Giving It Up For Lent

March 30, 2012

He sat down across from me looking, I don’t know, penitent? It was quite unlike him. So I asked what was up.

“Lent,” he responded.

That was doubly unlike him. Acaphlegmic was many things but a religious man was not one of them. This needed further exploring.

“Lent?”

“Yes. The 40 weekdays from Ash Wednesday until Easter obser—“

“I know what Lent is. But I’m finding it hard to—Wait a second. Weekdays? You mean, you get weekends off for Lent?”

“Don’t look at me. I didn’t make up the rules. From God’s lips to my ears is all I’m saying.”

“And what exactly have you given up for 40 weekdays?”

“Politics.”

Given Acaphlegmic hadn’t been around these parts in months, hadn’t contributed anything to these pages in eons, I hardly imagined this to be a difficult sacrifice for him.

“Big deal,” I said. “I’ve given up beets. I hate beets.”

“It’s a big wide world out there, bucko. You’re hardly the only game in town. Politics has been front and centre for me. Up here and in here.”

He pointed to his head and heart, just in case you were wondering. What kind of sacrifice would it be to give up politics for 40 days? Forty weekdays, no less. I mean, nothing much happens over the weekend in politics. At least before the mayor and his brother took over a certain radio show. I waved Acaphlegmic off.

“You couldn’t do it,” he taunted me.

“Do what?”

“Walk away from all this,” Acaphlegmic gestured to the underwhelming room we sat in. “Turn off the computer. Toss away the smart thingie. Shelve the iMajiggy. Pay not one iota of attention to politics at any level.”

He sat back in his chair and looked at me, smugly I think it was. I detest when he does that. If anyone has a reason to be less smug at me than Acaphlegmic, I haven’t met them yet.

“That’s stupid,” I responded.

“Is it?” he shot back.

Rather than elevate the conservation further with a ‘Yeah, it is’ or a ‘Damn straight, yo’, I just stared at him, making little twitchy faces to signal my complete and utter disregard.

This went on for a little while before I came to the conclusion Acaphlegmic simply wasn’t getting my point.

“Like what am I supposed to do? Just walk away? Not work? Not read the newspapers? Listen to the radio? What? It’s stupid.”

Acaphlegmic reached into his coat and pulled out a bottle of Gosling’s rum from a rather large breast pocket I’m guessing and set it down on the desk in front of me as if it was the answer to all my questions. Certainly it wrapped up quite a few of them nicely but not all. Besides, even though I was not the devout type, there was nothing Lent like about it.

“Hardly what the god lord had in mind when he called for sacrifice and penitence, wouldn’t you say?”

“I’m not even asking for 40 days. Just between now and Easter. Turn off. Tune out. Drop it all. For just a week. Seven days. I don’t think you can do it.”

Off course I could. It’s not like I haven’t been known to check out from the scene without good things happening for the city too, I might add.

I am, however, a sucker for a dare. But this was Acaphlegmic we’re talking about. A bottle of rum never ever meant just a bottle of rum. It always leads to something much more… involved, let’s just say. Like that time I sat down for one dark and stormy with him, one, and wound up coming to while reading Herman Melville’s ‘Billy Budd’ to a bunch of rapt or dozing senior citizens in community centre in Kenora.

Lent? Hardly. No good could come from it.

“No good could come from it,” I told him.

“I knew you could never do it. Not in a million Lents.”

Like I said, I’m not one to turn down a dare especially from the likes of Acaphlegmic, and give him the satisfaction. Besides, like he said, it’s a Lent thing. A quarter Lent thing really.

So if you don’t hear from me for a week — or if you do and it makes absolutely no sense — you’ll know why. The last few days of Lent got totally out of control.

trepidatiously submitted by Cityslikr


We Really Going Down This Path?

March 29, 2012

Watching The Bottom Line segment last night on the CBC’s National a day before the federal budget was coming down and one of the panelists Patricia Croft said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that the private sector experienced a serious recession a few years back and now it was time for the public sector to face its own recession.

