On Your Right

February 25, 2014

Imagine this.ptahasdisbanded

Councillors Shelley Carroll, Adam Vaughan, Kristyn Wong-Tam all join Olivia Chow as candidates for mayor of Toronto in 2014.

OMG! would come the anguished cry from anyone and everybody on the centre-left of the political spectrum. They’re splitting the vote! This’ll guarantee [fill in your right of centre candidate of choice here] the mayor’s office. Catastrophe!

Yet here we are, two high profile conservative candidates, Councillor Karen Stintz and John Tory, entered the mayoral race yesterday in a bid against ultra-right wing Mayor Rob Ford, joining self-declared moderate right wing candidate David Soknacki in what has become a very, very crowded field on the right.

Where are the alarm bells from the respective conservative camps?

crowdedfieldI’m trying to run the numbers here and I just don’t get it.

In 2010, Rob Ford was the only credible (and I’m using that word very specifically in this situation) conservative candidate still operational at the finish line, and he garnered 47% of the vote. Meanwhile, I think it’s safe to say, few on the left were truly content with their options but yet, between the two of them, George Smitherman and Joe Pantalone, they came in with over 46%. The slightest of cracks on the right and this thing’s wide open. What we’re looking at now is more like multiple fractures.

Not only does one of these candidates need to get a solid majority of conservative voters in under their tent but they have to do so while attracting at least a chunk of progressive voters. Moderate, will be the pose in the hopes that enough people are tired of the turmoil that’s come with the current administration. Crackless conservatism, let’s call it.

Still.

What’s the calculation for the percentage of crazy plus the power of incumbency Mayor Ford will have going for him? fordnationGiven the kind of name recognition the mayor possesses, not necessarily all favourable, what’s the number you write off as unassailably Ford? Just how potent is Ford Nation?

Disregard the 42% he’s regularly clocked in at Forum Research polls. Favourability does not equate into reliable voter intention. 30%? 25%? 20%?

Any of those types of numbers from Mayor Ford this time around dooms the conservative cause. Even at the low end, that would mean Soknacki, Stintz or Tory would have to take the rest of the right of centre vote and nearly all of Smitherman’s numbers from last time out in the hopes of winning it all. So a collapse of conservative votes into two uneven camps and scooping every centrist and soft left supporter to boot. Not undoable but certainly a tall order.

Traditionally, mayoral elections in Toronto have ultimately come down to two candidate races. Over the long haul of 10 months, the field gets winnowed down, attrition takes its toll. slicingupthepieIt wouldn’t be surprising to see something like the 2010 campaign pattern emerge again this year. The third place finisher, say Mayor Ford, holding on to his 10-20% rabid followers. The top two, one, a redder shade of blue, the other, deep, deep red, vying for the remaining, 75-85% of voters.

But this time around, we got some big names duking it out, much bigger names than four years ago. More money behind them. Better organizations. I’d argue that even the truly unknown candidate, David Soknacki, has a higher name recognition than 2010’s two fall by the waysiders, Rocco Rossi and Sarah Thompson. Looking for an early knockout may not be a sound strategy.

So in the early stages of this campaign, every declared candidate needs to stake out their conservative ground and then paint their opponents who aren’t Rob Ford as further left than they are (and I’ll exclude David Soknacki from that assertion as he seems busy just defining who he is as a candidate). splitvoteSo Karen Stintz and John Tory immediately state their subway preferences (because true conservatives believe in only subways as a viable form of public transit) and their adherence to the low taxes that will magically pay to build them. Expressing otherwise is pretty much Bolshevism.

“Karen Stintz says she’s worried about pendulum swing back to NDP government,” CTV’s Natalie Johnson tweeted after the councillor had registered to run. “Says Toronto has had enough of that.”

“There is no such thing as right of centre,” Mayor Ford told the press later in the day. Only the mayor and everybody else who is two steps left of Stalin. Right is not right. Right is right, if you get what the mayor’s trying to get at.

Nothing to see here, folks. Just a bunch of mayoral candidates, touting conservative values. If we are all right of centre, then right of centre ceases to be a defined position. It simply is the place from which everyone campaigns from.

Of course, the possibility exists that once a truly progressive candidate emerges, and if only one emerges, the optics of everyone together on stage or in a television studio might be that they are the odd one out. badnumbers1Four right of centre candidates versus one from the left. The power of numbers, suggesting, giving more legitimacy to the majority view. The left of centre pushed out to the fringes, not to be taking seriously.

