The 5.6% Dissolution

Pondering Toronto’s 2010 mayoral campaign so far, which is something I do with fair regularity given the subject matter on this particular site, I am often left scratching my head as to the approaches and tactics of various candidates. Why are they doing what they’re doing? Who are they trying to reach with that particular line of reasoning or this mode of attack? Is George Smitherman actually gay or is all his talk of having a husband merely a beard to mask the fact the man doesn’t possess a progressive bone in his body?

My latest bafflement arises via deputy mayor Joe Pantalone. Reading through an interview he did earlier this month with blogTO, I was struck by the answer he gave to their question, Why didn’t you do more about these transportation problems as deputy mayor? Councillor Pantalone’s response? In 2008 [the Fraser Institute] analyzed the Province’s tax situation situation and found that out of all the taxes paid in Ontario –put together in one basket, municipal, provincial, and federal — municipalities only got 5.6 percent…

Huh.

Now, I had no luck in locating the analysis Pantalone was referencing but will shoulder all the blame for that as I started breaking out into hives spending that kind of time on the Fraser Institute website. Preston Manning says this, Mike Harris says that. (A Simpson shudder and intense itching begins all over upper torso.) But taking Joe at his word, I began to wonder why he wasn’t making more hay with this point.

Why wasn’t he channeling voter frustration and outrage at the fact that the city is being severely short-changed by both senior levels of government and forced to annually negotiate dire fiscal straits due to massive imbalances in both governance and revenue structures? As a councillor for almost 3 decades now and having worked with all sides of the political spectrum, Joe Pantalone had arrived at this late juncture in his career finally and reluctantly convinced that Toronto (and every other municipality in Ontario) was being knee-capped by Queen’s Park and until true, unconditional reform was undertaken, nothing was going to change that. No amount of fiddling with numbers, privatization or selling of public assets could alter that reality.

Sure, his opponents would go down the beaten path of telling Joe we need to get our house in order before going to the province with cap in hand, begging for bailouts. They already have, haven’t they, Rocco Rossi. But played right, those kinds of statements could be effectively turned against those using them, showing them to be know-nothings, out of touch with the facts. Or worse still, enablers of a dysfunctional governance structure where too much power and money go to those with the least amount of accountability.

Because one doesn’t need the 5.6% analysis from the Fraser Institute to know that there is a systemic unfairness at the core of our political system. Where one level of government has complete and utter control over another with little recourse or redress on offer. Evidence abounds that this arrangement, which goes back to the birth of this nation in the middle of the 19th-century, is beneficial purely uni-directionally. Municipalities bear the brunt of provincial and federal neglect and mismanagement. Until we can get ourselves out from under the weight of that, there is little to be done to fix our current predicament. Anyone who tries telling you different is either uninformed or lying. Maybe both.

And Joe Pantalone should tell them so. He should tell us that. He should point out that in every city budget, Toronto is forced to spend more on provincially mandated programs than it receives in money from the province. That’s the deficit spending at the centre of our present money woes. It’s not out of control spending at City Hall that is responsible for higher property taxes, increased user fees, underfunded public transit and infrastructure projects. No matter how loudly and often Pantalone’s mayoral rivals spew forth that nonsense. No. This city’s increased expenditures are going directly into the gaping maw of Queen’s Park. Not only are our provincial taxes going to feed that beast but so is a chunk of the taxes we’re supposed to be paying to the city for the services they continue to deliver to us.

That’s what Joe Pantalone should be saying every time he opens his mouth or one of his opponents open theirs.

But maybe Joe’s been at it for too long. He’s too much of the consummate insider and can no longer see the forest for the trees. For now, he’s content to simply counterpunch, rope-a-dope in the hopes that the right of centre contingent around him exhausts itself, flailing as it is at the populist figments of their collective imaginations. He is not the warrior we’re looking for to wage the real battle ahead that needs to be waged.