???

So the divide is complete. Those not lapping it up at the public sector trough for these past 3, 4 years, the unlucky sods stuck toiling away heroically in the private sector trenches have seen tough times, buddy. They’ve endured while their lazy counterparts in government, most all unioned up, have been picking the pockets of hardworking taxpayers, living large on our dime.

Now it’s time for a little payback, err, comeuppance, I mean, yeah, OK, payback. Enough is enough. We all know what caused the recession. Wildly inflated public sector wages, benefits, pensions and sick days. Those damn teachers brought us to the edge of financial apocalypse! We demand restitution! We demand a day of reckoning!

It’s remarkable, really, just how effective this bait and switch has been performed. That all this government debt, from the federal right down to the municipal level, has been due to reckless spending out of the public purse. None of it came from a mania for slashing taxes or a lack of oversight of financial institution that believed in their own corrective powers and that greed was indeed good – bankers gone wild!

And here we are, anemically digging ourselves out from under the wreckage, no serious questions asked or answered about how we really got into this particular mess, and now it’s time to gut our way back to prosperity. Trust us, we’re instructed by the same people who led us off the cliff in the first place, this is how it’s done. Have we ever steered you wrong before?

We’ve asked this question more than a few times before but in light of this week’s budget madness it bears repeating. How exactly does it work, this cutting your way to growth? You keep wages stagnant, remove benefits, reduce pensions, making people more vulnerable to the vagaries of the market. They respond either by piling on more personal debt or tucking what money is left under a mattress. That expands the economy how exactly?

I don’t know why I even bother asking, frankly. No actual answer is ever forthcoming. We cut our debt and debt payments and, voila, there’s more money in the bank to spend on those things people really want. Except, point me to an example where that’s actually happened. Don’t talk to me about the Chretien/Martin Mid-90s Miracle where, in fact, the pain wasn’t short but sweet. Instead it was just passed along, downloaded if you will, to the provinces who, if they aren’t resource extracting the shit out of their economies, are mired down in debt and dislocation, themselves having offloaded as much of the fiscal difficulties onto their municipalities.

As Trish Hennessy pointed out earlier this week at Framed in Canada, this austerity model has so far proven to be hypothetical, illusory, nice and neat on the blackboard but not the proven panacea its adherents claim. With each cut and reduction Greece makes, more bailout money is needed to keep it from collapsing. Great Britain is travelling down a similar path. Austerity, along with its philosophical tax cut soul mate, aren’t really driving economies in the direction their proponents tout.

Rahm Emanuel, that staunch fiscal conservative according to Councillor Doug Ford, is looking at “a ‘major new infrastructure program’ to create tens of thousands of jobs across Chicago by ‘coordinating the revitalization of Chicago’s infrastructure.” What? Government spending in Chicago?! But Mayor Rahm. Everybody knows governments don’t create jobs. Governments just get in the way of the real job creators in the private sector. Unless they don’t.

Our friend Matt Elliott over at Ford For Toronto today wrote about how Mayor Ford should be luxuriating in the spotlight (our words not his) with his handling of Toronto’s labour situation. Deals signed with very little disruption so far, ‘phenomenal news’, according to the mayor, that gives the city flexibility. Flexibility to reduce the work force, to outsource jobs to the private sector, to start respecting the taxpayers.

No doubt this is exactly what Mayor Ford campaigned on, probably even more so than his promise to build subways. He was elected to bring unionized city workers to heel. Punch them in the face, bust their unions preferably. So that we would never have to endure the horrors of another summer garbage strike. Ever.

They need to get a taste of what the real world’s like out there. They need their own recession. Recovery starts from the bottom and our public workers haven’t hit there yet.

questioningly submitted by Cityslikr


Friend And Foe

March 28, 2012

When Rob Ford was elected mayor of Toronto his council critics, opponents, arch nemeses were easy to spot. Hello Councillor Adam Vaughan! The whiny, scheming two steps left of Stalin led by the likes of councillors Janet Davis and Gord Perks. As former mayor David Miller’s 2nd budget chief, Councillor Shelley Carroll was made the symbol of everything tax-and-spendy.