Even if that were to happen, the scenario still exists of four candidates vying for enough of the electoral slice of the pie to put one of them over the top. Vote splitting, in other words. There are only so many conservative votes to go around. The real battle this year might not be for the mayor’s office but for a workable slice of the 383,501 votes Rob Ford had all to himself in 2010.

You do the math.

by the numbersly submitted by Cityslikr


3 Wards To Really Watch Now

February 21, 2014

We interrupt the regular Wards To Watch program to bring you this breaking ward-related, election 2014 news:

weinterruptthisprogram

Already early into the 2014 municipal campaign (yes, it really is still early despite the feeling that we’ve been at this since about 2011), 3 wards have come open, the incumbents declaring, for some reason or the other – one, boredom; two, spite; three, bigger fish to fry — they would not be seeking re-election. These are wards that, I think it safe to say, if said incumbents decided to run again, they probably would coast to victory. While none of the announcements came out of the blue, it does suddenly throw a little unexpected uncertainty into the possible make-up of the next city council.

All 3, Ward 2 Etobicoke North, Ward 16 Eglinton-Lawrence and Ward 39 Scarborough-Agincourt, as geographically dispersed as they may be, are crowded under their current local representation together at the far right end of the political spectrum. callitadayIn Ward 2’s Councillor Doug Ford and Ward 39’s Councillor Mike Del Grande, you can’t really veer further to the right unless you’re prepared to run into Mayor Ford.

And don’t let Ward 16’s Councillor Karen Stintz’s fall out with the mayor over transportation plans and her mayoral aspirations fool you. She’s pretty much as tax-cutting (except for certain transit projects in Scarborough), program and service slashing, bike-lane ripping up as any conservative politician on council. Remember, she was a bona fide part of the Responsible Government Group, standing in stark opposition to then mayor David Miller, even contemplating a run against him in 2006.

The question is, are these wards as hardcore conservative as the councillors who’ve been representing them?

Ward 2 has been a Ford folks fiefdom since 2000. They probably believe they could run a family pet there and get it elected. Since electoral rules would forbid that, there’s been chatter of throwing up a daughter or nephew as version 3.0. Just how Ford friendly can the ward be?

In our fondless farewell last weekend to Mike Del Grande, we checked out the demographics of Ward 39 and discovered that it contains a larger proportion of old people than the citywide average. leanrightNow, I don’t want to get too ageist here, some of my best friends are old people who aren’t conservative, but the cohort does skew right and it does also tend to be dedicated more to voting than the younger whippersnappers. So maybe Ward 39 isn’t inherently conservative. Maybe its conservative voters just simply get out to vote.

Ward 16 looks like an entirely different can of worms. Before Councillor Stintz, it was represented by the not unprogressive Anne Johnston. In fact, the story goes that Stintz responded to an ad taken out by residents, unhappy with Johnston’s approval of a high rise development in the ward. She unseated the incumbent in 2003, bringing a much different political tone to city council than her predecessor did.

So, is Ward 16 a conservative leaning ward with a preference for conservative councillors or is the current representative simply conservative? The same goes for wards 2 and 39. Are they just empty right wing tip shoes waiting to be filled by the appropriately right wing candidate?

I would imagine that in 2 and 39, conservative candidates have a leg up. There is an established base there for their votes. cleanslateMuch less so in Ward 16.

Even in the absence of an incumbent (or maybe because of that), name recognition will also play as an important factor as political stripe. In 2010, a handful of school board trustees filled council vacancies, some in exceedingly close races. Having a known brand is a big plus at the municipal level.

That said, these are 3 wards that over the past decade have been lockdown, very right wing seats for the conservative contingent at City Hall. It’s difficult to imagine them swinging further that way this year. That’d be like, I don’t know, Mississippi, Alabama and Kansas going deeper red in the United States.

