Who Should Pay The Piper?

This has been nagging at me for a couple weeks, and kind of bubbled up to the surface yesterday, following along with the TTC commission debate over a fare increase in the new year. forkitover“I believe fares should be adjusted every year because the cost of running the system,” Mayor Tory responded when asked about any possible fare hike. But when it comes to the question of property tax increases because the cost of running the city? Or, I don’t know, a vehicle registration fee to help pay for expedited repairs on the Gardiner expressway?

That’s another matter entirely.

There are those with a similar political bent to the mayor who don’t agree with such an obvious double standard, certainly when it comes to charging drivers more to pay the costs of roads. Postmedia’s Andrew Coyne, for one. He was on a panel I attended (and wrote about earlier this month) where tolling and road pricing was very much the rage. We must stop subsidizing car drivers, Coyne pronounced. We need to let the free market deal with congestion.

OK, sure. Let’s have that conversation. At least we’re agreed that drivers in no way, shape or form, fully pay the price of the road space they use.

And stop subsidizing public transit, Andrew Coyne went on. waitwhatWhy our public transit system is so bad, he stated, was because the ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ had been kept from performing its magic on it. (He’s been saying such things for a while now.)

If wishes were fishes and all that. An argument can be made that the private sector might augment the delivery of public transit but there are few examples of it doing so alone especially in larger metropolitan areas, and especially in North America. That’s not to suggest it couldn’t here but it does lead to a bigger question. Should it?

If public transit is, in fact, a public service, what role does the profit motive have to play in that? There is a considerable segment of the population living in places like Toronto who don’t view public transit as just another option to get around the city. It is the only way they can do it. They’re what we refer to as a ‘captive ridership’. They don’t choose to take public transit. They depend on it. Start with everybody under the age of 16 and count from there.tollroad

Should they be subject to the vagaries of the private sector as they endeavour to get to school, to work, to their doctor’s appointment?

I’ll take it a step further.

Shouldn’t those who use public transit as their mode of transportation be viewed as people actually delivering a public service rather than receiving a public service (for which they are charged here in Toronto nearly 75% of the operating costs)? Along with cyclists and walkers, aren’t transit users contributing to the quality of life in a city by not driving? Why does Andrew Coyne believe people using transit should be treated equally to those moving about a city in cars? No subsidies for anyone. Pay your way. Our current mayor, John Tory, is less even-handed, demanding “… those who use the system [public transit] should continue to maintain their proportional share of the cost.” crowdedsubwayHe wouldn’t dream of suggesting the same from car drivers.

The private vehicle is the least efficient, most expensive form of mobility there is in large urban areas like Toronto. Cars and driving place onerous demands on municipal budgets, pervert quality design and planning, overuse public space while underpaying for the privilege of doing so. So it’s way past time we have a discussion about them owning up to all that, starting with opening their wallets a little wider.

Those who either choose to or must use public transit have been paying more than their fair share, their ‘proportional share’ for some time now. We need to start acknowledging the contribution they’ve been making to this city and stop penalizing them for it. They’re doing us a favour while we keep acting like it’s the other way around.

fairly submitted by Cityslikr

Crazy Like A Crazy Person Or Just Crazy?

There’s that old aphorism, credited variously to Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw howsthatgoagainor Winston Churchill, that goes something to the effect: If you’re not a socialist when you’re twenty, there’s something wrong with your heart; if you’re still a socialist when you’re forty, there’s something wrong with your head.

I’d like to riff on that, thinking about modern day conservatives. If you’re a conservative these days, regardless of age, eighteen to eighty, there’s something wrong with both your ticker and noggin.

I mean, how else to explain that a good 30% of the Ontario electorate are still telling pollsters they are willing to vote for Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives in next month’s provincial election. This, a week+ into his campaign of the axing our way back to prosperity plan. 100,000 public sector jobs gone. Corporate taxes slashed to the lowest in North America. LRT plans for Toronto, Mississauga, Hamilton and Brampton? texaschainsawmassacreGone, gone, gone and gone.

Never mind that none of this is good or sound policy. His 1, 000, 000 Jobs Plan is laughable even by some of his strongest supporters. While his threats appear to be real, his promises are empty.

Now, there are all sorts of reasons to want to see the governing Liberals chased from office. But Tim Hudak isn’t offering a better alternative. He’s merely being spiteful. It’s vengeance, he wants, not better governance.

What do his supporters think this would accomplish? Zero economic benefits, at best, and there’s a lot of wishful thinking and blind faith going into even seeing that as a possibility. His transit plans for the GTHA won’t make a dent in the region’s congestion woes. He’s even admitted there are going to be bigger class sizes in schools if he has his way.

defiantTo what end?

The eradication of the province’s deficit and any semblance of the last decade of Liberal rule, it seems.

Neither of which, by almost every count, will contribute in any positive way to the daily lives of average Ontarians.

That’s kind of the very definition of cutting off your nose to spite your face, isn’t it?

Even while his policy announcements raised more eyebrows than they did serious consideration, Mr. Hudak has been applauded in some circles for his forthrightness, his no pulling of punches, his boldness in laying out his plans.

“But its value is mostly for what it signals of his resolve,” writes Andrew Coyne in the National Post, referring to the pledge to cut 100,000 jobs for the public sector.

