November 13, 2015

The good news just keeps rolling in for SmartTrack.

And by good news, I mean bad news. And by rolling in, I mean like pulling teeth.notagain

Delayed reports, ridership modelling problems, notices of being ‘unaffordable and unworkable’. That’s not a stroke you’re having. It’s the acrid smell of desperation.

Yesterday in the Toronto Star, Jennifer Pagliaro reported that there’s a number floating around City Hall that represents the price tag for the so-called western spur of the SmartTrack plan. The part of the plan that very likely calls for the dreaded ‘tunneling’ word, digging up stretches of Eglinton Avenue. An aspect of the plan that, as a candidate for mayor, John Tory first said wouldn’t be necessary but as time went on, and he transformed from candidate to frontrunner, admitted to, yeah, probably, they’d have to dig but that had been accounted for in the $8 billion cost.

Well now, apparently, there’s an actual number but those in the know at City Hall are either pretending there isn’t or that we’ll be told what that number is when the time comes for us to be told.

It’s hard not to read this as just another setback in the making for the mayor and his signature transit plan. Ismarttrack1f the number being held back was favourable to SmartTrack’s cause, you’d think the mayor and his supporters would be shouting it loud and proud. He certainly needs some positive spin on this that isn’t just his. Unless, of course, he’s going all Henry the IVth on us, piling on the disappointment and dim expectations in order to amplify the success when it all turns out to be exactly like he said it would. “…he may be more wondered at/By breaking through the foul and ugly mists/Of vapours that did seem to strangle him.”


But maybe not.

The question is, just how far down dug in is Mayor Tory on pursuing SmartTrack if it does indeed turn out to be the lemon every indication is suggesting it is right now? Does he ride it, Slim Pickens-like, right into a fiery explosion, taking a whole lot of shit with it? drstrangeloveIn typical fashion, he’s left himself with very little wiggle room to step back. Just like he did on police carding. Just like he did on the Gardiner East.

How badly off the mark do the reports and whatever numbers they contain have to be before Mayor Tory is willing to about-face, admit it was a bad idea, his intentions were good and noble but… let’s move on, shall we? He’s said almost from the start that they hadn’t done any engineering studies or the like when the pitched the plan on the campaign trail. There were bound to be some mistakes in calculation. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Who wouldn’t love 53 kilometres and 22 stations of surface subway all up and ready to go in just 7 years? Just 7 years!

Even if the mayor remains undeterred in the face of mounting evidence that SmartTrack isn’t all that, plus a bag of 3 day old, stale donuts, are there really 22 councillors willing to follow his transit folly? hidenumberI know, I know. Much of this is the same council who wound up dancing the Scarborough subway jig that Rob Ford beat out time to. Let’s not rule out any dire possibility because these people, a majority of them at any rate, are clearly capable of doing anything, absolutely anything.

But it just seems to me SmartTrack doesn’t carry the same visceral, emotional baggage a subway in Scarborough did/does. Nobody’s picked up the mantle of deserving SmartTrack. This is John Tory’s baby, fully, completely. Bully pulpit or not, he’s got to sell it to his council colleagues and if there’s a stink attached, how much political capital does the mayor still have to use?

If you want to get a sense of just how tough a sell SmartTrack is shaping up to be, re-read Pagliaro’s article and remember, it isn’t an editorial, an opinion piece. It’s a news report and I don’t recall reading such a pointed newspaper article, at least not since the frenzied crack period of the Ford administration. The article oozes testiness and impatience.

Pagliaro refers to SmartTrack as something ‘dreamed up by Mayor John Tory’s campaign team’. keepawayShe points out that a staffer in the city manager’s office stopped communicating with her. The mayor seems to be obfuscating, saying the report isn’t finished, there are no numbers or he hasn’t seen any numbers or document.

Pagliaro sums up what we do know so far about the SmartTrack reports city staff have delivered.

What’s noticeably absent are the costs.

But it’s not because they’re not available.

I spoke to chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat this week, who confirmed the actual HDR report submitted to the city contains “high-level” costs for the western spur options.

So, what are they?

Keesmaat won’t tell.

She told me to take it up with the city manager’s office.