It’s an opportunity for more moderate voices to step forward, to shift things to the centre a little bit, perhaps even dampen down the heated rhetoric some. If you were contemplating a run in these wards in the hopes of doing just that but were put off by the prospect of mounting an uphill battle against an entrenched incumbent there, that obstacle has been cleared out of your way. Now’s your chance. Seize it. In municipal politics, that only seems to happen every decade or so.whatareyouwaitingfor

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


Make Them Run For It

January 7, 2014

Now, it may seem something bordering on the amnestic, me writing yesterday about wanting to see an aspirational municipal campaign in 2014 forgetfuland then turn around the very next day to begin a series on 15 councillors who need to be seriously challenged this year. Shouldn’t I instead be extolling the virtues of councillors who bring a sense of equitable and smart city building to the proceedings? Why focus on the negative, dude, if you’re trying to be all aspirational?

The thing is, it’s a campaign, right? At this point, what’s the sense in writing something that ends up stating: Councillor So-and-So is alright. Opponents need not apply. Endorsements come later in the race.

What I’ve done for now is to develop a very subjective, non-scientific formulation to calculate the worthiness of our current slate of city councillors and factored in the feasibility in successfully challenging them. It’s weighted toward my impression of their work and votes at City Hall with little emphasis on just how well they do constituency work. There certainly could be some councillors who excel at fixing residents’ fences or sorting through on street parking while being complete duds at a more city wide level. formulation1I’ve chosen to accentuate the later.

As for the feasibility aspect, I’ve combined a rating for incumbency — the level at which a councillor is entrenched as an immoveable force in the ward – with their plurality in the 2010 election. So if they’ve been around for centuries and won by a shit ton last time around, they get big points in terms of feasibility. They may be terrible councillors but, for whatever reason, their residents keep putting them back in office.

It’s because of that measure, incumbency+plurality, the likes of councillors Frances Nunziata (Ward 11 York South-Weston) and Michael Del Grande (Ward 39 Scarborough-Agincourt) escape the wrath of my Better Off Gone list. While nothing could be more beneficial for the governance of this city than the removal of the likes of these two, given their respective time served and easy victories in 2010, it’ll be a very uphill battle to dislodge them. That’s not to say, no one should try. formulationBut go in with your eyes wide open.

And just in case you think I’m being overly partisan, I’d put Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker (Ward 38 Scarborough Centre) on the list too for his scorched earth approach to the Scarborough subway debate last year. In vilifying every other form of public transit, he helped set the debate back years if not decades. However, he too, has a strong presence in his ward and won in 2010 in a walk. He’d be tough to knock off but should be challenged every step of the way.

One final note before moving on to my first entry. I arbitrarily declared both Ward 2 Etobicoke North and Ward 3 Etobicoke Centre open since Councillor Doug Ford has said he won’t be seeking re-election and Councillor Peter Leon pledged he wouldn’t run again before being chosen to replace Doug Holyday. rulesandregulationsAlso, I declared Ward 16 Eglinton-Lawrence open as it looks like the incumbent there, Councillor Karen Stintz, will be making a serious run at the mayor’s job. All those are subject to change but as of right now won’t be part of this process.

So with the rules, stipulations and caveats in place, and in no particular order, we shall commence with All Fired Up in the Big Smoke’s 15 To Give A Run For Their Money list.

Up today:

The Madness of Clown-Prince Giorgio

Aside from the mayor and his councillor-brother (and maybe the above mentioned Councillor Nunziata), nobody represented the sheer breakdown of function and civility at City Hall more than Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti (Ward 7 York West). Grandstanding does not do justice to the thing it is he does most frequently and annoyingly. He doesn’t debate so much as he brays. He baits rather than discusses. He sees conspiracy (usually of the union kind) and plots to silence him behind every door and under every bed.

Unprincipled? You betcha.

Back in the day, before Rob Ford became mayor, he and Mammoliti were bitter, bitter enemies. madnessofkinggeorgeDuring the 2010 mayoral campaign, candidate Mammoliti was then councillor Ford’s most caustic and aggressive critic. But when the winds changed in favour of Ford, Mammoliti scurried back to his ward race and hitched his wagon to Team Ford becoming, literally, the new mayor’s right hand man and most rabid attack dog.

Depending on Mayor Ford’s fortunes, Councillor Mammoliti’s hopped on and off the Executive Committee, clearly with an eye open to see if the ship sank fully. He claimed to be a new man after an illness felled him last year but by last council meeting when he was forced to apologize for his bad behaviour at council, it was difficult to make out any discernible difference in him. Same as if ever was. Same. As. It. Ever. Was.

Unethical? You be the judge.

