Rossi Rocks The Empire Club

January 27, 2010

Mayoral candidate Rocco Rossi had his political coming out at the Empire Club last week and by all non-partisan accounts he was a big hit. Reading through the text of his speech, it seems that Rossi is ceding the Crazytown turf of the right wing to Giorgio Mammoliti (and his talk of curfews for teenagers while at the same time dissing after school programs) to settle comfortably 0nto Reactionary Road. It was a speech of equal measure empty, vapid rhetoric and red meat conservative platitudes.

Rossi loves this city so much. Unfortunately, Toronto “…has the wind at its back, yet all too often City Hall acts as an anchor, not a sail.” So he wants to be mayor because he’s “… running to do something, not be something.” But if elected, don’t expect Rossi to hang around too long. For him “… public service is a calling, not a career.” He’ll just be passing through on his way to the next calling. Not to fear, though. Rocco’s a principled guy, a solid citizen. “Someone once told me if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” He just couldn’t remember if that someone was John Cougar or John Cougar Mellencamp or just John Mellencamp.*

Yes, Rossi does stand for a lot of things that Torontonians who are members of The Empire Club are all for. If elected, he will sell every city asset that isn’t nailed down and all the proceeds will go to debt reduction and into “… a few chosen priorities that benefit us all.” Hopefully, that’ll get us completely out of the red as the city’s future revenue stream will be severely curtailed from that point on. Whatever’s left for the city to run, Rossi will then outsource, further reducing expenditures, for as history has taught us, the public never gets screwed when handing over their business to the private sector.

He will get tough with the TTC and its union overlords, stopping its mindless, wanton and determined destruction of city streets, disruption of established shopping patterns and severing of neighbourhoods. To hear Rossi tell it, the TTC is like the bad robots in the Transformer movies. And he is our Optimus Prime.

Rossi sees our coddling of the TTC as part of the bigger war on cars that is presently underway. Haven’t you noticed all the motorists killed by out of control pedestrians and cyclists lately? “For too many years City Hall has been stuck in the zero-sum game that transit and biking are good, and cars are bad. Cars are neither good nor bad…cars are simply a necessity for many people.” Well, as a matter of fact, Rocco, there’s plenty of proof that cars are in fact bad and our accommodation of them makes the city less livable. They pollute our air. They occupy far more space than warrants and that could be used more beneficially for more people. They promote anti-social behaviour.

However, the single biggest off key note that sprang out at me from Rossi’s speech last week and signaled his categorical unfitness to be mayor was this little tidbit:

As long as just 12 per cent of Torontonians have confidence in the money management at City Hall, the federal and provincial governments have all the excuses they need not to invest and partner with the city – and they don’t pay a political price for this inaction.

If Toronto can arm itself with a credible fiscal plan, however, Queen’s Park and Ottawa will lose this free pass. They will have to come to the table and work with us to keep Toronto strong.

Facts, not whining, is what will truly bring Ottawa and Queen’s Park in as real partners.

In the world according to Rocco Rossi, the people of Toronto and their elected representatives are to blame for the inaction of senior levels of government. If only we’d had a “credible fiscal plan” twelve years or so ago the Harris government wouldn’t have downloaded all those social services without the appropriate levels of funding on us. We asked for it! And lacking a “credible fiscal plan”, the city shouldn’t count on Premier McGuinty being in any rush to rectify the situation.

The decades of federal neglect of public transport in this city (a level of neglect unseen by every other developed nation) could all have been avoided if only we had delivered up to them a “credible fiscal plan”. Oh wait. That happened with Transit City and now Rossi has vowed to put a hold on it pending some sort of review.

Someone should also tell Rocco Rossi that in order to come up with the 5 year financial plans he demands from our municipal pols, the city requires a level of committed, stable funding from senior levels of government that is not subject to whim and unfocused ad hockery, handed over whenever the political winds are favourable. That’s not partnership. That’s cynical politicking and willful, patronizing neglect.

And yet Rocco Rossi seems oblivious to the finer points of municipal governance. He doesn’t want to be mayor of Toronto so much as he wants to the delivery boy for factions demanding the progressive movements within this city are brought to heel. Rocco Rossi wants to be mayor of the Empire Club of Toronto rather than the mayor of all of Toronto. Rocco Rossi’s just another Mel Lastman minus the hair plugs and weaves.

* The actual quote, Those who stand for nothing fall for anything, has been traced back to Alexander Hamilton.

peevishly submitted by cityslikr