Designed Obsolescence

October 23, 2012

Put aside your bias for a moment, if you could, and I’ll try to put aside mine. Clear our heads of all preconceived notions of political matters here in Toronto. Let loose our spirits from partisanship.

Then, listen to Councillor Adam Vaughan talk density and city building yesterday with Matt Galloway on CBC’s Metro Morning. When you’re finished with that, check out Mayor Rob Ford a day earlier on his two hour Sunday radio show talking plastic bags (October 21st, part one, 1’35” mark.) Pause, reflect and consider the implications before asking yourself: Who would you rather have running this city?

Like I said, keep your politics at the door on this. Vehemently disagree or heartily agree with Councillor Vaughan all you want but admit that he’s talking about and understands substantive issues. His ward is at the epicenter of development in the city right now. Pressures of densification are intense. He is front and centre in the changing face of Toronto.

And Mayor Ford?

When not ordering city staff to spruce up the area around his family owned business, he’s busy, busy, busy visiting and revisiting the inadvertent plastic bag ban he instigated earlier this year.

A plastic bag ban, folks! The mayor of Toronto is determined to spend considerable political capital (and time) reversing a ban he already failed to have reversed. Almost halfway through his term, a weekly talk radio bully pulpit at his disposal and he spends even a fraction of the opportunity talking plastic bags? Why?

“It is essential that we have plastic bags,” Mayor Ford said on his show. “…they are very, very handy.”

Handy, sure, if what you’re really looking for is an easily digestible, yes/no, right/wrong binary issue that even a part time mayor can sum up in a bumper sticker slogan. When larger matters like more and better transit, an affordable housing shortage, city planning for the 21st-century are a little too cumbersome to get your head around, latch on to an inconsequential, divisive item and just don’t let go. Essential? You betcha. For re-election.

“We are doing great. We are doing what taxpayers elected me to do. We are straightening out the city.”

Is this really what Mayor Ford was elected to do? (It bears repeating that this plastic bag ban was entirely the mayor’s doing when he went off half-cocked at council trying to end the 5 cent – 6 cents if you include HST – plastic bag fee the city was demanding retailers charge their customers). Was he being literal when he said people were tired of being nickel and dimed to death and he’d put an end to it? One nickel – 6 cents if you include HST – at a time.

It was a flimsy if catchy campaign platform that successfully caught a wave of voter discontent in 2010. As a governing policy, however, it leaves a little to be desired. Is it really the best use of city time and resources to have our mayor running around filling potholes, rescuing kittens from trees, obsessing over a 5 cent – 6 cents if you include HST – plastic bag fee-turned-ban? Shouldn’t the mayor of city with some 2.5 million residents have more important things to do?

If your answer to that question is no, as a matter of fact, Mayor Ford is doing exactly what I voted for him to do, your expectations of the role municipal governments play in our lives is quite low. Access to regular and reliable public transit is essential. Plastic bags aren’t. Our aim should be a lot higher than the target Mayor Ford shoots for and his supporters cheer him on to do.

That’s called ‘reducing the role of government’ by example.

activistly submitted by Cityslikr