On The Waterfront

So it seems the quiet whispers of hope that the federal finance minister and Ford family friend, Jim Flaherty, would exert a (ahem, ahem) moderating influence on the brothers’ irrational hatred of all things Waterfront Toronto were nothing more than wishful thinking. According to the Globe and Mail, “The administration of Mayor Rob Ford is moving to seize control of development on the east side of Toronto Harbour, paving the way for ambitious building plans in the Port Lands at the mouth of the Don River and private-sector investment.” Flaherty appears ready to play ball. Rather, he seems prepared to punt it, along with common sense and years of careful consideration. “With almost $492-million of the $500-million federal investment spent, federal participation is winding down,” the minister’s press secretary told the National Post, “Waterfront Toronto will now work more closely with our provincial and municipal counterparts on the next phases of development.”

Boondoggle, you say? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

If we’ve learned nothing else from Team Ford’s previous seizing of a tripartite government agreement and making it its own, we should know this. Do not let them do it until they have a fully realized replacement plan down on paper, costed out to the last dime. Remember Transit City. Declared dead and replaced by Transportation City. All money to be used to bury the Eglinton Avenue LRT. A Sheppard subway line will be built with entirely private sector money. Except maybe not. Hey Queen’s Park. Can you front us a little dough, say, $650 mil to get things up and running?

This is the exact same nonsense. Take a project out of the public sphere – a project, by the way, with very few critics except for the mayor, his brother and those mindlessly parroting their views – with the promise of a miracle from private investment. “We’ve got to get this city booming and tell the rest of the world about it,” [Councillor Ford] said. “This will be the most spectacular development in all of Canada. Your jaw will drop when you see this.” Sounding just like the carnival barker/snake oil salesman he has turned out to be, the councillor seems shockingly oblivious to the fact the waterfront, along with other areas of the city, is already undergoing a healthy redevelopment.

Too slow for the Fords’ liking, apparently.

“[Councillor Ford] expects that with the proposed new arrangement, the revitalization can be completed in five or six years, compared to the 25-year horizon in the current plans.” Holy cow. That is indeed a jaw dropping claim. Surely the councillor has the paper work to back it up, right? He wouldn’t just be pulling numbers out of his ass again, would he? Again?

To show he’s dead serious this time, ixnay alktay about a new stadium to lure his beloved NFL north of the border. Similarly, nary a mention of a monorail. It’s all business now. “The multi-use development [Councillor Ford] envisions,” says the Globe, “would include impressive shopping malls, waterfront hotels, bike paths and possibly…” Wait for it. Wait for it. “…the world’s largest Ferris wheel.”


See, what all you artsy fartsy, fancy pants urban planners with your university edgamacations don’t get, and the likes of Rob and Doug Ford just know instinctively, deep down in their guts, is that what makes cities like London great, what makes them highly desirable for people and investment boils down to one thing, and one thing only. Great big fucking ferris wheels. Bright shiny gadgets, trinkets and gew gaws. Cities as amusement parks, where the well-to-do come down to play and everyone else ekes out a living ensuring that their stay is an enjoyable one.

This is nothing more than a money grab, pure and simple. A bull-headed expropriation of a city asset for a quick sell off in order to plug budget holes created by this administration’s refusal to govern responsibly and realize taxation is a legitimate source of revenue. What’s even more galling is that they are once again trying to float the idea of the private sector sailing in to the rescue, picking up the pace, picking up the tab including hundreds of millions of dollars for flood protection. City Manager Joe Pennachetti is playing along with the mayor’s little charade, citing Waterfront Toronto’s inability to come up with the money for the project.  “Given that the existing governance structure has been in place for ten years and has not produced a viable funding plan for the Port Lands,” Pennachetti writes, “it is timely to explore a new delivery model for this area, including the opportunity for private investment to front-end the implementation of flood protection and other infrastructure requirements thereby reducing reliance on public funds.”

Yeah. We all know how the private sector just loves to hand over cash for infrastructure development. (See paragraph 3.)