Colour Jennifer Pagliaro of the Toronto Star SmartTrack skeptical. It’s feeling more and more like we’re being dicked around here. It was a plan that from the very beginning was full of holes (not the good kind you could drive a subway train through), and nothing that’s happened over the course of the past 18 months has done anything to begin filling them. skepticalIn fact, Mayor Tory continues to dig more holes, creating an even bigger hill he has to push this thing up.

After the Scarborough subway debacle, there are very few bridges left for this mayor to burn on the transit file. Unrealistic cost estimates, questionable alignments, dubious ridership numbers. We’ve heard it all before, just recently, in fact. It’s hard to imagine there’s enough political will to suck another one up, not now, not again.

So, just how persuasive does Mayor Tory believe he is? Just how gullible does he think we are? Just how gullible are we?

still smartingly submitted by Cityslikr

Benign Neglect Is Still Neglect

November 11, 2015

At a press conference yesterday (a ‘press avail’ in journalese), Mayor Tory announced that progress had been made in reducing the 2016 police budget. mayorjohntoryOf course, when it comes to the police budget, reduced actually means less of an increase. So, an original ask of 5.8% knocked down to 2.76% works out to be a decrease in the police budget. It’s what we call ‘progress’!

The day before, on Monday, the TTC budget committee met, and in discussions about proposed waterfront transit projects, seemed ‘resigned’, in the words of the Globe and Mail’s Transportation writer, Oliver Moore, to some sort of people moving walkway linking Union Station to Queen’s Quay. Yeah, an escalator rather an actual vehicular link like the one that was favoured here, way back in 2013 (h/t Matt Elliot). Why? A serious lack of capital funds. No money.

This is Mayor John Tory’s Toronto, folks. Where police budgets continue to rise despite evidence showing crime statistics declining. nomoneyPublic transit budgets keep growing too but not enough to accommodate the increasing ridership numbers that continue to go up despite a less than optimal service, let’s call it.

Mayor Tory’s Toronto.

To be sure, this isn’t all on him. He’s only officially held the office for some 11 months. Bloated police and insufficient public transit budgets most definitely preceded him.

But the mayor wears this current Police Services Board. The former chair, Alok Mukherjee, left the position before his term was up, and replaced by the mayor’s buddy and former chief of staff, Andy Pringle. Upon assuming office, Mayor Tory dumped the only black member on the TPSB, Councillor Michael Thompson, and took his spot on the board. The new police chief, Mark Saunders, is his choice.

So, yeah. The 2016 police budget belongs to Mayor Tory.

And as the TTC struggles to maintain proper levels of service and plan future transit projects, Mayor Tory has dropped a huge turd into the proceedings, his election campaign ready SmartTrack. whitewashingDraining money and time resources from city and TTC staff, the plan is no less fuzzy and ill-formed than it was when it was pitched for votes some 18 months ago. Reports on it have been delayed. Ridership models adapted to work it. There’s no lid tight enough to contain the stink coming from the project.

None of his gestures toward the TTC, bus service bumped back up to 2011 levels, free transit for the kids, are making any dent in the pressures weighing down on the system. So the ongoing problems facing public transit in this city are now Mayor Tory’s problems.

Is there any reason to believe that he’s up to the task of dealing with them?

His full on commitment to seeing SmartTrack through, regardless, seems nothing but self-serving, an eye solely on re-election in 2018 rather than improving transit for the city. He’s spent much more of his political capital (not to say a lot of the city’s actual capital) catering to the perceived needs of drivers, speeding up repairs on expressways, keeping others elevated for absolutely no reason aside from optics. Being modestly more transit-friendly than the previous administration in no way should be perceived as being any less car-friendly.

On the policing front, Mayor Tory’s wading in to the carding issue was a complete and utter fiasco. He got bailed out temporarily by the province who redirected the focus onto themselves as they figure out how to try and reconfigure regulations. sweepundertherugHis TPSB chair dropped the ball on a KPMG report on police budgeting that’s been on or near the table (depending on who you believe) for nearly a year now. Chair Pringle, in responding to questions about why the report hadn’t been made public yet, referred to it as an ‘internal think document’. “Random suggestions aren’t necessarily something that we report back on,” the chair said.

Mayor Tory has subsequently suggested the KPMG report be made public but not in time to have any impact on this year’s police budget. A budget that will be increasing again despite how the mayor’s office tries to spin it. An increase is an increase no matter how small an increase it is.