This was the division Ford exploited on the campaign trail and what he pursued during his first year as mayor. Taxpayers versus trough feeders. The reasonable right wing versus the loony left. Etc., etc. etc.

But 16 months into things and the mayor’s aim has become scattershot, a growing number of fellow conservatives taking on friendly fire. His decade long feud with Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby got openly nasty during last week’s Sheppard subway/LRT vote with both brother councillor Doug and Speaker/ toady Frances Nunziata piling onto the fray. Chin Lee, a moderate right of centre councillor from the mayor’s beloved Scarborough has openly drifted from the Ford camp in a manner that suggests it would be very, very difficult for them to lure him back any time soon.

And of course there’s the case of TTC Chair Karen Stintz. A very well established anti-Millerite and solid Team Ford player until just recently, the councillor did Mayor Ford’s bidding by dutifully cutting 10% from this year’s TTC budget and axing service correspondingly. She stood tall for the mayor in the face of the moderate pushback to claim $19 million back in 2012 the budget. In no way could she be considered anything but a good soldier.

Until, that is, the Great Transit Takeback when the TTC Chair led a group of moderate conservative, centrist and left wing councillors to assume control of the transit file. Then it’s all Turncoat/Streetcar Stintz who stabbed the mayor in the back, suddenly becoming a leftie in the process. While Councillor Stintz has been very temperate in her reaction to the hurled invective, saying that transit was a one-time issue and there’d be no problem working with the mayor on other matters, it’s hard to imagine how. I mean, how do you continue working with someone who turns nasty and petulant anytime there’s a disagreement? That isn’t what I’d call a positive work environment.

Now the mayor and his brother have turned their sights on Councillor John Parker. During their radio show musings about running a slate of candidates in the next municipal that better reflect Mayor Ford’s political leanings and do his bidding, the mayor openly praised Parker’s opponent in the 2010 election, an election determined by just 415 votes. (The councillor won his ward for the first time in 2006 by just over 200 votes). “They [Parker and Kristyn Wong-Tam’s opponent] ran — they came very close seconds — but these are the type of people, we have to get them on council,” Ford said.

Folks (if I can borrow some Ford vernacular), I don’t see a winning strategy with this. Pitting conservatives against even more conservatives? Isn’t that what they call, splitting the vote?

Not to mention that with still more than two and a half years to go until the next election, doesn’t this just help forge further the growing alliance between moderate conservatives and centrists, a substantial voting bloc at council? I know there’s been much talk about Mayor Ford in campaign mode, going rogue and running for re-election on his lone wolf ticket but what if council gets into the groove of running things smoothly without him? If in 2014, voters see the mayor only for his bullying, his intransigence? That’s a real leap of faith hoping enough voters are looking for those qualities in a mayor.

Besides, even I who have little politically in common with the likes of Councillor Parker are siding with him in this battle. Yes, we’re uncomfortable with his Mike Harris Progressive Conservative connections and the damage he helped inflict on this city. We largely abhor his fiscal policies and his regular evoking of Greece and the fate that awaits us if we don’t cut, cut, cut. And he joined in on the slime fest by sandbagging Councillor Wong-Tam with the move to tear up the Jarvis Street bike lanes in Public Works and Infrastructure committee,

But in terms of preference to the full on Ford way? No contest. Councillor Parker seems like a decent enough fellow, no willful dummy. He’s quietly funny, much of the time in a self-deprecating way.

Not actually Paul Ainslie

Hell, in the face of a Ford-friendly foe, I might go to work for the councillor to get him re-elected. Ditto Councillor Lindsay Luby.

