No City For Young Children

July 13, 2012

I have seen the urban-suburban divide, and it’s name is Doug Holyday. Councillor Doug Holyday. Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday.

If not the political father to the Ford Brothers, he is their political godfather. A lean, mean libertarian and last mayor of pre-amalgamation Etobicoke, Councillor Holyday’s the antiest of anti-government types. There is no aspect of governing (except maybe policing) the man doesn’t believe can be done better and cheaper by the private sector. Government as a source for out-sourcing.

Despite the political and territorial affinity between the Deputy Mayor and the Fords, Councillor Holyday must bear a little ill-will toward their late father, Doug Sr. As a backbench MPP for the Mike Harris government, Ford-pere helped smash the 6 former municipalities of Metro Toronto into one unwieldy beast. This leashed the Deputy Mayor’s beloved ol’ Etobicoke home to the licentious, rapacious, elitist grab all downtown.

Arcadia was under threat. Progress’s shadow drew nearer, bringing darkness ever closer to the perpetual 1950s sunshine of Toronto’s gateway to Mississauga.

Since 1997 Doug Holyday’s picket fenced mind set has been besieged by the onset of the 21st-century. Urbanism. Multiculturalism. Diversity of views and lifestyles that include… wait for it, wait for it… children growing up in downtown highrises with no place to play other than the traffic.

Yesterday’s well-documented dust up between the deputy mayor and Councillor Adam Vaughan (if you want to see it for yourself here’s the link, scroll through to 149:46) over the requirement for 10% of condo units to be 3 bedroom in a King Street West development proposal revealed the deep hostility directed at the downtown core from the suburban leadership elected to represent the entire city. “I personally wouldn’t want to raise my kids on King Street or Yonge Street,” the deputy mayor said. “Some people might, and if they do, that’s fine. … I’m saying I personally wouldn’t want to be on the 47th floor of a condominium building at the corner of King and John with three kids.”

“I can just see it now,” ‘Where’s little Jenny? Well, she’s downstairs playing in the traffic on her way to the park’”.

When the city’s acting chief planner Gregg Lintern suggested that encouraging families to live in every part of the city including right downtown “…makes for a healthier city” the deputy mayor wasn’t buying it.  “It makes for a healthier city to have children out on King Street where there is bumper-to-bumper traffic, people galore all night and day? I just think of raising my own family there. That’s not the place I’d choose.”

Apparently, if you choose a lifestyle contrary to one Doug Holyday deems acceptable, well hey, god bless you, you’re on your own. Briefly stepping back from his Grandpa Simpson mode, the deputy mayor wrapped himself in his comfy libertarian cloak and railed that government shouldn’t be telling the private sector what they can and cannot be building. In putting forward a motion to delete the 10% 3 bedroom requirement for the development proposal, he suggested that it should be left up to the free market to sort out.

“I’m not going to dictate to a developer,” the Deputy Mayor said, “that they must provide 10% of their units in the three bedroom form when there may or may not be a market for it.”

If there’s such a clamour for family condo units downtown, developers will respond. That’s just Economics 101. No matter that bigger units/development mean fewer units/development and less money overall. Developers aren’t concerned about money in the long run. They just want to respond to market demand.

Turns out the Deputy Mayor isn’t as laissez-faire on the matter of planning when it gets closer to home. During the ensuing debate, Councillor Vaughan pointed out that a few years back, when a developer proposed building rowhouses — OMG not townhouses! — in Etobicoke’s single family enclave, Mr. Holyday wasn’t so invisibly handy as he was toward downtown development. So it’s free reign for the private sector when it comes to situations the Deputy Mayor doesn’t approve of but let’s get all state controlled if it imposes on his lifestyle.

I don’t  believe that a majority of those in the suburbs reflect Deputy Mayor Holyday’s cloistered views. People live outside the core for many reasons. Space, affordability, just a preference for that way of life. They don’t judge those who make their homes downtown as dimly as our deputy mayor does.

I agree with writer Shawn Micallef when he referred to Mr. Holyday’s opinions as ‘creaks from the grave of thought.’ They’re shocking because it’s difficult to believe anyone still thinks like that. It’s a dying breed kicking and screaming against modernity.

Unfortunately, Mr. Holyday isn’t just anyone. In theory, he’s the 2nd in command of the largest city in the country. A rapidly evolving metropolis of some 2.5 million residents that has long since outgrown the strictures of sleepy, small town governance. More worrisome is that the mayor, his actual right hand man, Councillor Ford, and a small cadre of similar anti-urban minds now have their hands on the levers of power.