Given the current crisis level climate in the city toward its police services, with the laughably light penalty given to the only office convicted of a G20-related crime and the ongoing trial of Constable James Forcillo in the shooting death of Sammy Yatim, Mayor Tory’s not rock the boat approach seems wholly inadequate. The additional strain of his SmartTrack plan on an already over-stressed transit system is the exact opposite. Unnecessarily burdensome in a white elephant kind of way.

This is a mayor completely tone deaf to the reality of the city he was elected to lead. He preaches steady stewardship but practices little of it. whatsthatTimid when he needs to be bold. Heavy-handed when required to be conciliatory. Wanting to be everything to everybody, Mayor Tory is proving to be nothing to anyone.

If the Ford Administration was a reaction to the instability Toronto now faces, brought about by unequal access to income, mobility, opportunity, Mayor Tory’s soothing can-do cheerleading in no way addresses that instability. It doesn’t even provide a band aid. It’s the blank, toothless smile of a nothing to see here sensibility that focuses all its energy looking back over its shoulder instead of at the rocky road ahead.

impatiently submitted by Cityslikr

We Know The Why. It’s The How That Escapes Us.

November 10, 2015

Last week a group of economists, going by the name of Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission, issued a report entitled We Can’t Get There From Here: Why Pricing Traffic Congestion Is Critical To Beating It. cantgettherefromhereIt is, by any measure, a vital read and an important addition to the arsenal in the ongoing War on the Car war of words. As a matter of fact, no, drivers don’t fully pay for their use of the roads. We think it’s time, way past it, that we start making up the difference.

So, take this criticism that’s forthcoming in the spirit intended, from someone who is totally behind the concept of road pricing. And forgive me if I wind up mixing this report with the panel discussion I attended on Tuesday, a week ago, the day following the report’s release. That may well have been more market-oriented, let’s say, than the document that gave rise to it, colouring my impression of the report in a way that might not be there in just the words that are written.

As thorough as this report is, I couldn’t help think it glossed over a couple key issues. The first is the cost of the infrastructure necessary to implement any type of road pricing option. One of Tuesday’s panelists, Postmedia’s Andrew Coyne, gave the impression that it was as easy as handing out transponders and, Bob’s yer uncle. The money just starts flowing in.

The high cost of implementing road pricing is often an impediment to jurisdictions. Icongestionf it costs more than it brings in, how will that help already cash-strapped municipalities, even with financial assistance from similarly cash-strapped senior levels of government? The report points out that even the highly successful London, England congestion charge system doesn’t yet pay for itself. Isn’t such a high cost prohibitive to the idea of rolling out the pilot projects the report emphasizes as necessary to contend with the inevitable pushback to road tolls that will initially happen from the driving public?

This, of course, speaks to one of the more important points the report highlights: determining the objectives of road pricing right from the outset. It might not be about generating revenue, a “tax grab”, to use the common parlance. It is possible a reasonable toll rate cannot pay for itself plus produce extra money in which to re-invest into other projects or meet simple maintenance demands. So why on earth would any government pursue such a policy?congestion3

Road pricing might be pitched as a basic matter of fairness, making drivers pay more toward the true cost of their mobility choice. Tolls could also act as a disincentive to driving, a nudge to try other transportation modes. A tool of behavioral modification to get people out of their cars and into more active ways of getting around.

State your reason(s) for pursuing a policy of road pricing and get busy selling to the public, a very wary public it will be too.

Bringing me to my second bone of contention with this report and the public presentation I saw. How to get an initial buy-in from the public, this wary public, this voting public. It’s the biggest nut to crack, in my opinion, one too easily treated as simply an after-thought, a matter of basic information delivery and education.

The panel discussion leaned too heavily in its blasé, free-market approach to the matter. The ‘We’re all rational actors reacting rationally to rational discussion and market determined price points’ point of view. Generally speaking, I have trouble with that angle of argument, and specifically, when it comes to the topic of cars and driving. congestion1We’re in no way rational when it comes to our driving habits. If we were, the rational argument that single-occupancy vehicles are the most irrational, most expensive, least efficient way of moving people around a city and region would have won out decades ago.

That the primacy of cars still prevails, that any challenge to it has to be couched in delicate terms, is proof positive that driving and reliance on private automobiles remains divorced from reality. Pointing out that pricing road use works well in other places may convince a few of the unconvinced but it usually leads to the pushback reaction of: Well, we’re not other places. The ludicrousness of the debate about tolls (or other forms of de-congestion taxation like the recent transit-directed sales tax increases in California) having to put some of the money raised back into new road construction reveals just how ingrained driver privilege and unreasonableness truly is.

