On Your Left

I hesitatingly venture here into provincial territory as it’s not really my thing. dipmytoeinWhich is odd because, regardless of what goes on at City Hall, what degree of self-import we attach to the place, it don’t amount to a hill of beans in the face of the ultimate power wielded by Queen’s Park. The municipal will of the people always bends to that of the provincial government. End stop.

So here goes…

It all started yesterday. Actually, it was the day before. Wednesday.

Mayor Ford foot stomps and waa-waas, demanding a face-to-face meeting with the premier to talk about financial help from the province for the city’s clean-up efforts after last month’s ice storm. A meeting the premier is under absolutely no obligation to have since the mayor’s been stripped of all his powers to be of any importance in the running of the city. tempertantrum3A meeting the premier is under absolutely no obligation to have since city council has already officially asked the province for assistance in paying for the clean-up.

A meeting that is only about one thing and one thing only.

Mayor Ford’s re-election campaign. Mayor Ford’s attempt to look like he’s still the mayor in anything but name only. Mayor Ford’s publicity stunt.

Just ignore him. He’ll get distracted soon. NFL playoffs this weekend!

But for whatever reason, the provincial NDP leader, Andrea Horwath, decides to wade in.

Let me restate that.

For purely political reasons, the provincial NDP leader, Andrea Horwath, decides to wade in. Ms. Horwath sees an opportunity to get a dig in at the premier. Why not? That’s what democracy is all about, right? Getting your shots in?

“I think common courtesy in response to a mayor’s request for a meeting is pretty easy to fulfil,” the NDP leader told reporters benice(and quoted here in a Toronto Sun article by Christina Blizzard. More on that in a moment.)

Come on, Premier Wynne! Why you gotta be so mean to guy when he’s down on his luck? What’s the mayor ever done to earn this kinda discourtesy from you?

I don’t really need to run down that list for you, do I? By the choices he’s made and actions he’s taken, Mayor Ford has made himself irrelevant to the operations and functioning of the city he was elected to lead. City council made it official. This goes beyond the mushy notion of courtesy.

So what’s to be gained for the NDP leader, out there, all sympathetic to Toronto’s disgraced mayor?

Here’s my guess, and it goes back to the Toronto Sun, Christina Blizzard and this seemingly bit of oddity from Trish Hennessy in the fall of 2011, after the last provincial election.

When they talked about Rob Ford, they often spoke in appreciative, glowing terms – in the same way they spoke about another well-loved politician, Jack Layton. In the focus group discussions, they saw little ideological divide between Jack Layton and Rob Ford. Rather, they felt the two men had in common a sincere drive to take on the struggle of the people despite great odds.

Rob Ford-Jack Layton? Wait? We’re NDP like Jack Layton. We’re like Jack Layton. ivegotitWhy not Rob Ford-provincial NDP?

From a left of centre perspective? Aside from the colour orange, I see very little resemblance between Jack Layton and the provincial NDP party. But hey. Have at it, if that’s how you see the way forward.

What I find particularly frustrating is that there’s another strategy possibly working to the NDP’s advantage here.

I see Premier Wynne as something of a throwback, a Pearson-Trudeau sort of Liberal at heart. With the Ontario economy in a serious rut, unemployment discouragingly high, disturbingly high for youth and young adults, the premier’s instinct must be to go all Keynesian on our asses. Damn the deficit! Open up the spigot and get spending. Seriously start addressing our staggering infrastructure deficit, especially in transit.

Screw talk of tax increases at this point of time. Those will come later. antikeynesianKick start the draggy economic engine because waiting for the private sector to step up has proven to be a mug’s game to this point.

The premier’s held back from taking such a bold step on two fronts. Old blue Tory McGuinty Libs remain in place, tutting and fretting about the deficit and debt. If we just buckle down a little more, tighten the belt a little further, things will start to come around. Conservatives assure us of this fact.

Secondly, previous financial spending gaffes (made by those very same blue Tory McGuinty Libs) have reduced the public’s trust in the Liberals’ ability to spend wisely to almost zero. With no credibility, no goodwill from voters, and still in a minority position, it’s tough to pull the trigger on any sort of increased spending. holeontheleftThis time, it’ll be different. Cross our hearts.

All of which opens a gaping hole on the left flank for the NDP to run up through. Government intervention to inject life into an otherwise anemic economy? It should be the party’s bread-and-butter. It’s what the NDP are all about, yes?

Not this current provincial NDP, it seems. This isn’t the party of Jack Layton. Or Stephen Lewis. Or, for that matter, Bob Rae even.