While Mayor Ford ran roughshod over Transit City by claiming to have a mandate from the voters to rid the roads of streetcars and build subways, I never heard him promise that if elected he’ll stop all the boondoggling on the waterfront and conduct a fire sale of everything not nailed down there. “We have great expectations for the waterfront,” Councillor Paula Fletcher told the Globe. “It belongs to Toronto. It doesn’t belong to one councillor.”

Or one mayor.

If there was ever a time for council to draw a line in the sand, it would’ve been last December. But it’s never too late to grow some stones and start taking a stand. This one should be easy even for those councillors still frightened of the mayor’s shadow. His plan is half-baked — as usual — based on dubious claims that have already been proven ill-considered on one proposed mega-project. There is plenty of high profile resistance from the public toward any malignant mucking with what are, in fact, slowly coalescing development ideas. The mayor looks to take something and replace it with worse than nothing.

Which seems to be the dominant motif of his administration to date. The question is, how long are we going to let him go on razing things before we encourage the adults to step back in and assume control? The city’s future well-being depends on it happening sooner rather than later.

soggily submitted by Cityslikr

20 thoughts on “On The Waterfront

    • Who would play the hillbillies? Something about spring time flooding in the region might erode the foundation of the potential five star hotel build in contaminated soil the dreaded P3 builds…

  1. In the Navy we had a name for this: “A self-inflicted wound”. Thanks Toronto voters for bringing us Tweedledum & Tweedledim.

  2. In fact, during a pre-election mayoralty debate down at the waterfront, Ford said he would stop all waterfront development. The room sat in stunned silence.

  3. So if this is adopted by exec (and it seems it will) our only chance may be to convince the fence sitters to reject or substantially amend any proposals. To that end, what is the best way to organize against the destruction of Waterfront Toronto? Individual calls wont have much effect, though I have been making those calls. I was wondering what the likelihood of gathering support from various citizens groups within appropriate wards might be. For example, Stintz in Eglinton/ Lawrence might be a good one. If we could get library groups, voters groups, BIA, church groups, synagogue groups, liberal and NDP groups to all sign petitions or somehow lobby (I don’t know what the best approach is!) perhaps we could convince her, or other similar members of council, to vote against this pending travesty. If individual calls and efforts fail, perhaps a more united front might be more powerful. Time is short, I suspect, so by liaising with already established groups, perhaps we could organize resistance more quickly….I don’t know. I think we need to be active and get moving on this, but as I am new to the whole activist thing (beyond yelling a my mac) I really am not sure how to begin.

    • Off the top of my head, I would think a draft statement outlining our objections, our reasons for said objections along with an outline of the benefits of letting Waterfront TO do its job is a reasonable first step – then perhaps it could be emailed to every citizens’ group we can find in each ward where we have a chance of moving a councillor to reject the theft of Waterfront TO. Why not contact every congregation? Every library? Every book group?

      • Any motion in council needs 23 votes to pass, right?

        We know that 15 or so councillors can pretty much be counted on to vote against any recommendation the Exec. Ctee. might make involving a Portlands cash-grab. If one of these is your very own councillor, make sure they know that you too are against this very stupid plan. Other than that, leave these guys to do their jobs (unless you’re particularly well placed to help them, by, I don’t know, proving actionable shenanigans on the part of the Ford faction or something. But if you had such proof, why on Earth would you not have brought it forward already?)

        We know that between 20 and 24 councillors are pretty much consistently aligned with the Ford faction. Of these, 14 councillors** have never voted against a Ford resolution. There’s pretty much no point in trying to influence them, though I think it’s worth registering your opinion with them. In these wards, we should be focussing on building opposition so that the elected representatives face a groundswell of opposition that will, ultimately, hold them accountable. Find the people who support a useable waterfront for Toronto, and who are opposed to cash grabs like this, get them involved, and keep them informed, so that they can hold their councillors accountable.

        The rest of the Ford-aligned councillors can sometimes be swung. These are the wards where residents can start to exert some positive pressure, as these councillors have demonstrated themselves to be somewhat receptive to the actual desires of the people they’re supposed to represent. Here’s where we really need to whip up support. Talk to environmental groups. Talk to recreation groups. Talk to neighbourhood associations. Help people to understand how the PortLands development isn’t just about some unused land at the mouth of the Don—it’s about selling off an irreplaceable asset, and about how we do government in the city. Plan walking tours of the area! Help people be effective activists. We need at least two of these councillors to oppose taking the Portlands back. More would be better.