That’s a kind of consensus that couldn’t possibly be helpful for Mayor Ford’s re-election chances. The left and the right, setting aside their differences to unite around a common foe, the mayor of Toronto. Send up the evil genius signal! Calling Nick Kouvalis! Calling Nick Kouvalis!

Like the TTC chair, Councillor Parker is trying to make nice with the mayor and put all this negativity behind them. Calling the Mayor Ford ‘a man of great passions’, the councillor confessed that he didn’t “…think it is ever going to be a quilting bee around here. We need to keep focused on the job we are here to do.”

Noble words, nobly stated. And if the councillor truly wants to focus on the job he elected to do, might I recommend the next important step in that direction? Ridding the council of its current speaker and replacing her with the deputy speaker, John Parker. Where she brings nothing but shrill partisanship, he is all calm and courteous. Speaker Nunziata wears the mayor’s divisiveness on her sleeve, prone to escalate tensions rather than lessen them. If council is really determined to get on with the business of governing, there’d be no better start than to divest itself of the worst excesses of Mayor Ford’s bid to politicize everything.

Replacing Speaker Nunziata would be a sign that while the mayor operates only in terms of electioneering, two-thirds of councillors are capable of putting Toronto’s interests before their own and getting on with the business of running the city.

helpfully submitted by Cityslikr


Transit Planning Is Hard

March 27, 2012

Transit wishing is easy.

If there’s one thing I begrudge most about Mayor Rob Ford’s part in the nasty, unproductive transit debate the city’s currently going through is how he made the building of subways seem oh so fucking easy. I want subways. The people want subways. Subways, Subways, Subways. A pure and utter infantilization of the proceedings.

I thought about this as I sat listening to the second of three seminars on building transit, Moving Our Region: Transportation for the Future, hosted by the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance. Jane Bird, former CEO of Canada Line Inc., the group charged with overseeing the building of Vancouver’s rapid transit Canada Line, spoke on the topic of Private Sector and Public Transit: How Private Sector Participation Inspired Innovation and Helped Deliver the Canada Line Rapid Transit Project in Vancouver.

And guess what?

Building public transit is complicated. It isn’t simply a matter of We Want Subways and the Private Sector Is Just Itching To Build Us Subways. Clap your hands and it will be so.

Over three years had gone into due diligence for Transit City before Mayor Ford unilaterally pulled the plug in December 2010, cancelling one line and vowing to bury the rest. The Sheppard subway would be built by the private sector, we were told. Just like that.

Well, no. It wouldn’t be just like that. Even the vaunted public-private partnership that came together on the Canada Line was ultimately two-thirds public and one-third private. Four levels of government (including the Vancouver airport authority) put up about $1.3 billion of the final $2 billion cost. The public sector owns the asset while a private consortium designed, built and operates it on a 35 year concession. There were construction milestones put in place, ridership levels that need to be maintained. Essentially 8 years from initial decision to pursue the project to its completion.

No one expected the mayor to have a fully funded subway plan in place in just over a year. But was it too much to demand an inkling of an idea, something more than a Babes In Arms, hey everybody, we got a barn! Let’s put on a show!

The fact is, Mayor Ford swept aside a funded transit plan for 4 LRT lines with nothing to replace it other than a slogan. Take a look at his transportation campaign video where he promised to build a full Sheppard subway from Downsview station to the Scarborough Town Centre and… and replace the Scarborough RT by extending the Bloor-Danforth subway all the way to McCowan. In time for the PanAm games in 2015 using just the Transit City money, no new taxes needed, no tolls or congestion fees.

In the nearly 16 months from December 1st, 2010 until last week’s transit vote on the Sheppard subway question, the mayor did little to finesse that plan, to reach out to the private sector, to make a concrete proposal for any sort of partnership. Just trust me, folks. Let’s get the shovels in the ground and see what happens.

Ms. Bird said at yesterday’s seminar that at the point when shovels were about to go in the ground for the Canada Line, she was about 80% certain the project would come on time and budget. (It did on both accounts). There was no such assurance with the Sheppard subway. Not even close. Even in terms of the procurement process seeking a private sector partner for the project, Ms. Bird said that they didn’t approach anyone until they knew, they knew, that the public money was in place.