None of this is to say that the We Can’t Get There From Here report isn’t invaluable. congestion2Any promotion of a reasoned debate on road pricing should be welcomed and read thoroughly. Its arguments shouted to and from the hilltops.

But if it doesn’t come with helpful suggestions how to successfully sell road pricing to a skeptical, unwilling public, its benefits will be limited. We have been talking about this (along with other ways of funding our way out of congestion) for some time now. Very little traction has been made. One of the panelists last week, Cherise Burda, sat on the Ontario Transit Investment Strategy Advisory Panel chaired by Anne Golden that 2 years ago tabled revenue generation ideas to be dedicated to building public transit initiatives. Two years ago! With very little subsequent movement since.

“If it were an easy thing to do,” Premier Kathleen Wynne said at the time, “it would have been done already.” congestion4So much so that her government has chosen instead to pursue the unpopular goal of selling off 60% of a public utility in order to raise money for public transit. Without public support, there will be little political courage to put a true cost to driving, tolls, taxes or otherwise.

A report that tells us how to convince the driving public to pay more for the privilege of doing what they think they already pay more than enough for is the report we really need right now.

howly submitted by Cityslikr

Ward Boundary Review — Take A Moment. Have Your Say.

November 9, 2015

Near the end of the last public session I attended of the first round of the city’s Ward Boundary Review earlier this year (Got that?), a young man (I’m old enough to use that term in a non-pejorative way) raised his hand to ask a question. wardboundaryreviewWill any of this really affect my life? More or less. I’d have to dig back in my archives to get the exact quote but it’s Monday, I don’t much want to. You’re just going to have to take my word for it.

It was a perfectly valid question. Of all the things we’re facing living in Toronto at this moment in history, are proposed changes to ward boundaries, the possible number to them, the number of city councillors we elect to represent us, all that important? Will it really affect the transit we build or the police budget we agree to? The wonk in me would immediately say Yes, yes, in fact, it would. But, that’s just the wonk in me.

Judging by the turnout for the 2nd round of public consultations over the course of this fall, I’d have to say most people resoundingly came down on the No side of the equation. How many wards we have, how they’re drawn up will have no effect on their respective lives. At least, nothing big enough to compel them out to participate in person.

Back during the 1st round, the weather was often cited for a reason turnout to public meetings wasn’t bigger. fakeglassesIt was winter. It was cold, dark.

This time around, I don’t have the exact numbers in front of me, but from the 4 meetings I attended, anecdotally I’d guess fewer people attended than previously, we were caught up in the prolonged federal election, the Blue Jays were in the middle of their amazing run. The weather was unseasonably warm! Who wants to spend time indoors, talking ward realignment, while the sun’s shining brightly and the temperature makes no socks demand on you?

I guess what I found unfortunate about our collective shrug at the process so far is that the city and the consultants it hired to conduct the public meetings, to write the reports, to make recommendations did their level best to engage with Torontonians. They listened intently to the feedback they received, incorporating it their report and recommendations. Their report after the 1st round of public sessions was highly readable, clear and precise. It cannot be claimed, as I heard from more than a few people after that report was issued, that the public had been kept in the dark. There was (and remains to be) plenty of opportunity for everyone to have their say.

Without broader public input, the ultimate decision makers on this, city council itself, will, not at all incorrectly, see a certain apathy on the matter and ultimately put its interests first, with only a possible Ontario Municipal Board appeal looking over its shoulders. slicingpieThe loudest voices will be the only ones heard, and those, from what I witnessed at the meetings, are largely older and white. Not exactly agents of change.

So I’m guessing when the 5 recommendations that are before the public during these 2nd round of consultations are winnowed done to just one early next year, it will be some variation of the minimal/no change options, either 44 or 47 wards. There seemed to be little appetite with the smaller, 58 wards options, mostly because that would mean more politicians. The bigger/fewer ward option also elicited very little support from the public at the meetings I attended.

