Vast Wasteland Between The Ears

Councillor Adam Vaughan goofed up.

In a heated exchange with his council colleague, Doug Ford, during yesterday’s 2012 budget committee meeting, Vaughan referred to Councillor Ford’s Ward 2 as ‘an industrial park’. A little while later, Vaughan clarified that what he’d meant to say was Ward 2 was full of industrial parks and not as populated as many downtown wards. He apologized to those he offended.

But there it was on the morning news, highlighting Toronto’s brittle downtown-suburban divide. Smart alecky, champagne sipping elitist mocking the misunderstood, put upon hardworking, ordinary Joes of Etobicoke. The very broomstick Rob Ford rode into the mayor’s office on.

Now, those of us represented by the likes of Councillor Vaughan and his ilk are patiently awaiting our apology from Councillor Ford.

See, what started the Vaughan-Ford spat was the groundless diatribe Ford launched into about the seeming unfairness of wading pool allocation throughout Toronto. Some downtown wards had more than their share, according to Councillor Ford, proving his belief that suburban tax money had been flowing downtown over the course of the Miller years, building cushy wading pools, community centres, libraries etc., etc., while the suburbs got nothing in return. Zilch. Nada. Zip.

You can shout that from the rooftops as often and loud as you want, councillor, but it doesn’t make it true. As usual, the mayor’s brother was just concocting shit as he spoke, providing no evidence of this allegation and impugning downtowners’ reputations as he went. The rookie councillor may actually believe it himself and misses no opportunity to try and convince others that we more urban types want our socialist programs and nice to haves but don’t want to foot the bill from them. Suburbanites as our sugar daddies. Makes a great story and plays perfectly into the right wing love of their own victimhood.

Some have tried to actually back up this claim with facts and data including Scarborough councillor, Norm Kelly back in 2007. We’ve written about this before (here and here, for example) and yesterday John McGrath dug up the pre-election Toronto Star story about it complete with an easy to read graph. Turns out, things aren’t really that simple. It’s almost a wash, one might say. With residents in different parts of the amalgamated city receiving different amounts of city funding depending on the category. Yes, the former municipalities of Toronto and East York receive more for their libraries than Etobicoke/York, North York and Scarborough while those living in Etobicoke and North York get more money per capita on parks and recreation than elsewhere in the city.

The only conclusion one might come to reading through those stats is that Scarborough seems to be consistently on the short end of the stick of things and residents have plenty of reason to be unhappy or angry. Too bad the mayor they helped elect is doing little to right those wrongs. Any Scarborough councillor supporting Mayor Ford’s agenda should be held accountable for that fact.

What the wading pool battle represents isn’t anything to do with post-amalgamation unfairness or inequality. It’s about urban geography and competing pre-existing political philosophies toward governance. Our ongoing cramming of a round peg into a square whole that is the megacity of Toronto.

As visiting councillors pointed out to Councillor Ford during the brouhaha was that none of the wading pools in the inner core of the old city of Toronto and East York were built during the Miller years. They are a legacy of pre-amalgamation. Owing to various factors, some of which included density, income disparity and a basic consensus to use the tax base to build community infrastructure like wading pools and libraries.

It’s hardly surprising that when Councillor Vaughan lashed out at Ford, he invoked an industrial park. As John McGrath also pointed out yesterday — I really should be paying him for providing me with so much research. A Stiegl, it is. Maybe 2. — during his summer set-to with novelist Margaret Atwood, Councillor Ford noted he had a library in an industrial part of his ward that no one used. He expressed little compunction in shutting it down if it came to it. ‘In a heartbeat’, in fact.

That epitomizes the approach to governing that many in the outer suburbs bring to the table. Low taxes, the very basic of services and anything beyond that, the nice to haves, paid for by user fees. An emphasis on the individual over community, in part perhaps determined by a preponderance of single family homes and reliance on personal vehicles as the choice of transit.

It’s a political view I categorically disagree with but not one I just summarily dismiss. We’re locked in an ideological battle to be sure. I just wish Councillor Ford and his ilk would be honest and upfront about that. Come right out and say it instead of manufacturing scenarios based on conjecture, innuendo and flat out falsehoods, poisoning the possibility of having any meaningful discussion.

So, I’m here, waiting. You know how to contact me, Councillor Ford. It’s your turn to apologize.

demandingly submitted by Cityslikr