Ha! Ha, ha! Ho, ho, ho, ho! Double ha!

Our mayor wouldn’t even consider the notion of new taxes or parking levies — all taxes are evil, remember? – despite the begging of his closest allies on council along with his point man on subways, Gordon Chong. As yesterday’s moderator, Doug Turnbull, a Metrolinx board member, pointed out, the lifecycle costs of any transit system including the operational side of things absolutely dwarves the capital costs in building it. So no private sector company in their right business mind is going to enter into a partnership with a government unwilling to even talk about providing a steady, ongoing revenue stream, i.e. taxes, tolls, levies, fees. Ain’t gonna happen, bub.

“I’m not sure we’re always talking about the same thing,” Ms. Bird told the audience when talking about public-private partnerships. She also noted that P3s should not be part of the conversation about what the public sector wants to build. In other words, we shouldn’t build subways based on some vague notion of hopefully, fingers crossed, getting into a P3 arrangement.

This all needed to be directed at the mayor and his councillor brother. Councillor Ford often gets to his feet to lecture his colleagues about their lack of business sense, their fundamental misunderstanding of the private sector. But in listening to those who’ve actually studied or participated in P3s, it becomes crystal clear that the councillor with his family business knowledge is woefully out of his depth. In fact, his deep-seated anti-government sensibilities ultimately disqualify him from having any informed opinion on the subject as he seems incapable of understanding just how key a role the public sector plays.

“The private sector won’t build us a subway because we ask them,” TTC Chair Karen Stintz told the shrieking audience at the first Scarborough town hall a few weeks back. “The private sector will build us a subway because we pay them to.”

That’s the bottom line. No one has ever suggested the private sector does not have a role to play in building transit here in Toronto. That role just has to be fully understood, defined and laid in terms of achievable, affordable goals. Mayor Ford and his ever dwindling contingent failed to do any of those things, failed to even engage in a constructive dialogue about it. The city and those elected to represent the public could no longer afford to wait for him to stop acting petulant and start having an adult conversation.

trumply submitted by Cityslikr


Dreaming Of A True Ford Nation

March 26, 2012

Hey.

Did everybody see that? At the NDP federal leadership convention this weekend, councillors Karen Stintz and John Parker, locked arm in arm, cheering the radical left crowd on, belting out Le Internationale.

Yeah, me neither. But apparently that’s exactly what Councillor Doug Ford and his brother mayor witnessed. “You’re on our side or against us,” Mayor Ford said yesterday on his radio show. “You’re on the taxpayer’s side or against them. There’s no mushy middle. It’s left or right down there.”

In what must be the most ridiculous case of repositioning ever, Team Ford is desperately trying to cast the world of municipal politics here in Toronto as a simple binary system, a black-and-white world of simplistic right-versus-left, us-versus-them. You’re either with us or you’ve been brainwashed by the vile and manipulative NDP. The mushy middle has drunk the koolaid.

Councillor Karen Stintz, a dipper. That must be news to the previous incarnation of Councillor Stintz who stood in strong opposition to former mayor David Miller. She was a chartered member of the Responsible Government Group. The other Councillor Karen Stintz speaking out passionately if misguidedly against a motion to reclaim about $19 million in service and program cuts in the 2012 budget.

And former Progressive Conservative MPP and Mike Harris backbencher, Councillor John Parker. Another member of the anti-David Miller Responsible Government Group, now suddenly a left leaning councillor, his blue hues changed overnight to that bilious orange.

