So just how cynical does this make me?
Following the deaths of two people on our city streets this week, due to the cold weather and lack of somewhere warm to stay, I merely expected Mayor Tory to at least make an appearance of, if not concern, then an awareness of the circumstances. On Monday, he was busily choppering around the city, overseeing from the sky that his parking enforcement edict was being observed. Meanwhile, one man was found dead, early the same morning, another early the next morning.
Great fanfare and kudos all `round for the mayor’s efforts getting tough on traffic congestion. “People of Toronto want to get to work on time, they want to get home to their families on time,” the mayor proclaimed, “and that is what this policy is all about … it’s enforcing the law so people can get around.”
Decisive. No nonsense. If he’s that committed to clearing the streets of illegally parked cars, imagine how on top of it he’ll be when it comes to making sure residents of this city aren’t left to die on our streets!
Well, yeah, you know. Not so much.
This is where my cynicism enters.
You’d think Mayor Tory or someone on his staff might be alert enough to put together a response that gives even the impression he’s as troubled by the precariousness of homelessness as he is about people losing precious moments of their commute behind an illegally parked delivery van in their race to get home and into the warm bosom of their families. Throw us a bone, man. Make it seem like this is something that even showed up on your radar.
Any cold weather alert decision would be up to the city’s Medical Officer of Health, the mayor told reporters. He added that even one death was one too many but, you know, it was ultimately out of his hands. Established protocol was in place to deal with such matters that didn’t directly involve the mayor’s office.
Technically, this is true. The determination to declare a weather related alert had been shunted over to city staff, relieving our elected officials of such a responsibility. It might be a good idea to try and remove the politics out of such a matter but rigid parameters of what constitutes the exact conditions necessary in order to call an alert left City Hall looking bureaucratically soulless in the face of two people dying, even more so Mayor Tory who attempted to dodge the issue with a don’t look at me shrug off.
Of course, in the end, it wasn’t going to be as easy as all that for the mayor. In the face of mounting criticism and the appearance of OCAP protesters outside his office in the afternoon, the mayor’s office issued a release stating he had asked that a cold weather alert be issued and warming centres opened ASAP which hastily, if not officially, happened. Two did so last night before temperatures dropped into the range where the regular mechanism for such alerts could be implemented.
It’s all very much the tip of the iceberg, the very top, the tippy, tippy, .001% top of the iceberg. Temporary warming centres serve as nothing more than a symptom, a daunting reminder of the actual problem, crisis, actually, Toronto faces with a fundamental lack of affordable housing, itself the fallout from unchecked poverty and increasing income disparity. If Mayor Tory had such difficulty getting out ahead of this smallest and ultimately miniscule aspect of homelessness in the city, how convinced should we be about his efforts going forward when bigger, crucial aspects have to be decided, such as the growing monstrosity of the TCHC repair backlog that threatens to put even more people out onto the streets if not dealt with almost immediately?
Throughout last year’s municipal election campaign, we John Tory wary-ists kept being told to assume the man had only the best of intentions for the city. That he was truly a progressive at heart and, as mayor, would fight for the interests of all Torontonians regardless of where they lived or if they had any place to live at all. Just how long do we have to keep assuming that despite much evidence to the contrary? Eventually his actions (or lack of them in this particular case) will speak louder than any of those placating words of assurance.
— still unconvincedly submitted Cityslikr