He was charged last year under the Municipal Elections Act for 5 financial offences from his 2010 campaign. In December, the Integrity Commissioner launched an investigation into a fundraiser the councillor had last spring that featured some big name lobbyists. sameasiteverwasAlong with Councillor David Shiner (Ward 24 Willowdale), Councillor Mammoliti has also allegedly been renting at below market rate an apartment from developers who conduct millions of dollars of business with the city.

Oh my.

As a local representative, the councillor was such a subway advocate that he claimed his residents would wait a 100 years for one to be built along Finch Avenue West rather than settle for some measly LRT. Knowing that’s never going to happen, he might as well have just admitted he could give a shit about public transit for Ward 7, York, northwest Toronto. In fact, it’s difficult to see an example of Councillor Mammoliti ever putting the interests of his residents before his own.

Now, no doubt that the councillor has big name recognition (good or bad, that’s very important in local elections) and definitely has the power of incumbency in his favour. But here’s an interesting tidbit I’ve pointed out previously. Since being first elected to city council in 2000, [as was pointed out to us by one of our readers, Councillor Mammoliti was 1st elected in 1997, coming in second to Judy Sgro when 2 councillors in each of the then 28 wards made up the 1st amalgamated city council in Toronto. Our apologies. — ed.] Giorgio Mammoliti’s share of the popular vote in Ward 7 has dropped each election, runforyourlifefrom over 70% in 2000, to being acclaimed in 2003, to 63% in 2006 to 43.8% in 2010 after a high profile mayoral run earlier in the race.

One might conclude that the more his residents see Giorgio Mammoliti, the less they like him. He could be vulnerable this time out and knocking him off would be a huge step forward for both Ward 7 and the city of Toronto. It doesn’t matter who’d replace him. They couldn’t be any worse.

hopefully and helpfully submitted by Cityslikr


A Worse Wreck

November 22, 2013

Here’s what happens when we take our eyes off the ball, distracted by loud, braying, bullying baubles.

distraction

The [TTC} commission’s board of directors had to call a special meeting just to approve next year’s TTC and Wheel-Trans operating budgets plus a $9.7 billion, 10-year capital commitment, after failing to hold the vote as planned during Monday’s board meeting at city hall so seven city councillors sitting on the board could leave to attend the special council session on Ford’s mayoral future.

When the TTC board finally got to debating the matter Wednesday afternoon – inside a cramped boardroom at the TTC’s Davisville offices – it was also going to have to approve a fare hike to address a shortfall in the 2014 operating budget coming in at $1.6 billion.

Rahul Gupta, InsideToronto.com

Another year, another operating budget shortfall for the TTC. Increased, record ridership further crammed into vehicles as service levels continue to flat line. packedsubwayThis should be front page news especially since our mayor continues to claim how he’s turned everything around in this city. However…

Let’s be honest with ourselves here.

We’re not really that concerned about fixing the public transit system in Toronto with this kind of continued approach to funding it. More and more reliance on the farebox to support its operations, per rider subsidy not only falling woefully behind other places more intent on providing better transit alternatives to its residents but even behind its own already woeful standards.

78 cents per rider next year with the proposed fare increases. Compare that to Boston, $1.93. New York City, $1.03. Montreal, $1.16. Philadelphia, $1.95. Chicago, $1.68.

I’m really trying to figure out how Karen Stintz is going to spin this out in a way to help her mayoral bid in 2014. miserlyAs Mayor Ford’s chair of the TTC, she has overseen changes in service standards that resulted in cuts to actual service, especially along routes with lower ridership levels. No more WheelTrans for dialysis patients. In late 2010 when she took over as chair, the city funded the TTC to the tune of $430 million. This year the TTC is asking for $434 million (the city’s offering $428 million). At best, under her leadership the city’s funding for the TTC will have increased by a measly $4 million over 4 years. At worst? She will have presided over an actual cut in funding from the city. (A serious shout-out to Steve Munro for walking me ever so slowly through the facts and figures.)

And all the while, the fare increases. Oh, the fare increases.

Hey. At least during my time as TTC chair, no crazy person took a bus hostage and threatened to blow it up if it drove less than 80 kilometres an hour! speedStintz4Mayor2014. Hard to fit on a t-shirt.

For all her talk about the transit building boom we’re currently experiencing – the Yonge-University-Spadina subway extension, the Eglinton Crosstown – if we can’t figure out how to fund the operational side of them properly, it’s just going to be more lines in a system packed with unhappy riders.