This is a party more concerned with what somebody like Rob Ford would do.

Political calculation, trumping principles and basic economic common sense.


Good luck courting new voters with that. You’re going to need it.

disappointingly submitted by Cityslikr

Transit Talk And Talk And Talk

It’s kind of like living in a time lapse photography sequence these days, following along with the twists and turns of the city’s ongoing and perpetual transit debate. timelapseIn three years, we‘ve been able to catch a glimpse of decades after decades after decades of toil and strife, where talk almost always trumps action. Weren’t paying attention first time around? Fear not. There’s always another kick at the can. Always.

Word emerged yesterday that the dreams of more Scarborough subways weren’t dead. Such rumours were apparently exaggerated. The province’s Transportation and Infrastructure Minister, Glen Murray, and the city’s TTC chair chatted openly about the possibility the door hadn’t yet closed and that there just might be some way to work out the details of finding the extra cash necessary to convert the proposed Bloor-Danforth LRT extension at Kennedy to a subway. moneytreeWhat’s another half billion to 900 million dollars generated by as of yet agreed upon revenue tools when there’s by-election outcomes and mayoral aspirations at stake?

Look, at this point, I almost (almost) couldn’t give a fuck what kind of transit gets built in Scarborough as long as it leads to the How You Going To Pay For It conversation. There’s never been any logical reason to build further subways either along Sheppard or as an extension to the existing line there. Lord knows, there’s certainly no compelling economic reason to do so. It’s always been about divisive political posturing, pure and simple. Subways, subways, subways. The people want subways.

Or the latest idiocy to tumble out of a councillor’s mouth about the issue. “The province needs to step up to the plate, otherwise they will be letting down the people of Scarborough,” mewled Councillor Michelle Berardinetti. “You can’t go to residents with revenue tools and not even deliver a subway.” tellmewhatIwanttohearYou see, Scarborough deserves subways because, well, subways. Subways, subways, subways.

But if you think the province is acting any more sensibly, get a load of Minister Murray’s thoughts on the matter. “We’ve certainly been flexible in the past and will continue to be when it comes to accommodating a municipality,” the Globe and Mail quotes him saying. “It will be over my dead body that Scarborough goes wanting for high speed, rapid transit. I’m not prepared for people in Scarborough to miss this round…”

Flexible. Isn’t it adorable how the minister positively frames being politically craven and calculating. If this Liberal government at Queen’s Park hadn’t proven to be so ‘flexible’ at the outset, if they hadn’t immediately caved to our new mayor’s 2010 unilateral decision to junk Transit City, we wouldn’t still be having this conversation three years on.

And what the fuck is he talking about with the Scarborough ‘wanting for high speed, rapid transit’ and the ‘miss this round’ business? jumphowhighThis kind of bullshit only serves to further unfairly diminish LRTs in the already dim view of some and continues to put the notion of subways on this entirely unwarranted 1st class pedestal. It’s technology porn and completely warps the conversation.

Every time you think (no, hope and pray) you see a little ray of sunshine on transit – hey, maybe this time, maybe this time, maybe, maybe, maybe – the dark clouds of naked ambition roll in. It’s enough to make you think we get transit built only when it’s expedient for a critical mass of politicians. The most cost conscious of mayors has been joined by elected officials covering the entire ideological spectrum essentially telling voters in Scarborough that when it comes to getting them their subway, money is no object. In this, they are all tax-and-spenders minus the taxing part.

You’d think that after the scandals that continue to plague them, the Liberal government might shy away from such obvious pandering and willingness to throw money around in order to shore up support for ridings that are in play. Change of leader, change in approach. igotnothingIt most certainly is not business as usual.

But maybe their calculus factors in one other variable. If, as a voter, public transit in Toronto is your big issue and you find the Liberals’ ‘flexibility’ on the subway versus LRT question counter-productive, where do you turn for a better solution? Both Hudak’s Conservatives and the NDP have been content to stand on the sidelines, with fingers crossed, hoping the government self-immolates, occasionally shouting BOONDOGGLE as their sole contribution to the conversation.

You don’t like how we’re going about building transit, the Liberals might ask. Ask them how they’re going to do it. And, of course, neither opposition party will provide a satisfactory answer. They’ll shrug and yell BOONDOGGLE again.

Who could blame them really? There doesn’t seem to be any negative consequences to not building transit. Posturing will suffice. It doesn’t really cost much out of pocket. The problems will get worse but after many of the politicians have moved on to other careers. murderersrowThis city’s history is filled with characters dedicated to inaction on the transit file, so the current players including our mayor, TTC chair, premier, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, Queen’s Park opposition parties aren’t going to stand out as exemplary villains in this story.