resignatedly submitted by Urban Sophisticat

5 Responses to The 5.6% Dissolution

  1. Walt says:

    Dear Urban
    With all due respect, we at the Parkdale Party have an issue with your perspective on the subject of underfunding from senior levels of government. We don’t challenge the fact that underfunding exists but we do challenge the approach to fix the problem. We are disturbed that you, and many of the “serious” candidates, use terminology such as “warrior” and “battle”. By definition you are suggesting that “war” and not love (as us from the groovy 60’s used to chant in protest) is the way to success. As such the most “mighty”, the ones with the “biggest guns”, will usually “win” the “battle”. This approach, we believe, plays right into the hands of the senior governments who hold our money. They want us to be confrontational as all this does is prolong the “fight” and keep us from focusing on the true source of the funding problem, them. This is the grave mistake that has been made by the current municipal administration, and many others who believe that might is right, who will “fight” on our behalf and show those monsters at the top who is the boss! Well, our experiences in business say that those who control the purse strings are the boss and the way to have them throw some shekels at you is show why you need the money as opposed to demanding what you think is your right. Pounding on the table and screaming will only give you a sore hand and a sore throat.
    Our approach is one where we open the city to all eyes through our transparency initiative. Doing this will expose the truth and everyone who is interested will clearly understand the financial circumstance that the city is in. This is the only way that more money can be pushed down to the municipal level. Wage love, not war, and a calming peace will result where the senior governments will have no choice but to provide the fair level of funding or risk the public exposure of the truth.
    Just maybe there was something to the ideologies of us who grew up in the groovy 60’s. Make love not war, baby!

  2. Andy Marks says:

    Wake up – might is always right. Follow the money if you can and most of the answers will be apparent. Unfortunately apathy is rampant and no one is reading this crap anyway -so we are both wasting our time. Write your MP, MPP, councillor, mother and spirtitual advisor because it will take divine intervention or revolution not quaint blogs to make change. Good luck!

    • Walt says:

      Andy, in general we agree that your apathetic perspective is way too common but that will not stop us from trying to kick up some dust and perhaps also kick a few asses.
      In the minds of many, the 60’s led to a cultural revolution of sorts so revolutions can and do happen………man.
      We’re pretty sure that divine intervention is not a reasonable option at this time so why not try a revolution? This is Canada so we don’t have to fear persecution, and we here at the Parkdale Party certainly aren’t pretentious enough to fear public ridicule.
      We’re up for a revolution. Just have a look at some of the revolutionary ideas we have in our Platform at http://www.parkdaleparty.com. You want a revolution, we’ll give you a revolution. To us the status quo is not an option. You have the option of joining in and contributing in your small but not insignificant way or just sitting on the sidelines and telling us what we can and cannot accomplish. This is the right we all have.
      Given a chance to publicize some of our ideas we will have the opportunity to make some real changes. We’re not delusional in thinking our candidate George Babula can win the election but if we get our ideas out to the public then perhaps we can be an instigator of a revolutionary movement to regain respect for the taxpayers and citizens of this city.
      Revolutions can start with a bang or with a smoldering ember. We don’t have the ammo for a big bang but we have the matches to light some dry grass, and maybe even smoke some.
      If you don’t like our platform then find a candidate who represents your ideals. We couldn’t find that person so we decided to make our own and presented the revolutionary George Babula to the public.
      Join our revolution, or start your own, but don’t give in to apathy, it only serves to protect the status quo.

  3. Esn says:

    I agree with this write-up about Joe Pantalone.

    “in every city budget, Toronto is forced to spend more on provincially mandated programs than it receives in money from the province”

    I didn’t know about this. It’s certainly something that needs to be known.

  4. duh it's capital says:

    Pantalone brought this issue up during a speech he gave at the Toronto Board of Trade on Friday. I wouldn’t be surprised if you missed the story given that it received a fraction of the press currently devoted to Rob Ford’s crusading attempt to get Kyle Rae to pay back his $12000 retirement party tab. Alarming as that %5.6 number is, structural financial inequality just doesnt have the same wow-factor as grubby-mitted politicians shmoozing on the public dime. Miller tried his darndest to drum up support for a “fair deal” for cities – remember the “one cent” campaign? Why didn’t it generate any traction? Good question. And one we need to be asking.

    What I disagree with is Pantalone using the fact of the disparity to rule out the city considering new ways of generating revenue, such as road tolls. If Pantalone is content to rest on his laurels (and Miller’s coattails), he will be punished by an electorate looking for change. He needs to start articulating some kind of larger vision. That said, stressing the accomplishments of the Miller years beats pandering to the centre-right, which might be the way he’s headed. Having assumed that the support of the left is locked up, he can now go court those “suburban motorists”:

    http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/822275–pantalone-rules-out-road-tolls

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