Of course, TTC Chair Stintz can hardly be singled out for blame on the deplorable state of the transit file.

The provincial government probably could’ve gone a lot further in garnering votes from the city if, instead of helping to push along the idiocy of a Scarborough subway extension of the Bloor-Danforth line, givingwithonehandit simply announced that it was back in the game of contributing 50% to the annual operating costs of the TTC. Like it used to be, pre-1995. Imagine the ease on the city’s coffers to only have to come up with some $200 million or so this year for the TTC while the province chipped in the other half. And imagine it the year before that. And the one before that. And so on and so on for nearly the past 2 decades.

Somehow the province manages to find $84 million to give to GO Transit but the cupboard remains bare for the TTC. Until Queen’s Park sees fit to address that situation, it really can’t be considered serious about transit or the congestion that is plaguing this region. You simply cannot expect people to get out of their cars and into transit if the transit is expensive and not particularly pleasant or efficient to take.

As for the participation of our federal government in encouraging and funding public transit? trainwreck*sigh*

There’s plenty of blame to go around, obviously, but we can’t lose sight of one important fact. Despite the enormity of all the scandals swirling around him, Mayor Ford has proven to be an even bigger disaster when it comes to public transit in Toronto. Less money, reduced service and higher fares. That’s a veritable trifecta of mismanagement and something we shouldn’t lose sight of amid the mangled wreckage of his time in office.

remindingly submitted by Cityslikr


That Time In The Election Cycle Already?

October 28, 2013

In yesterday’s news some yesterday’s news grabbed some Sunday headlines. Karen Stintz to run for Mayor.

You don’t say.theresasurprise

Nobody didn’t see that coming.

So a full year to the very day, the 2014 municipal mayoral campaign unofficially officially began for someone other than Mayor Ford who’s basically been campaigning since about 2012. I mean, for someone other than David Soknacki who publicly announced his probable intentions to run for the mayor’s office but isn’t actually being treated as a someone just yet. Of course, Olivia Chow’s in the mix too but humbly demurs at any mention of a possible bid next year despite, apparently, having lined up some big guns to run her nonexistent campaign team.

So the chattering has begun, playing out various scenarios about tactics, vote splits, blood sport, dirty pool. And, of course, the months and months and months of tiresome will he/won’t he speculation about the possibility of John Tory entering the race. crystalballNo Toronto mayoral campaign would be complete without it.

The thing is – and I say this with all due respect to those already knee deep in conjecture and theoretical electoral guesswork including yours truly – in the, I don’t know, 363 days or so between today and the election, there’s a very high probability the ground will have shifted dramatically. If history is anything to go by, the terrain will be nearly unrecognizable. Ask George Smitherman how much the fall of 2010 looked like it would back when he was organizing his run in 2009. Ditto John Tory in the lead up to the 2003 campaign.

And let’s face it, there’s never really been this degree of unknowns going into an election as there are right now especially with an incumbent in place and so raring to go. As much as we might despair/rejoice about the seeming Teflon nature of Mayor Ford, to think there aren’t more land mines just waiting to detonate around him before now and next October just seems implausible. A year out, rushing in with the view of Mayor Ford being your main opponent could be a huge waste of political capital and time.

Besides, it just plays right into the mayor’s wheelhouse of all campaigning, all the time. That’s what he does. That’s what he’s good at. downanddirtyWhy extend an already prolonged campaign period that Mayor Ford has been trying to stretch out for more than a year now?

Get down there in the muck and goo and start to mix it up so we can divert our attention from more important issues that constitute matters of good governance. That yucky policy stuff that the mayor and his staff so assiduously avoid dealing with. We’ve known since 2010, and the administration has missed no opportunity to remind us, that democracy is about nothing more than elections. Win it and the ball is yours for the next 4 years to play with however you see fit.

A mandate, folks. It’s never too early to start demanding a mandate.

As usual, such fireworks will hog the spotlight. Election dogfights are much easier to follow and analyse than, say, matters of policy. hohum2So, the sooner, the better, am I right? To use the mayor’s analogy, no time like the present to “… jump over the boards and drop the gloves to fight.”

So, you know what?