They’ll just be joining the ranks of murderers’ row. The long line of politicians who put their own self-interest before the city’s. It’s not a particularly exclusive club.

fit to be tideingly submitted by Cityslikr

Somebody Really, Really Wants An Election

I won’t be the first to say this but perhaps what we’re witnessing right now with Mayor Ford’s shout out to NDP leader Andrea Horwath helpfulhintto withhold her party’s support of the proposed provincial budget and trigger an election is something more of a family psychodrama than it is any sort of political strategy.

Granted, outside of the campaign trail, no one’s ever suggested that the mayor and his crack team of operatives conduct business with any sort of long view in mind. No, that’s not true. All of Team Ford’s focus is on one long view: 2014. Everything they do stems from the desire to get the mayor through to the start of the 2014 campaign not impossibly unre-electable in the belief that they are wizards of campaigning and that all the elements of 2010 will once more coalesce in their favour.

Outside of that, it’s pretty much m’eh to any sort of tactical manoeuvring that exceeds a 10 hour news cycle. It’s little more than drive-by slightings and feigned indignation. hailmary1Translate “Here’s What Gets My Goat Today” into Latin and you’d have the Ford administration’s official motto.

Under normal circumstances, a mayor’s urging of an opposition party to defeat the government at Queen’s Park would be something of an eye-popper. Such partisan involvement can turn counter-productive in future relationships between a municipality and their ultimate bosses at the province. Circumspection might be a better hand to play.

We are hardly living in normal circumstances, however. This is another Hail Mary pass flung up by the Ford camp in the hopes that an Ontario election in the next couple months or so will see the election of Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives to power. With a winning roll of the dice (mixing of my sports metaphors duly noted), strutsandfretsall of Mayor Ford’s dreams will come true, and there will be a magical appearance of subways, subways, subways in time to bolster his own re-election chances next year.

And what if the PC’s don’t win? Previous administrations might’ve worried that there’d be some retribution handed out by any other party that formed the government. As long as a mayor who openly pulled for the losing side remained in power, cooperation from the province would be at a minimum.

But maybe Team Ford realizes what we all pretty much know at this point. That aside from Hudak’s PCs, no one really sees this mayoralty as relevant to the actual running of this city. A minor nuisance perhaps; a raging megaphone of no, no, no, can’t that produces little more than noise and increasingly easily surmountable obstacles. So if not Hudak now, when?

Just another impetuous outburst in a long list of growing list of mental belches.


Of course, it’s no coincidence that Mayor Ford’s closest confidant is the one person in the province who wants an election like nobody’s six sigma business, councillor-brother Doug. Having quickly grown bored with the daily trifling matters of local politics, the mayor’s older brother wants to take his non-politician act up the road to Queen’s Park where, presumably, he’s told his little brother once installed there, they’ll rule this city like kings. No more will they have to bend to contend with the plebes on city council. Mayor Rob. MPP Doug. The Dynamic Duo.

Maybe the mayor actually believes his brother. That the PCs are a cinch to win the next election if it happens soon. toomanychefsThat Doug will have no problem unseating a well established incumbent who has had little trouble winning and defending the riding for three straight elections. That once elected, Doug will automatically ascend to the levers of power at Queen’s Park and call the shots of what happens in Toronto.

It’s possible the mayor actually believes all that. After all, he remains adamant that the private sector will happily build public transit and it won’t cost taxpayers a dime. Wishful thinking constitutes much of his approach to governance.

Or maybe, Mayor Ford would happily see the end of his brother’s time at City Hall. For all the initial hope that Doug would be a moderating influence on his brother, that maybe he was the smart one, it’s kind of proven to be the exact opposite. If anything, Councillor Ford has provided an even more extreme element to this mayoralty, an unhealthy nudge away from consensus and collaboration with council colleagues. The deal-breaker not the deal maker.

A successful run for a seat at Queen’s Park by Doug could provide a beneficial distance between the brothers, a more productive work environment. Too much right wing ideology in one room can make it impossible for anyone to breath. whatsgoingonEven those comfortable with the smell of sulphur.

But maybe I’m putting altogether too much thought into this.

The mayor pops off as regularly as he shows up for work after noon. Exhorting the NDP to defeat the Liberal government and trigger an election was just something he said. No more thought put into than it took to string the words together. Analyzing it or sifting through it for a deeper meaning is a fruitless exercise.

And there’s about 850 words and a few hours I’ll never be getting back.

should-know-betterly submitted by Cityslikr