Let’s not forget fellow Etobicoke councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby, a long time foe of the Ford family, clearly because of her political stripes. You see, way back in 1999, she had the temerity to oppose Doug Ford Sr. in a political nomination showdown for the… wait for it, wait for it… Progressive Conservative party. Clearly, a lost cause left wing wingnut. So much so that she was a member of Mayor Miller’s Executive Committee before resigning. “I never felt part of that small inner circle”

In the magical world that exists in the Ford family mind, bona fide conservatives become evil socialists the moment disagreement emerges. There is no middle ground, no third way. Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon, in her 2010 race to unseat David Miller Speaker, Sandra Bussin, endorsed by former provincial Progressive Conservative leader John Tory, is now a left winger. Councillor Ana Bailão ran in the 2003 municipal election against very left leaning Adam Giambrone and then won the ward in 2010 by beating Giambrone EA, Kevin Beaulieu. Councillor Josh Colle, offspring of Liberal MPP Mike Colle, and up until the recent rash of transit votes, sided with the mayor more than 40% of the time. Councillor Chin Lee, another member of the Responsible Government Group back in the day, backed Mayor Ford more than half the time.

Now, because of their disagreement with him over transit plans have all been hopelessly lost to the dark side, left wingers all.

There was a reason some of the more outspoken critics of the mayor and his brother began calling them ‘radical conservatives’. Actually, two. One, because the Fords are radical right wingers. Despite the election promise not to cut services and programs that’s exactly what they’ve done. They want to make government smaller under the banner of efficiencies. They are endeavouring the smash the unions. They want to privatize everything not nailed down.

That is, in fact, a radical right wing agenda.

The other reason to colour them with this label is to differentiate the Fords and their hardcore supporters on council from actual moderate conservatives. Despite what the brothers will try and tell you over the course of the next 2.5 years, city council is made up with a fair rump of moderate conservatives, those who are able to reach out and form a consensus with a majority of council members. That is what occurred on the transit vote. A consensus of 24 councillors from the moderate right to the left (29 when it came to assuming control of the TTC board) to take  the transit file from Mayor Ford when he failed to bring forth a workable plan to build a Sheppard subway that would almost get to Scarborough.

But the mayor and his brother see such cooperation as nothing short of betrayal and treachery. In their us-versus-everyone else who disagrees with us on any issue worldview, true conservatives march in lockstep. Since they are conservatives, you can’t vote against them and still be a conservative.

So now they’ve pledged to run a slate of candidates against any councillor that dares to defy them. This isn’t new. They did it on a limited scale in 2010. They nearly unseated Councillor Lindsay Luby as well as Councillor Maria Augimeri. Councillor Peter Milczyn similarly had to fight for his political life with a Ford backed candidate in the race. He, unlike councillors Lindsay Luby and Augimeri, has largely turtled and become a pliant supporter of the mayor except for some of his recent votes on transit.

In Ward 1, the Fords did manage to boot then councillor Suzan Hall, locking in undying fealty at city council from one Vincent Crisanti. Councillor Crisanti immediately assumed the position as a largely silent deadwood paper weight rubber stamp yes man for the incoming mayor. When he does rise to speak, he invokes the babbling oratory of councillors Frank Di Giorgio and Cesar Palacio. In the debate over transit and the Sheppard subway, Councillor Crisanti insisted busses ran faster than LRTs and endeavoured to ensure Etobicoke would not see improvement in transit in our lifetimes.

That, folks, is the slate of candidates the mayor wants to put together. Team Ford and Vincent Crisantis in 2014.

sirenly submitted by Cityslikr


It’s Not Just About The Money

March 24, 2012

In hindsight, I wish the outcome of this week’s subway-LRT transit battle hadn’t been settled on the question of money. Everyone conceding the ground that subways would be great but we just can’t afford them. If money grew on trees, we’d have subways running every which way until Sunday. But it doesn’t so we can’t.

There’s always money in the banana stand. Everybody has a scheme for raising money to build subways. Even tight-fisted fiscal conservative, Budget Chief Mike Del Grande, gave the impression of floating a proposal to look at the possibility of a parking levy before trying to pull it the following day. Earlier in the week at a TO Townhalls transit debate, Councillor Norm Kelly checked off a list of taxes and fees the city could pursue in order to raise enough funds to build a subway as if it was as easy as all that, as if any of these ideas hadn’t already been swept aside by Mayor Ford.