Let them go at it but let’s stop immediately jumping up in gleeful excitement at each big campaign 2014 announcement, every blow that’s landed and then trying to read the tea leaves about what it all means. Those gearing up for the grind have to be preparing already. Let them. It doesn’t mean we have to follow along with every twist and turn. There’s going to be a lot of twists and turns over the next 12 months.

In the meantime, there’s still a city to run.

 — disinterestedly submitted by Cityslikr


A Second Chance To Get It Right

October 4, 2013

Hey Toronto.

What do you say we kill this Scarborough subway nuttery once and for all? steakthroughtheheartWith city council meeting next week to consider the City Manager’s subway report it requested back in July, there seems to be a real opportunity to put a fucking nail in the coffin of this nonsense. A silver bullet through its already malfunctioning heart.

We can chalk the underground madness up to a giddy summer revelry. The heat and mint juleps got to our better judgement. Our collective fever’s now broken and we can come to our senses. A little bit self-conscious about our embarrassing outburst of irrationality but, hey, who hasn’t at least once followed a very bad idea down the rabbit hole?

“The purpose of this report,” city staff writes, “is to inform Council that the terms and conditions for supporting the McCowan Corridor Subway have been met crazyfromtheheatwith the exception of the $1.8 billion ($2010) commitment from the Province [italics mine].

“With the exception of”, in fact, negates the very claim that statement makes of all the terms and conditions for supporting city council’s preferred subway route in the McCowan corridor. Not all the funding from the two senior levels of government has been secured and, in an ideal world, that would automatically kill the subway plan and revert back to the LRT. There was a lot of chatter about the poison pill motions that were voted in favour of at the July council meeting that would ensure the city wouldn’t go ahead with building a subway without all the other money it asked for in place.

Taken at their word, a majority of council is obligated to vote against a Scarborough subway.

Yeah. My eye just popped a blood vessel writing that last sentence.

Even assuming that ain’t going to happen, the city manager’s table for the necessary property tax increases to pay for the city’s portion for the subway build, .5% in each of the next two years and .6% the year after that, dedicated solely to the Scarborough subway, should give many of the councillors pause.bestcasescenario

Let’s call those numbers a best case scenario. It doesn’t include cost overruns, interest rate increases, credit rating changes, capital maintenances, etc., etc., that the city would have to assume with a subway (that it wouldn’t with the LRT). We’ll refer to the city manager’s numbers as ‘for starters’.

Even if they were spot on, these property tax hikes will pressure not only other demands for revenue tools to build more necessary transit infrastructure throughout the GTA as part of the province’s Big Move but for the basic ongoing operations of the TTC and its capital budget for things like state of good repair. The TTC chair is already demanding more money for the transit system after years of a flat lined budget from the city and fare increases. In an atmosphere where voters are still only very reluctantly willing to consider new taxes and levies to go to enhanced transit infrastructure, saddling the public with property tax increases for a vanity project of dubious need seems counter-productive to the wider goal.

Never mind the kind of pressure this would put on the rest of the city budget. You start with a .5% property tax increase for the Scarborough subway, how much more will council be willing to stomach to help pay for other basic city services and capital outlays? takeastepbackGoing into an election year, it’s difficult to imagine many councillors signing up for the kind of bump needed in order to avoid cutting programs and other infrastructure needs.

And that’s what this is all about, all that it’s ever been about. Next year’s election. A handful of councillors have bought into the notion that being on the bad side of the Scarborough subway issue will imperil their political future. Fearful in the face of an angry Ford Nation, they’ve traded in common sense for a slab of red meat to feed their constituents. They’ve jeopardized the city’s transit planning prospects for nothing more than individual advantage.

But I truly believe they’ve miscalculated.

The biggest proponent for the Scarborough subway has put himself into an awkward position, re-election wise. Mayor Ford has held steadfast in his view folks can only afford a property tax increase of .25% and not one per cent more. Clearly, that’s well short of what’s needed. droppedtheball1So, he’s either going to have to get behind a tax increase he’s made a career of railing against or be a subway supporter in name only, unwilling to cough up the dough to make it happen.

While logic hasn’t always been the strongest suit of those supporting the mayor, I think there’s another factor his council colleagues need to consider going into next week’s transit debate. Just how potent a force is Mayor Ford going to be in 2014? With the news of his occasional driver and full time friend Sandro Lisi’s arrest Tuesday on drug related charges and today’s whammie about the police following the mayor’s movement with air surveillance, it’s increasingly impossible to see him remaining a viable candidate outside of his hardest of hardcore support.