The most intriguing option for me is the one that adheres to natural and physical boundaries. It received very little attention until the last couple meetings I was at. The reason I like it is that it reconfigures the entire city, setting aside long established ward boundaries and the community council structure arbitrarily imposed on us with amalgamation. Although I think there are too few wards (41) and a number of them are geographically imposing, I like the idea of re-designing a post-amalgamated Toronto. That would positively affect our lives, to answer the young man’s question.

Don’t agree with me?hitsend

Well, there’s still time for you to have your say. Online input is available all this week until November 15th. From the comfort of your very own desk, you can study the options that are on the table and give your opinion of what you’d like to see happen, even to the smallest detail. You can’t fight City Hall or, in this case, reshape it, without letting your opinion be known. If you’re reading these words, there’s really no excuse for you not to.

chidingly submitted by Cityslikr

Which Mayor?

November 6, 2015


As we head into the 2016 budget process in earnest, with today’s rate supported budget launch, I want to look back to a couple weeks in February earlier this year. The 2015 budget had just been finalized and Mayor Tory gave a speech talking about that and looking ahead to his plans for the 2016 budget, this one that’s now upon us. A week later, the mayor delivered words upon the kick-off of poverty reduction initiatives that resulted in the delivery this week of TO Prosperity: Poverty Reduction Strategy which Mayor Tory hailed as ‘one of the most important decisions, one of the most important commitments’ city council was going to have to make this term.

Compare and contrast these 2 speeches. Are they in any way compatible? One, the ardent cost-cutter. The other, investing in the health of the city, and the people of this city.

Which Mayor Tory is going to preside over the 2016 budget deliberations? It can’t be both. They’re working at cross-purposes. Just how important will his commitment to poverty reduction be when the rubber hits the road and he has to put actual dollars on the table?



Poverty Reduction Initiatives – February 19, 2015

Since taking office as mayor I have spoken often about the need for us to invest in the city to help ensure the health of the city itself, its economy and our people.

In our budget, this is demonstrated in particular by our unprecedented investment in public transit, so vital to the task of connecting people to jobs.

This year’s multi-million dollar investment will make it easier for families and working Torontonians to get around and will reverse some of the decisions of recent years which actually made doing that more difficult.

We have also proposed significant additional investments which try to address the needs of the homeless and while longer term solutions which see an increased supply of affordable housing are needed, these proposals represent sensible, sensitive shorter term measures for some of our most vulnerable people.

I believe it is also necessary for the short and long term health of our city that we also invest in people, with an early focus on those most vulnerable.

When I first took office, I indicated that I would appoint Councillor Pam McConnell as one of Toronto’s deputy mayors with a specific focus on developing a poverty reduction strategy previously called for by city council and endorsed by me as a candidate for mayor.

Deputy Mayor McConnell has done a very impressive amount of work in a very short period of time and that work continues with city wide consultations taking place this month.

With that strategy in development, I thought it would be right to set aside a substantial amount of new money in the 2015 budget to allow us to undertake some measures this year designed to address poverty in Toronto and I asked Deputy Mayor McConnell to make recommendations as to how to allocate that money.

Today, we are making those recommendations public, recognizing they now become part of the budget process, and thus subject to debate at the budget committee and ultimately to consideration by the full City Council.

While this allocation represents a beginning as opposed to any kind of final answer, I am struck by the fact that it includes support in a variety of areas, including student nutrition, employment assistance and helping seniors who often end up in dire circumstances.

I am especially happy about the expansion of the student nutrition program which these funds will support–some 27 new schools will be added to the list and I am absolutely convinced this will improve the learning experience for hundreds of kids in our city and thus help keep them in school.

Similarly, there has been a significant allocation recommended by Deputy Mayor McConnell to support initiatives which help people connect to jobs.

I have always believed the best poverty reduction strategy is to help ensure that people have good, secure jobs and this investment will help some harder to employ people to get a job.

My efforts to attract jobs and investment to Toronto will be stepped up in the months to come.

Seniors often find themselves alone and without resources and another investment in this package will help them with transportation to get to appointments, access services and participate in community events.

I believe it is a measure of our commitment to Canadian values and our desire to build a strong, prosperous and fair city to act now to invest in initiatives like these.

Making these kinds of investments to help our most vulnerable is not only good for the health of our economy and our citizens – it’s the right thing to do.

Once again I thank Deputy Mayor McConnell for all of her hard work on this, I thank all of those who she consulted and I look forward to consideration of these proposals by the budget committee and ultimately by City Council.



