I would say that Tuesday’s #AskMayorTory event couldn’t have been scripted any better for the mayor if his staff had written it themselves.
Which I’m sure they didn’t. Why would they go to all that trouble when, instead, they could just plunk him down at a local venue, in this case, a church in the Bayview/Lawrence area, and watch him express his views on hyper-local issues like tree cutting and sidewalks. Who doesn’t want to know what the mayor of city of 2.5 million people thinks about basement flooding?
(Spoiler alert: Mayor John Tory cares a lot about basement flooding.)
Nothing reinforces the highly parochial nature of municipal politics like a local town hall meeting. The city would be a much better place, better run and function better, if every neighbourhood was just like [fill in your neighbourhood here]. Or, the flip side of that. [Fill in your neighbourhood here] is so much different than that neighbourhood. We’re historically different. We couldn’t possibly change or adapt.
Did you know that, according to one local resident, the Bayview/Lawrence area of Toronto has a ‘rural character’?
It’s impossible to sit through an hour of one of these town hall gatherings and not come away amazed that this city has budged an inch from its high agrarian, 18th-century roots. Change is for other people, other places! Or maybe I’m just not cut out to follow along so closely to the nuts-and-bolts of local governance. Not because I find it boring. It just reveals an unlikeable self-absorption in so many of us.
It’s also impossible to watch these sorts of public meetings and not see clearly why John Tory was the choice of so many to step in and calm the civic waters after the turbulent Ford era. The man challenges few of our presumptions or approaches to doing things. He soothingly feeds our biases. Does almost nothing to question the status quo.
Even when Mayor Tory takes on a just cause, like he has with the Syrian refugee crisis, it’s somehow posed like it was Tuesday night in opposition to the most extreme view from the other side, that of Rob Ford. Although the mayor said that he didn’t want to mention his predecessor’s name too much, he raised that specter whenever it was convenient. Right from the outset, he was assisted in this by co-moderator, Royson James of the Toronto Star, who began the evening regurgitating something Ford had said about the city not being able to cope with new refugees, blah, blah, blah.
So we get to sit for nearly 10 minutes, listening to Mayor Tory say all the right things about making a home here in Toronto for whatever number of refugees come our way, all the while thinking, Man, imagine if Rob Ford was still mayor of this city. Wipes our brow and gives a collective sigh of relief.
That was the high point of the mayor’s performance on Tuesday night. After that, it was pretty much business as usual. Users of the TTC should expect annual fare increases because, well, it costs money to deliver the service. Even so, the mayor pointed out that a transit ride was “still subsidized by the rest of the taxpayers”. To the tune of the least subsidized of almost every other transit system in North America. Still. Subsidized.
As for similar expectations on car drivers, when asked by an audience member about instituting tolls to pay for the roads they use, Mayor Tory swatted the idea aside. “It’s a tough issue,” he said, pointing out that many drivers believe they already pay their share through gas taxes and licensing fees, proving only that if you’re a powerful enough voting block, pandering politicians will let you believe whatever it is you want to believe regardless of how untrue that belief may be.
This double standard of the mayor’s went largely unchallenged until Royson James came back to this notion of fee-for-use about 30 minutes later. Curiously, the comparison he used was between TTC fares and water rates which he pointed out, to rebuild crumbling infrastructure, had been going up 8, 5, 3% year after year. Why not do that with the TTC? Which is pretty much exactly what Mayor Tory is proposing with annual fare increases, isn’t it?
Royson proved himself to be pretty much that kind of paper tiger in the mayor’s presence, leading me to wonder exactly what he was doing up on the stage in the first place. I was given my answer when, in the last segment of the show, James competed with Mayor Tory in a game of Idiot Questions or whatever it was called. The other co-moderator, filling in for a sick Cynthia Mulligan, asked the two men trick questions like… You don’t really give a shit, do you? Let me just say, it was 3 or so minutes I’m never getting back.
Three or so minutes the mayor could’ve taken answering the last question posed from the audience about his SmartTrack plan. How would it help those transit users who are already packed tightly on the Yonge subway line? SmartTrack, Mayor Tory assured the gentleman, would serve as a ‘relief line’.
It won’t. Nobody else except for Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker makes such a ludicrous claim. And Councillor De Baeremaeker will say anything about public transit that he thinks people want to hear.
Remember how he loved the idea of a Scarborough LRT?
And then how he hated it?
But on Tuesday night, Mayor Tory got to run with the line about SmartTrack being a relief subway line, unchallenged, because time had expired and the final 3 minutes or so were needed to play Idiot Questions or whatever.
#AskMayorTory shows the mayor, casually plopped down on his bully pulpit. There’s no back and forth, no actual discourse. Just questions lobbed up and batted back in the direction he wants to send them. Mayor Tory wants you to know, Toronto, that he hears you. He’s just not really listening if your voice doesn’t already have his ear.
— into-the-voidly submitted by Cityslikr