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Enemies Within

I must admit to becoming increasingly flummoxed.

I thought we were going to financial hell in a hand basket, spending out of control, the jagged rocks of economic ruin lurking, all pointy, to sink our ship of state. Families and businesses fleeing the oppressive crush of over-taxation in the 416 for the greener pastures of 905 and beyond. An anti-business, union-controlled, fetid backwater in need of tough loving, fiscal discipline and some good ol’ common sense revolutionizing.

But over the weekend, an article in the Globe and Mail detailed the influx of box store chains into the downtown core of Toronto. On Monday the Toronto Star suggests that there might be a lot less gravy oozing from the walls of City Hall than originally claimed by the Ford administration. This just a couple days after the Executive Committee heard that the city’s still got an AA rating. That’s one notch below the highest triple A rating but much more visually pleasing.

What gives?

I don’t have any strong, informed views of the economics of box stores. I do find most to be soulless entities that crush my will to live within minutes of entering one but I usually chalk that up to having been forced into a car to get to any of them. That tends to dampen any goodwill I have toward anything, let alone shopping. But the idea that these chains are looking for ways to make a go of it in the more urban, downtown areas of Toronto in spite of possible higher overhead suggests that there’s more to engendering a positive business environment than simply keeping costs down or providing ample parking.

And it flies in the face of all those on the side of our current mayor who speak only of a city teetering on the edge of a precipice and facing an oncoming financial apocalypse, brought on entirely by a spending problem. Excessive spending, you’ll note, on public sector services that make up the bulk of Mayor Ford’s increasingly chimerical Gravy Train. Public sector services that are made note of when Toronto yet again places 4th in the world of livable cities as ranked by the ever so radical liberal rag, The Economist and its Intelligence Unit. Among other factors, the EIU cites health care, culture, the environment, infrastructure and stability as methods of judging a city’s livability level.

Stability? Mayor Ford has proven to be more adept at crisis creation. So far his administration has used a surplus left over from the previous, supposedly profligate regime, to fill in budget holes made bigger by tax cuts and freezes, one of which was shrugged off on the mayoral campaign trail as being irresponsible. We’ve been assured this year’s budget will be the easy one. The mayor’s budget chief warns that come next year, “everything’s on the table.” Everything? Deeper cuts. Privatization of services. Selling of assets.

Are we experiencing the beginnings of our very own Wisconsin? Conservative ideologues gaining power on a wave of economic discontent in an anemic post-recessionary period, pointing the finger of blame solely at government mismanagement and union fat cattery; once in office, they torch the place with ill-advised tax cuts and freezes and create an actual crisis where everything’s on the table.

It’s a predictable formula which makes our falling for it on a regular basis all the more baffling. Those seeking elected office on an anti-government/pro-business platform will inevitably undermine government and enrich the private sector at its – that is, our – expense. There are precedents for how it gets played out. We either don’t mind or are supremely forgetful.

And we only have ourselves to blame.

mystifiedly submitted by Cityslikr

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