        The same tactics need to be applied to the “mushy middle” councillors. They need to know that their very own voters are adamantly opposed to this chicanery and that their very own voters will hold them accountable for their votes.

        Matt Elliott keeps a pretty good record of who votes how and their various alignments. Check out his City Hall scorecards: http://fordfortoronto.mattelliott.ca/tag/city-council-scorecard/

  4. Of the mushy middle, Matlow and McMahon are both completely opposed to destroying Waterfront Toronto. McMahon has been giving councillors tours of the area to explain the great work WT has been doing. (I base this on a call to her asst a few minutes ago.) Two that need to be lobbied are Chin Lee, Ward 18, 416-392-1375. And Ana Bailao, Ward 18, 416-392-7957. I have called at least 15 other councillors over the last 24 hours, but I have yet to receive a single call back. I recommend a friendly, polite tone whether dealing with councillors or staff. Please give these folks a call. Remember, Ford and Co will be lobbying them even harder.

    • Mark; What mush? There were 31 councillors who voted for the proposed 2011 operating budget with out discussing 2012 which has a budgetary hole! The liberals will have to help their provincial counter parts to reign in Fords.

      There is an EXEC meeting Sept. 19 where you can speak up.
      TO REGISTER: Email: exc@toronto.ca or Call: 416-392-6627 by Sept. 16.

      • I’ve since heard the exec meets on Sept 6 and the full council on the 26th. I have created a spread sheet with all councillors, emails and phone numbers. I sent the first 22 emails (or in some cases I called) asking them where they stand thus far. I’ll contact the next 22 tomorrow. After a few days, I will report my findings – some will not be surprising. And to be honest, I didn’t bother with DoFo.

  5. I’ve attended Waterfront Toronto’s public consultations from the beginning and hold them in the highest respect. The impeckable work done on the reconfiguration of the Lower Don River for flood protection and public park land and the planning of environmentally and socially designed new communities has won awards internationally. A great deal of money from all three levels of government has already been spent in designs and environmental assessment and cancelling all this will hardly save money or speed development in the Portlands! Taking this action could well incurr law suits from international developers who have made contracts based on the plans being implemented as agreed by Toronto City Council. We need to fight on in every way possible to ensure that these outstanding plans are carried out as agreed.

  6. So, I have now contacted by phone or by email all councillors (except RoDoFO, and really, its a waste of digital ink). I am getting phone calls and emails trickling in – some taking a position, others asking for more time. I am entering their stance into a spread sheet. I will post the results in a few days after I have heard back from the majority of council. If you would like to know where your councillor stands feel free to contact me on Twitter (@markbrownlie) or here, if the admin doesn’t mind, and I will tell you what I have discovered.

    I am also going to keep a scorecard on the provincial candidates in St. Paul’s on a range of issues, beginning with the TDCSB and their GSAs policy. I am happy to take suggestions as to what other issues you would be interested in knowing about.

    Have a lovely September day, and come march in the Labor Day parade!

      • Digging in certainly helps deal with the anxiety generated by this virulent strain of movement conservatism. These ain’t my father’s Tories.

  7. Still waiting for bulk of council to respond (no, that was not a gratuitous joke about you know who). I think I’ll hear more after today’s Exec Comm meeting. Early thoughts: Most councillors who have responded thus far have been skeptical of the new plan. I have received long, thoughtful, carefully articulated answers from their staff. They knew what was going on at the waterfront and they knew why. Soon, I’ll write up a full report on my findings as well as a little essay on becoming active in municipal politics. It has been a fascinating experience for me over the few months. I have voted in every election at every level of government. I have a long history of calling my various representatives, (with one amusing incident involving a cabinet minister and used car salesman hired by Harris) but this is the first time I have expanded on that limited engagement. It has made for some interesting conversations and some critical revelations.

  8. Right on – I’m relieved that so many Torontonians are speaking up in defense of our water’s edge public spaces. Who elected this mayor? I don’t know anyone who will admit to it – was that another scam?

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