Councillor Kelly invited the audience to join him in being bold. A variation that Dr. Gordon Chong employed as well in getting us to think big, to think outside the box. Don’t have a closed mind, you stick in the mud squares. Explore the possibilities of private public partnerships. There’s always money in the banana stand.

Except there’s not, of course, there never was. All nonsense or hogwash to use the parlance of the mayor. Team Ford had the better part of two years to come up with a funding plan for the Sheppard subway, to think outside the box, to be bold, to give us a transit vision. But what did they deliver? Let’s start digging and go from there. Use some $1 billion ($2 billion if you do your math in the Councillor Doug Ford double-clutch fashion) in funding from the provincial and federal governments and get those shovels in the ground. Say, whatever happened to all that private sector cash to fill the subway funding gap, Mayor Ford? Those magical tales of a city with a spending not a revenue problem. A guarantee we could have it all, low taxes and shiny new infrastructure. No money down. No interest payments. Ever.

Councillor Jaye Robinson epitomized that gulf between fact filled reality and misguided fantasy. I’m trying really hard to like the councillor. She seems very honourable, sensible and well-intentioned. But her speech on Thursday (including her first ever request for a speaker’s extension) coming out in favour of closing the Sheppard subway loop was nothing more than ill-informed, area-centric parochialism.

Firstly, there was no talk of how to pay for a complete Sheppard subway loop. Ooops. There I go, doing it myself, asking about funding, funding, funding.

The councillor opened up with an attempt to undermine those who pointed out that 1st class cities such as Paris and Madrid are building/have built LRTs, saying those places already have a robust, fully integrated subway system. Their LRTs are simply feeding into it. Toronto’s subway system needed a full Sheppard loop to bolster its subway system not an LRT to feed into it.

That’s simply wrong. What Toronto needs to shore up its subway system is the Downtown Relief Line. Not to cater to the core elites but to relieve capacity on the Yonge-University and Bloor-Danforth lines for all those coming in to work downtown from the… wait for it, wait for it… inner suburbs and exurbs.

Don’t believe me? Fair enough. I’m no transit expert. Why not ask the TTC’s new CEO?

Despite being expropriated by Team Ford as a proponent of their crazy scheme, Andy Byford quietly stated his actual subway priority at a Board of Trade breakfast talk yesterday. “Although the TTC accepts the decision made by council, I maintain the city does also need to have a sensible debate around a subway provision,” he told reporters. “Sooner or later we’ve got to address the subway capacity, particularly in regard to the downtown relief line.”

‘A sensible debate’.

In fairness, that did begin to happen this week. With the mayor’s refusal to provide any sort of cogent funding plan for his pet subway project, his allies rushed to fill in the void. Half-hearted and vague as most of the proposed measures were, right wing councillors kicked started the conversation about revenue generation that had been pooh-poohed pretty well since our previous mayor stated that you can’t build a great city for free.

That said, great cities aren’t simply great cities because they build subways everywhere. Great cities build subways where it’s feasible, where subways transport the greatest number to the places they need to get to.

For Toronto, all of Toronto not just where Mayor Ford’s trying to get the greatest amount of votes, the answer isn’t along Sheppard Avenue. It never was. We should never have been talking about it in the first place.

So let’s start having that sensible debate.

calmly, coolly submitted by Cityslikr


L’état C’est Moi

March 23, 2012

Standing outside City Hall yesterday after the transit vote, I noticed a man holding a cardboard placard. I couldn’t read the sign at first glance, only noticing the person holding it. He was somewhat bedraggled, leaving me to assume he was one of those street corner religious types. John 3:16 or other words condemning those to hell who did not accept Jesus Christ as our lord and saviour.

When I finally did catch sight of the front of the sign, my assumption was proven only mildly incorrect. “The Will Of Council Does Not Supersede The Will Of The People”. Not religion as much as misplaced faith.

