My Conservatism’s 4 Realz!

This one’s a long shot.


Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong (Ward 34 Don Valley East).

As divisive and stridently ideological as the mayor and his councillor-brother are and have been, in terms of divisiveness and hidebound anti-tax, small/anti-government sentiment, Councillor Minnan-Wong has matched them step for step. Set aside his new found abhorrence of the mayor’s personal behaviour over the past year or so — their ‘personal’ politics couldn’t be more different – when it comes to politics politics, Councillor Minnan-Wong and the Fords are soul mates.

Yes, the councillor called the mayor out on his cowardice yesterday at Executive Committee for failing to put the money where his mouth is especially when it came to the Scarborough subway. peasinapodHe is positioning himself as a more reasonable conservative than the mayor. Well, good for him. Who isn’t and still maintains the ability to walk upright?

But don’t be fooled by this attempt at political relativity. Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong is second to only one in his hatred of taxation and the attempts of government to have a positive effect in people’s lives. He was as anti-David Miller as they come, being part of the right wing Responsible Government Group established in opposition to the Miller administration. He lustily embraced the role of henchman for Mayor Ford during the early years, using his powerful position as chair of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee to roll back a number of key initiatives the previous council enacted.

Jarvis bike lanes? Gone. Rebuilt a few intersections over along Sherbourne Street. texaschainsawmassacreThe environmental assessment in progress to study various options of what to do with the eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway? Quietly shelved, work on it stopped. Hey. What’s going on in Kristyn Wong-Tam’s ward? Let’s fuck some of that shit up, shall we?

Councillor Minnan-Wong may tout himself as a devout fiscal conservative but what he really is is a destructive conservative. None of the actions in the previous paragraph saved the city any money. In fact, the delay caused by ignoring council’s request for the Gardiner EA will wind up costing the city more in the long run as we have to ad hoc patch and maintain parts of the expressway while waiting longer than we needed to for EA to be finished.

Respect and all that blah, blah, blah.

Even the councillor’s righteous indignation at the Scarborough subway Mayor Ford’s unwilling to pay for is, what would you call it? Rich? henchmanCouncillor Minnan-Wong was in the majority of TTC commissioners who engineered the ouster of then CEO Gary Webster at the mayor’s behest for having the temerity to oversee a report that recommended maintaining the course of LRT building rather than throwing money at a phantom subway. So, he sort of helped set fire to transit plans already in place and ushered us into the next phase of uncertainty and delay.

More respect!

Hold on, you might be saying at this point. Maybe we won’t have to worry about Denzil Minnan-Wong creating havoc as a councillor at City Hall for much longer. He’s rumoured to be looking at a run for mayor.

Well, maybe. I just don’t see it happening, though. For a couple reasons.

With the news this week of John Tory definitely maybe jumping into the race, joining Mayor Ford, David Soknacki and (soon) Karen Stintz, all to the right of centre, there’s precious little room left on that perch for Minnan-Wong. Unless he has something up his sleeve, the big back room guns and money will have already found a place elsewhere. And how exactly is he going to position himself? More conservative than the others, less outrageously unpredictable than the mayor. noroomIt’s the sound of the slicing and dicing of the centre-right vote into smaller and smaller bits.

Besides, ignoring political differences for the moment, Councillor Minnan-Wong just doesn’t strike me as an overly appealing candidate. Whatever the populist appeal is that Mayor Ford has (and I’m told he has it although it remains a mystery to me), Councillor Minnan-Wong ain’t got it. Watching him work council chambers, he seems ill at ease with anyone not wearing a suit and lobbying some issue or another. He’s like that guy we all know who isn’t nearly as clever or funny as he thinks he is.

It’s impossible to imagine him making much of a dent into the loyalist Ford base which leave him trying to capture the rest of the conservative vote as he’s certainly dead to anyone sitting centre-left. Just don’t see the numbers breaking his way.

So that leaves us with the prospect of another term of a Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong.

