic’s Robert Trow. “Certain members are taking a vindictive position on the health department.”

As the city budget negotiations have dragged on, the clinic was at one point expected to have $50,000 cut from its $450,000 core budget (funding from other sources brings its total budget up to about $700,000). That would have meant the loss of one positions from the 12-member staff.

But then the budget committee decided to scrap a dental program for 30,000 children and seniors as a way to save money. That left the Hassle Free and two other sexual health clinics – The Birth Control And VD Information Centre (at 2828 Bathurst St) and the Immigrant Women’s Health Centre (489 College St, Suite 200 – off the hook, with only a cut of about 2.5 percent.

But gay City Councillor Kyle Rae says the clinics aren’t out of the woods yet. The decision of making the cuts has been thrown back to the health department, which might look for ways to save the dental program and so spread the cuts around.

He says concerned citizens should lobby traditionally unsympathetic councillors in Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough before council votes on the budget the end of this month.

Paul Gallant

Paul Gallant is a Toronto-based journalist whose work has appeared in The WalrusThe Globe and Mail, the Toronto StarTHIS magazine, CBC.ca, Readersdigest.ca and many other publications. His debut novel, Still More Stubborn Stars, was published by Acorn Press. He is the editor of Pink Ticket Travel and a former managing editor of Xtra. Photo by Tishan Baldeo.

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