Stunt Activism

There are times when you just have to give credit where credit’s due. slowclapDoff your cap to acknowledge a job well done and offer up a round of applause. Not one consisting of the mocking slow clap either.

So here’s to you, Toronto Taxpayers Coalition. Your outsized ability to elevate stunt activism into part of the mainstream media discourse is truly commendable. Am I jealous? You betcha. I want to know the secret ingredient in the power drink that gives the group the Joe Friday appearance of just the facts, ma’am impartiality and the cape of authority.

Do we start just by claiming ourselves to be non-partisan? Despite all evidence to the contrary, after 3 and a half years of wearing our political hearts on our sleeve, we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke should simply tell everyone that we are a non-partisan organization, respecting those taxpayers who don’t get their knickers all in a twist about paying taxes, nothingupmysleevewho recognize that taxation is more than just a fact of life but the way in which we build strong neighbourhoods, communities and cities.

Here’s our slogan: Respecting The Taxpayer Who Sees Paying Taxes Not As A Burden But As An Investment In Where They Live.

(We’ll fix that in editing.)

If the Toronto Taxpayers Coalition can claim with a straight face to be non-partisan, and be treated as such, then the word is meaningless. Click on the organization’s Issues list and check out their media releases. The plastic bag fee/ban? No. Fair Wage Policy? No. Land transfer tax? No. Vehicle Registration Tax? No. Private garbage collection? Yes. Casino? Yes. Subways? Yes.

Any of this sound familiar?

Replace the Toronto Taxpayers Coalition title on their website with the Office of Mayor Rob Ford and you’d hardly miss a step. parrotThat’s alright. The mayor’s agenda dovetails seamlessly with the views and opinions of a lot of Torontonians. Let’s just stop pretending because it’s an independent organization that it’s somehow non-partisan.

And could we please stop pretending the Toronto Taxpayers Coalition brings to the table an objective analysis with robust fact and figures. If they do, the same could be said about the mayor, and I’m not sure who actually believes that’s the case. A billion dollars saved! Need I say more?

What the Toronto Taxpayers Coalition does, and does well, all power to them, is deliver up talking points. Empty, divorced from reality talking points that talk show radio hosts love. Talking points complete with colourful infographics minus a whole slew of context.

During the last budget cycle debate in January, this other-TTC manufactured a tasty and calorically empty morsel for public consumption. After doing their research which, as far as I can tell is copying-and-pasting the necessary information from the city’s website, the Toronto Taxpayers Coalition screamed in horror at how much spending had increased during the first 3 years of the Miller administration which, of course, Mayor Ford put an end too, toute suite.mortimersnerd

A billion dollars! (Coincidentally, the same amount Mayor Ford keeps claiming to have saved us.)

That’s a lot of money! Especially if there’s no other information forthcoming. Just a number you indignantly bellow. A really, really big number.

There’s no question the Miller administration increased spending compared to its predecessor. No one disputes that. But how that happened is equally important. While the mayor and his supporters would like you to think it was all about out-of-control tax-and-spending, the truth, as it always is, is much subtler than that. David Miller was very successful in bringing other levels of government to the table and open up their wallets, for example, which would be reflected in that increased spending.

But any increase in government spending is abhorrent in the eyes of the Toronto Taxpayers Coalition. “While we don’t endorse increasing costs to taxpayers…”, the group writes. What world do these people live in, where costs never rise and flat lining spending never results in diminished returns?

Normally, I can keep my incredulity at such simple-mindedness reined in to the occasional snarky tweet but the Toronto Taxpayers Coaltion’s latest PR stunt is just too much to shrug off.

“Taxpayers Coalition says it will attempt to ‘force’ Toronto to cut council in half,” according to a National Post headline from earlier this week. texaschainsawmassacreYou see, like Mayor Ford (surprise, surprise), this other-TTC believes that cutting council in half or so will increase efficiency and decrease the cost of local government to taxpayers. It’s just so obvious, it has to make sense, right? Simple answers, to complex question, H.L. Mencken, yaddie, yaddie, yaddie.

Never mind that cutting the councillor numbers in half would make little dent on the operating budget and almost none on your tax bill. The 2013 gross expenditure on council all in? About 19 million dollars, folks. Let’s round it up to 20. On paper, cutting the number of councillors in half would shave $10 million off the annual operating budget. 10 million of roughly 10 billion. A savings of .001. On a $4000 tax bill that’d be about $4.

And that’s just on paper, in theory. The actual fact is, the city’s work has to be done. So the fewer councillors would need more staff and, darkly, there’d be a bigger reliance on outside influence and opinion, let’s call it. squarepeg2Cutting council numbers in half would be a boon to the lobbying industry.

What really gets my goat about this is it reflects a fundamental lack of understanding about how municipal governance actually works. The argument most touted in favour of reducing city council’s size is that Toronto has 22 MPs and 22 MPPs. Why do we need 44 councillors?

BECAUSE THEIR JOBS AREN’T THE SAME!!

As you travel up the levels of government, the ratio of legislative-constituent work changes. Essentially, the higher you go, the less constituent work a politician does. When’s the last time you called your MP for help? Shit! I’m heading out of the country and forgot to renew my passport!

City councillors are eye-deep in both aspects of governance. And the constituency aspect is very, very hands-on, labour intensive. Noise complaints. Dogs off leash. Fence exemptions. Oh, good god, the fence exemptions.

The customer service stuff the mayor’s so fond of touting while his council colleague have to spend some of their time picking up the legislative aspect of the job he’s not so interested in. igotnothingYou know, planning and growth, community development. All that eggheady boring crap Mayor Ford’s never really had much time for.

That’s not to embrace the status quo. There’s a very compelling argument to be made about re-thinking council structure to better ensure accountability, responsiveness and public engagement. But like in every aspect of our current political discourse in Toronto the Toronto Taxpayers Coalition isn’t interested in contributing in any meaningful way. Perhaps honest discussion and exchange of ideas is a little too partisan for its tastes. It prefers its radio spots instead.

acknowledgingly submitted by Cityslikr

3 Responses to Stunt Activism

  1. Sol says:

    True. But by writing about Mr. McGuire’s coalition of 1, you’re crediting him with more influence than he’ll ever have.

  2. Greg Banks says:

    I’m suprised they didn’t spout Section 135 and suggest that Toronto would be best served by the minimum goverance allowed by law….4 Councilllors and a Mayor…..

  3. Sonny says:

    We have 23 MPs that will go up to 25! Ford broke another promise to reduce the number of councillors to 22.
    McGuire is right wing but remember Jason Kenney and John Williamson used to lead the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation and are now on the Public Teat…
    Last month on the size of Council the vote was 23-10 opposed to Ford’s motion with 11(quarter) abstaining

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