The resolve is the thing, you see. Not its effectiveness or necessity. Who cares about the economic results as long as you do what you say you’re going to do, ridiculous or not.determined

Now, let me state right here that I’m in no way comparing Tim Hudak to Adolph Hitler aside from a stylistic similarity. Whatever else his faults might’ve been, Hitler was a politician of certain resolve too. He offered up a few solutions of his own, back in the day. So what if one in particular was a little genocide-y? He said he was going to do it. He did it. You can’t fault the guy for a lack of resolve.

What is the appeal of a politician full of bad ideas, unflinchingly out there promoting them? Bad ideas are bad ideas whether you yell them to the mountain tops or keep them to a parlour whisper.

What exactly has the conservative voter become that this is now seen as a constructive attribute? Loudly, proudly pronouncing nonsense. Has it really come down to a case of my guy, right or wrong? burntheplacedownPositive change isn’t their goal so much as any change, good or bad, is better than no change.

I get why nearly 3/4s of us want to see a new government at Queen’s Park. The stench of scandal, misspending and cover up hangs over the Liberal government. But frankly, I’d take that over the smell of scorched earth which I feel is what’s being offered to us by Tim Hudak. It isn’t an alternative. It’s a vendetta.

fearfully submitted by Cityslikr

An Off-Kilter Moral Centre

[We interrupt our regularly scheduled flow of municipal news, information and opinion to give way to our wayward colleague, Acaphlegmic – back from hinterlands unknown – and his thoughts on yesterday’s death of Senator George McGovern.]

*  *  *

If you’re reading this there’s a very good chance that I am much older than you are. The news of George McGovern’s passing, in likelihood, had the same impact on you as being told a distant great-great something or other had died peacefully in their sleep. A compassionate shrug and I’m sorry for your loss. This does not make you a bad person. Only a young one.

But if you find yourself these days disturbed, dismayed, disappointment at the far right drift of our society, the cult of hyper-individualism, the deification of greed as sound economic policy, wars without end waged against vague concepts, you, my friends, are all children of George McGovern.

It can be argued that his landslide loss to Richard Nixon in the 1972 American presidential election was the official death of the 1960s (although I would mark the occasion 4 years earlier and the assassination of Robert Kennedy). Dirty hippism was soundly relegated to the fringe sidelines; pet projects and peeves of hapless Marxists, jobless malcontents, the socially and sexually deviant. The counterculture was out. Reactionism was all the rage.

We are all Nixonians now.

(And let’s not take comfort in the naïve notion that the likes of Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan would be too liberal for the Republican Party these days. Both would’ve changed their skins to suit their political needs. They were as conservative as they needed to be and are the progenitor’s of our age’s radical right chic.)

By voting so overwhelmingly for Nixon in ’72, Americans signalled to politicians that appealing to our worst instincts, dividing rather than uniting, operating under craven cynicism and not any sort of honourable principles would be the surest way to winning elections. From that point forward, no decent candidate would get anywhere near the White House. Jimmy Carter was merely a blip on the screen, an electoral eeek! at the revealed hideousness of the Nixon administration, a collective statement that we may be bad but not that bad. Four years later, Americans shrugged and proceeded down the low road.

Now hold on a minute, I hear you saying. No decent candidate? What about Bill Clinton? What about Barack Obama?

Read the following passage from the New York Times OpEd on McGovern and imagine either of them taking such a stand in terms of the country’s foreign ‘entanglements’ in Afghanistan, Iraq.

Yet unlike most presidential candidates since 1972, Mr. McGovern had a moral streak that he refused to suppress regardless of the cost to his ambition. During a remarkable campaign speech at fundamentalist Wheaton College in Illinois, Mr. McGovern called upon his audience to grieve not only for American casualties in Vietnam but also for the Vietnamese lives lost from American military actions. Indifference to Vietnamese deaths troubled him, so he insisted that Americans confront their own responsibility for the consequences of war and “change those things in our character which turned us astray, away from the truth that the people of Vietnam are, like us, children of God.” Words like these led critics to castigate Mr. McGovern as a moralistic scold who was angry at his own country.

‘A moralistic scold’. An apologist. Forty years after that election and it is still considered fringe or radical to question the actions of your country and leaders. America, Love It Or Leave remains the norm.

And look not southward so condescendingly, Canada. Our governments can hardly be viewed as paradigms of good democracy at the moment. Don’t believe me? Even Mr. Andrew Coyne righteously and rightfully has his knickers in a twist.

Now, the strength of many 1960s causes has resisted crippling pushbacks. Women’s rights, gay rights, visible minority rights – equality and inclusion in a word or two – continue their inevitable march toward wholesale acceptance. Not unscathed or free of the relentless and mindless attacks from the right thinkers who remain doggedly in our midst. Still, it would be too overly pessimistic and entirely incorrect to conclude that George McGovern and politicians of his ilk ultimately died in vain.

But we are less of and a smaller society because the likes of George McGovern were pushed aside and thought of as being too out of touch with the mainstream, a far left extremism. By demonizing basic common decency and morality as fringe traits, nice to haves not need to haves, we normalized radical, anti-social political thought. Liberals began to quake in their boots at the prospect of being labelled as such. Tories took flight. True and destructive radicalism from the right assumed the pole position in the race that is now winner-take-all.

sadly submitted by Acaphlegmic