Is This Private Sector Transit Funding Councillor Ford Sees Before Him?

October 3, 2012

Is there a point of time when we can declare one of our elected officials clinically delusional? (Is there even an actual medical condition called ‘clinically delusional?) If so, what would we need to do to have them examined for their malady? A doctor’s note? Some sort of panel sign off?

Because here we are, a growing number, getting ready to begin an adult discussion on transit, what we need, how we need to fund it. You know. Something that should’ve been happening 30 years ago. 15 years ago. Just some number of years ago. In the past tense.

But wait. Into the debate strolls city council’s own Foghorn Leghorn, Councillor-Brother Doug Ford. Now, now just hold on there, just hold on a second, there folks. Hold on a cotton-pickin’ second. (That’s not racist. It couldn’t be. No one’s done more for black youth in this city than the councillor’s brother, the mayor. Why, some of his best football players are black.)

“Unless you go out and get expressions of interest worldwide and see what the private sector can do,” Councillor Ford said, “then you don’t raise taxes. It’s very simple.”

“We’ve got to keep trying, because it’s the right thing to do. There’s billions of dollars worldwide that want a safe haven for investment. Canada is that safe haven and Toronto is the best place in the world to invest.”

I say, I say.

We’ve got to keep trying, because it’s the right thing to do. It doesn’t matter that the mayor and his brother had over a year to harness the awesomeness of the private sector to build their Sheppard subway and came up empty. Because it’s the right thing to do, you’ve got to go out and root and dig for ‘expressions of interest and see what  the private sector can do’ regardless of the negligible evidence out there showing the private sector rushing in anywhere to fund public transit. No new taxes. The private sector will take care of all our needs.

We’ve. Got to. Keep. Trying. Because. It’s. The. Right. Thing. To. Do. Because. It’s. The. Right. Thing. To. Do. Billions of dollars out there. Safe havens. Billions. Canada’s the greatest investment opportunity in the world.

Does Councillor Ford actually believe in this magical pot of transit gold at the end of the private sector rainbow or does he just hate taxes so much, feels so strongly deep down in his heart of hearts all taxes are so evil, that he will say anything, regardless of how quantifiably disprovable it may be to discredit a conversation about revenue generation before it even gets off the ground?

If he’s just being some cynical circus barker, hell bent on not wanting to pay his share of the city’s infrastructure needs, that’s one thing. There’s an agenda at work. It’s concrete. You can contend with it.

You can point out, as TTC Chair Karen Stintz did at a Scarborough Town Hall meeting back during the LRT-subway debates that the private sector doesn’t just pay for public transit out of the goodness of its heart. Someone has to pay them to do it and that someone is always going to be us, the taxpayers.

We either do it through direct government subsidies or down the road through the farebox. There’s no other miraculous way it works. Those who wave off their obligations to pay for the building and operating of public transit, citing the marvel of the private sector as the panacea to our infrastructure needs, are merely kicking the proverbial can down the road. They’re trading the concept of passing along a fiscal deficit to the next generation to one of an infrastructure deficit. And that number is already staggeringly high.

And if Councillor Ford and his ilk don’t recognize that, if they truly see necessary capital infrastructure plans as little more than ‘unfunded liabilities’, then they clearly don’t understand their role as elected representatives and keepers of the public purse. Saying ‘no’ to big ticket items is fucking easy. You can shrug it off with empty sloganeering. It’s figuring out how to do the things a city needs done that’s the tough slog.

That’s if you’re actually having a rational discussion.

It could be that Councillor Ford has absolute faith in his meaningless private sector cant. A true believer in the perfection of the free market and fully paid member of the Six Sigma cult. He huffs and puffs beyond the realm of reality. Not a participant but a spectre that just spooks the proceedings, distracting everyone from the work and discussion that needs to be done.

Just another ghost from our past, haunting us with previous decisions deferred and similar failures of political will.

figmently submitted by Cityslikr