All of them are unfit for the positions they are currently in. They don’t understand the needs of the city they’ve been elected to represent. The only thing they seem determined to accomplish is to roll back any and all evidence of the 21st-century.

The Deputy Mayor’s comments reflected that and underline the need to resist every antediluvian idea he and his cohorts try to inflict on the city.

corely submitted by Cityslikr


How’d We Become The Enemy?

September 7, 2010

Lying in bed on Labour Day morning, with the CBC’s The Current on the radio — welcome back from your summer vacation, Anna Maria Tremonti! Looking forward to ignoring you once again for most of the 2010/11 season. – listening to former Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP, Janet Ecker, talk about the new wave of Canadian conservative populism. When she referred to the typical adherent of this movement as ‘Mr. & Mrs. Front Porch’, I thought to myself, “Wow! Could she be any more patronizing?” How exactly is it that we’ve become the enemy?

We, of course, being the so-called downtown, intellectual, liberal elite. Or, to put it in Ms. Ecker’s vernacular, ‘Mr. & Dr. 3rd Floor-Deckers’. So far in this municipal election campaign, we have become the target for the ire coming from Mr. & Mrs. Front Porch due to the unflagging support we show to “our” mayor down at “our” City Hall. Apparently, “our” taxes haven’t risen while “our” services have. “Our” free spending councillors have lavished all their attention and money on “our” downtown wards especially for things like “our” bike lanes which squeeze out the cars coming in from the city’s inner suburban ring when everyone there steps off their front porches to drive downtown to work.

None of which is true, of course. It is only pronounced loudly and often. Downtown taxes have increased along with everyone else’s and, from my own, very anecdotal evidence, while services might not have declined over the past few years, I’m certainly paying more for many of them than I did in the pre-amalgamated Toronto.

But here’s the thing. I’m not blaming those who live in the former cities of Etobicoke, York, North York, East York and Scarborough for this turn of events. We’re all in the same boat here on this one, now paying the unexpected costs we were not told about by those who enforced amalgamation on us. Despite some urban experts saying that the economies of scale not always applying to bigger cities, we were sold a bill of goods about lower costs, lower spending, lower taxes in the megacity by the Harris government, consisting of members like Janet Ecker and Rob Ford’s father, Doug Sr., who defied the wishes of his own Etobicoke constituents to not be absorbed into a bigger Toronto and sat on his hands except to vote ‘yes’ on amalgamation.

And now Ecker’s invited onto the radio to explain grassroots anger, using a clearly test marketed term like ‘Mr. & Mrs. Front Porch’?! Or Rob Ford is championed as looking out for these little guys as he campaigns vigorously to be the hatchet man who will carry out the cuts that were inevitable in light of amalgamation and the downloading that accompanied it? (Or, to put it more poetically, doing the dirty work of his beloved late father.) If there’s any resentment I bear towards Mr. & Mrs. Front Porch, it’s the misdirected rage and anger. Do they have reasons to be angry about the way the city’s working? Sure. Just rage against the ones that actually were really responsible for bringing about this turn of events and not the easiest scapegoats being handed over to you on a platter.

I’m not one to ascribe much to conspiracy theories especially on the part of our elected officials. While a proponent of the power of government to do good, I just don’t think they are capable of pulling off grand schemes to hoodwink the population at large. So there was no alien crash landing near Roswell, N.M. or a 2nd gunman on the grassy knoll. Both are too big a secrets to go unsolved for decades.

But I am beginning to think that maybe the Mike Harris government did come close with the amalgamation of Toronto. It was said at the time (and many times since) that along with helping the provincial ledger sheets with a non-neutral revenue neutral swap of services with the city, the biggest boon for the province with their amalgamation sleight of hand was to water down the progressive core with the more Tory friendly inner suburbs. At worst, the city would become ungovernable due to the constant squabbling between the two factions.

Well, kudos to you, Mr. Harris and Ms. Ecker and Mr. Ford Sr.’s son. We have swung from the right to the left and are now threatening to lurch heavily right once more with fingers being pointed in every direction and accusations of mismanagement and corrupt governance thrown around for good measure. Dysfunctional is the label Toronto’s getting and no one benefits more from it than our overlords smiling smugly at Queen’s Park. Yes, it is no longer the Conservatives but as Dalton McGuinty can most definitely attest to, amalgamation is the gift that just keeps giving. At least, to him and all those who rule from that particular roost if not the citizens of the city.

wonderingly submitted by Cityslikr