Budget 2015 Financing – February 12, 2015

Good afternoon.

The events which brought us to today began in 2013 when the province decided to phase out longstanding support for social housing, years ahead of schedule.

As a result, when I took office, we were confronted with an $86 million shortfall in this year’s budget.

That shortfall imposed all at once, would severely limit our ability to invest in key services like the TTC while keeping taxes affordable for Toronto families, particularly those who are struggling.

Unfortunately, as you know, after lengthy discussions with the province, we were unable to come to a satisfactory resolution to smooth out the impact of their funding cuts and lessen the impact on the people of Toronto.

So, in consultation with the City Manager and Budget Chair, I made the decision that the right thing to do was for Toronto to deal with this challenge on our own.

We said we would take care of our own house.

I am here today to spell out how we plan to do so.

Working alongside the City Manager, City staff and Budget Chair Crawford, we have taken a hard look at the City’s finances.

Tomorrow, when the budget committee reconvenes, the City Manager and CFO will formally present the report you have before you to outline the City’s in-house financing proposal.

It includes a short term financing strategy to replace the loss of the provincial housing funding, and proposes immediate budgetary adjustments of $25 million to begin addressing the provincial cutback on a permanent basis.

On the short term financing, we will spread the effect of the cutback on the City over a period of four years. We will do so by temporarily reducing capital contributions from the Operating Budget by $130 million spread over a period of three years and borrowing that money from our own reserves to make up that capital funding.

While that financing is in place, we will go about the task of adjusting our budget to account for the provincial cutbacks, but we will do it over a four year period – as the original provincial schedule would have permitted us to do.

As one example of the kind of budget adjustments we will see for this year, we are proposing to eliminate five positions that have stood vacant since 2012 in Transportations Services.

Let’s be frank, if we haven’t needed to fill them by now, I think it is safe to say no one will miss them.

Social services is seeing lower caseload volumes, so we are proposing to adjust their budget to reflect the real costs, not inflated ones, and in the process, reduce the budget by $1.6 million.

By reflecting the significantly lower fuel costs in this budget, we will reduce the budget by an additional $2 million.

We have also asked both the TTC and the Toronto Police Service to find $5 million in savings each.  City staff have highlighted some potential areas for reductions which will be addressed by the Police Services Board and the TTC board.

I thank both Andy Byford and Police Chief Blair for their willingness to work towards this goal.

I also want to emphasize this proposal is designed to have no impact on service levels.

I want to be clear that this is the beginning of a process where we will be scouring the City for real savings and efficiencies.

In the coming weeks I will be announcing the framework of a process that will help us achieve a target of 2 per cent savings across all City divisions and Agencies. That would yield around $80 million dollars by year’s end, and principally reflect itself in the 2016 budget.

The full details of the proposed financing approach and budget adjustments will be explained in detail by the City Manager at a technical briefing, but they represent a methodical, responsible approach to budgeting.

Confronted with a challenge, we have found a sensible way to give us time to meet it, including careful, considered reductions to this year’s budget, and a rational process to see us through the rest of this adjustment period.

While previous years have also presented challenges, we are committed to dealing with them in 2015 in a deliberate, sensible and sensitive way as to avoid the polarized chaos of the past.

Presented with a major provincial cutback, Councillor Gary Crawford and I chose neither to gut city services, nor to dramatically hike property taxes.

We chose instead to responsibly spread the impact of the provincial cuts over a few years by borrowing from ourselves, while we adjusted our budget.

This in turn allowed us to make vital investments in things like the TTC and keep the property tax increase below the rate of inflation.

Building the city, the transit, the housing, the support systems our people need in a financially responsible way, requires not rhetoric and a meat cleaver, but competence, common sense and discipline.

I think this proposed resolution to a problem created elsewhere reflects all competence, common sense and discipline.

I will now invite Councillor Crawford to say a few words.


stumpedly submitted by Cityslikr

Give Him Enough Rope

November 5, 2015

If the predominant response to witnessing the Ford mayoralty was anger (followed by a profound sadness), cynicism is the emotion that springs forth watching Mayor Tory in action (followed closely by anger). cynicalIs cynicism even an emotion? I don’t know. It sure feels like an emotion.