The schism is complete then. You are either with Mayor Ford or you are against the will of the people of Toronto. As the mayor stated after his latest council defeat on transit, “This is an election issue. Obviously the campaign starts now.”

You remember how that plays out. We just wrapped one up, less than 18 months ago. Rob Ford as the outsider, on the hustings, railing against a bloated, mismanaged and quite possibly corrupt City Hall with a spending problem not a revenue problem.

He kicked off Re-Election 2014 with a fiery speech yesterday, full of misplaced indignation and highly dubious claims that came across as little more than a temper tantrum. In the face of certain defeat – How certain? Team Ford QB and avowed LRT hater Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti didn’t alter previous plans in order to attend the vote. Why bother if you’re going to lose anyway? – Mayor Ford simply lashed out, burned bridges and delivered a big ‘Fuck You’ to his council colleagues and the democratic process.

Watching the speech, you’d think council members, regardless of political stripe, would slowly step back away from the mayor, smiling politely while maintaining eye contact as one does when dealing with any sort of raving lunatic. Surprisingly, 18 councillors stood with Mayor Ford to back his ill-thought out and unfunded subway plan. Sure, many bemoaned his lack of leadership on the issue but followed up by playing along and allowing the mayor to continue with the charade of having a sensible transit plan.

Councillor David Shiner took it one step further, greasily muddying the waters to suggest there was a lack of leadership by everyone on the transit issue. Actually no, Councillor Shiner, but nice try though. TTC Chair Karen Stintz led a coalition of right of centre, centre and left of centre councillors in assuming control of an issue the mayor could not get past empty campaign rhetoric on.

That’s how democracy works around these parts. A mayor is given a head start in setting the agenda, has a certain rump of votes to work with but then it’s up to them to cobble together 23+ votes. There’s no rule that a mayor has to win every vote, not even really important ones.

This isn’t about dysfunction at City Hall. The inmates are not running the asylum. It’s not a clown show or a farce. This is how municipal politics operates. We just don’t recognize what’s going on currently because this is our introduction to a renegade mayor.

In an excellent piece yesterday, John Lorinc pointed out the two remaining items of the mayor’s 2010 election mandate: repealing the Land Transfer Tax and cutting councillor numbers in half. With all the talk of new revenue tools that emerged during the transit debate, it’s laughable to think Mayor Ford could convince 22 councillors to junk a very important source of revenue for the city. If any consensus arose out of the transit battle, it was the need for more revenue not less. Repealing the LTT should be a non-starter.

Leaving the reduction of councillors from 44 to 22 as the remaining plank in his 2010 campaign platform to fulfill.

What I expect to happen in the next little while is an attempted conflation of this pledge with a demand for accountability to the taxpayers from city council. ‘The Will Of Council Does Not Supersede The Will Of The People’. Council’s out of control, folks. They denied you subways. Fewer councillors mean more control for the people, more respect for taxpayers.

Never mind the illogical of that sentiment. Logic has never been part of Mayor Ford’s mandate. Fewer councillors mean less representation for the people of Toronto. Yet it’s going to ring true to those who saw the triumph of LRTs over subways as proof positive of the meddlesomeness of council. Reduce the number of councillors and you’ll increase the power of the mayor.

Of course, it’s hard to imagine 22 councillors agreeing to put their jobs in jeopardy. There’ll be some support from the diehardest of diehard supporters of the mayor, and maybe a sprinkling of those not planning to run for office again. Even with the possible realignment of wards, a reduction probably won’t be done before 2014 election.

Which will be the point Mayor Ford attempts to capitalise on. They’re only in it for themselves, folks. Too many cooks in the kitchen. They denied me my mandate, your mandate, our mandate. Help me rid City Hall of these troublesome councillors. Re-elect Rob Ford in 2014 and I can finally get around to doing the job you elected me to do in 2010.

clairvoyantly submitted by Cityslikr