So let’s move beyond the crass political calculations of this transit debate where one of the variables is the mayor and his Scarborough Deserves A Subway legion. In a letter to the city earlier this week, Metrolinx once again points out that the preferred option remains the Scarborough LRT. More stops providing better access to more people. No property tax increases to build it. No money burned in sunk costs. All costs overruns and other financial changes picked up by the province. Ready to go now and not 5 years down the road.

Andy Byford, the TTC CEO, has been very emphatic if diplomatic in pointing out that the next subway Toronto actually needs is a relief line, bereasonableproviding transit users in the north and east of the city (including, yes, Scarborough) a less congested route into the downtown core that by-passes the already at-capacity Yonge line. It could easily be called the Scarborough Relief Line. Here, Scarborough. There’s your subway.

A genuine do-over has presented itself to city council next week. An opportunity for councillors to re-right a previous mistake, made with the worst of intentions but under a lot of self-inflicted duress. That’s a situation that doesn’t happen very often in life. Let’s make the most of it and put this sad, sorry spectacle behind us.

 — hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


Now Comes The Fun Part

September 23, 2013

Scarborough subway.shhh

Two words I never hope to write again. Ever.

Today the federal government announced they’re putting their skin into the game to the tune of $660 million for the city council approved subway extension of the Bloor-Danforth line all the way up to Sheppard Avenue East. At first blush, it would seem that seals the deal. Scarborough gets its subway built for all the wrong reasons.

Damn. Scarborough. Subway again. Damn. Again.

On Metro Morning today Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, a Johnny-come-lately supporter of a Scarborough subway brandnewday(OK. After this post I hope to never write that phrase again.), called today’s news a ‘game changer’. He may just be right but like the subway he’s touting, for the wrong reasons. Or at least unexpected ones.

The provincial government, who seems to have been entirely side-stepped on this move from Ottawa, might look at this and see no further political gain from any insistence on ‘their’ subway line being built. They helped bring the feds to the table. A Scarborough subway will now get built. One way or the other, they will be providing the lion’s share of the funding, so they can rightly call it a victory.

Given the fractious relationship that’s developed between Queen’s Park and City Hall especially over this issue, however, I think anyone believing things will get quietly wrapped up in such a peaceful fashion are as deluded as those who see this project as a solution to the woes Scarborough transit users face. It’s not just the mayor I’m referring to on this point. elbowingThe TTC chair’s rather belligerent approach with the province can’t have made any friends.

So we really shouldn’t expect the Liberal government to simply shrug its shoulders, sign a cheque and assure us no harm, no foul, should we? This is where the play really gets rough. We now go into the corners, elbows up.

Here’s our contribution to the subway, the province tells the city. $1.4 billion plus the nearly half billion more going into the Kennedy station redesign and rebuild. Let’s call it $1.8 billion, shall we?

That’s already $400 million the city now has to make up.

Don’t forget the sunk costs already gone into the Scarborough LRT plans. And if we go with the council subway plans the feds are backing, the current SRT’s lifespan will have to be extended now to the better part of 10 years and then torn down completely. We might be looking at over a quarter billion dollars in additional money by some estimates that the province can rightly say are on the city.

And this is before we get to calculating our direct portion of the subway project we need to pony up through an additional increase in property taxes. payup1We know where our mayor stands on the matter, and going into an election year? How many incumbents will be willing to go to the electorate campaigning for either/or additional property taxes/service cuts to offset the costs of building the Scarborough subway?

That’s why I’d hesitate making any predictions about how today’s news is going to affect the outcome of upcoming elections. To date, the debate’s all been about fuzzy hypotheticals and wishful thinking coloured in crayon on pretend maps. Things just got real and it’ll be interesting to see how politically expedient an embrace of subways will be when the discussion turns to actual costs everybody’s going to be paying – payup1not just in terms of money in the form of property taxes but in cuts to other services we might suddenly be looking out to fund this one particular project for one portion of the city.

Everybody loves getting stuff. It’s the paying for it discussion that gets thorny. And we just walked into the Scarborough subway bramble.

Scarborough subway.

It’s probably not going to be the last time I commit those two words to the page.

so-so-so-tiredly submitted by Cityslikr