It sure felt like it watching the mayor speak to the TO Prosperity: Poverty Reduction Strategy item at city council yesterday. ‘Aspirational’… but. A ‘moral issue’… but. Proud of this document. Proud of the work having gone into it. Proud, proud, proud … but.

Mayor Tory took much of his speaking time to explain that the strategy, as such, spread out over a 20 year framework, was ‘not an instant answer’. He took great pains to explain ‘what it is not’. Aspirational … but. Almost as a warning, he informed us that at the budget committee, they will endeavor ‘to do as much as we can’ … but. Competing priorities, and all that.

Until that time, when this poverty reduction strategy goes through the buzz saw that will be the budget committee – as Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam pointed out, the mayor’s “direction to reduce 2016 overall budget by 2%” is not compatible with the new funding called for in the TO Prosperity document – likeI’ll set aside my cynicism, and take a moment to applaud those who are pursuing this with the upmost of earnestness and serious intent. Those who, for the time being, are willing to take Mayor Tory for his word on this, as qualified and mealy-mouthed as the words may sound to my jaded ears.

Hats off to Councillor Pam McConnell for her genuine acceptance of the title of Deputy Mayor, and her belief that the man who gave her that title is actually committed to this course of action. Her diligence in putting this report together, and exhorting her council colleagues that it is a worthy and absolutely essential undertaking, should be acknowledged and commended. Councillor Janet Davis said that McConnell “gave one of the best speeches of her career… Passionate and inspiring call for a fairer, stronger city.”

Applause too to all the advocates who contributed their time and effort to make sure this didn’t simply slip through the cracks, as poverty issues tend to do. aweSuch tirelessness is, I can’t even come up with the proper word that amplifies the inadequate ‘admirable’. It’s unfathomable to me, that kind of determination.

Many of you were probably in the council chambers gallery to watch the vote, and applauded when it was approved, clapped for Mayor Tory when he spoke to it. I cannot express the kind of awe I feel at that sheer act of trust in the good intentions of others, the conviction enough of us will do the right thing when push comes to shove. Again, humbled does not even begin to describe how I regard such faith and principle.

… but … but … but …

Let’s remember these words that the mayor uttered near the end of his speech yesterday, remember them, and hold him to account for saying them when he inevitably fails to live up to them. And Mayor Tory, as sure as I’m sitting here writing this, will fail, will prove to be a false ally. He’s already qualified his support, showing none of the can-do, inevitable triumphalism he’s flashed for SmartTrack or the Gardiner East hybrid, pledging only ‘to do as much as we can…to the extent we can’. Aspiration is great until it runs smack dab into the reality Mayor Tory has established. “More isn’t always better.” So please dim your expectations.

I think this is one of the most important decisions, one of the most important commitments that we’re going to make as a council during this entire term without even knowing what else is going to come up over the next 3 years.

That’s what he said. Those were Mayor Tory’s exact words. This poverty reduction strategy was one of the most important decisions city council would make this term. Mayor Tory said so.


Let’s make sure he’s held to that. Make this his signature item. Its success or failure will determine his success or failure as mayor of this city. He will try and wiggle free of it. Don’t let him.

assuredly submitted by Cityslikr

Mayor Shrug

November 4, 2015

“We’re not in the loan business. We’re in the government business.”

This is the guy we’ve pinned our hopes on in leading the way to implement, for real, Toronto’s Poverty Reduction Strategy? You got a problem, facing a money crunch and can’t keep a roof over your head? “You find a way to do it. You borrow money from your family. You borrow money from a bank. You take it out of your savings account.”

Mayor Tory is the king of shrugs, mindful, concerned but ultimately indifferent and ineffectual shrugs. He lauds good intentions but can’t get past his inherent distrust of the efficacy of government to help its citizens out, unless of course, you’re a driver stuck in traffic. Hey! An idea! Can’t afford housing? Live in your car.

“We do these things [things being, trying to help people from drinking lead contaminated water] because they sound like a nice answer to solving what is a very legitimate concern on the side of public health…


Mayor Tory’s just “seen too many fiascos” from governments trying to deliver nice answers to legitimate concerns.

“Neither of these [these being, items attempting to help people from drinking lead contaminated water] solve the problem, which is lead in pipes. So… ?”

No answers. No alternatives. No solutions.



“We’re not in the loan business. We’re in the government business.”

Hey, Toronto. Have you driven a Ford lately?

concernedly submitted by Cityslikr


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