As entrenched an incumbent as he is, I mean, the guy’s been at City Hall, some city hall, since 1994 and he captured over 50% of the popular vote in 2010, there is a slight glimmer of opportunity. unimpressedIn the last 3 elections, the councillor’s share of the popular vote has declined each campaign from a high of over 70% in 2003 to 53% last time out. Perhaps the longer voters in Ward 34 see Councillor Minnan-Wong, the less they take to him.

And they have seen a lot of him in the past 3+ years, doing what he’s good at. Gutting the city from the inside out under the banner of faux fiscal conservatism. Responsible government? Hardly. A small-minded bean counter with little regard for healthy city building.

He’s kept your taxes low, Ward 34, but at what cost?

Somebody really should take a crack at forcing him to answer that question in 2014.

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


Public Works and Infrastructure Committee.

Public works; private moments.publicworks

Apropos of nothing. Felt it had to be said. Movie tagline smooth.

Aside from the Budget Committee, Public Works and Infrastructure may be the most important committee at City Hall*. This is where big decisions about big stuff get made. Transportation and streetscapes. The delivery of water and the collection of waste. None of it necessarily pretty but all of it absolutely vital. Properly done, public works and infrastructure is the difference between a successful, well run city and one that is neither of those things.

“The Public Works and Infrastructure Committee’s primary focus is on infrastructure, with a mandate to monitor, and make recommendations on Toronto’s infrastructure needs and services.”

Public Works and Infrastructure offers up politicians and municipal civil servants the opportunity for greatness and lasting contributions to the city they serve long after they’re dead and gone. bloorstreetaquaductRead John Lorinc’s Globe and Mail article from last year about R.C. Harris, Toronto’s long serving Public Works Commissioner from 1912-45, and marvel at what can be done with some vision and fortitude. The R.C. Harris Water-Treatment Plant and Bloor Street Viaduct are the obvious example but as Lorinc points out:

Harris..left his civic fingerprints all over Toronto, building hundreds of kilometres of sidewalks, sewers, paved roads, streetcar tracks, public baths and washrooms, landmark bridges and even the precursor plans to the GO commuter rail network.

Of course, Harris wasn’t a politician and subject to the whims of the electorate. In fact, his contributions may’ve been the product of his time, impossible to duplicate outside of those particular circumstances. “…it’s unlikely a towering and outspoken figure like Mr. Harris…,” Lorinc quoting Professor Steven Mannell in his article, “would thrive in public service today, given years of political attacks on civil servants at all three levels of government.”

While I hardly mean to equate R.C. Harris with the ex-TTC CEO Gary Webster, it’s useful in underlining Professor Mannell’s point.  rcharriswtpMr. Webster expressed an opinion about transit options our mayor disagreed with, and Mr. Webster was ousted. In such a politically volatile environment – a toxic mix of ‘parsimonious politicians’ elected on ‘narrow mandates’ to paraphrase Professor Mannell , and our dimly held view of bureaucrats —  it’s hard to see how anything gets built, let alone anything on the grand scale that R.C. Harris imagined.

In fact, it could be argued that getting things built is the exact opposite goal of our current Public Works and Infrastructure big cheese, committee chair Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong.  Unless it has something to do with road maintenance, he might be better referred to as Cap’n Tear Up. Jarvis bike lanes, gone, expensively re-replaced by that reversible 5th lane. Proposed Fort York pedestrian bridge scaled back for being too fancy. Scrambled intersections? I don’t know. hulksmashWe need to look at those just in case cars are having to wait too long at red lights.

And that Gardiner Expressway Environmental Assessment ordered up to examine the various options for the eastern portion of the roadway? Mysteriously disappeared upon the councillor’s appointment as PWIC chair, only to be revived last year when over half a billion dollars was budgeted for the Gardiner revitalization starting with its eastern portion. Wait? What did the EA recommend? What do you mean, what EA? Where the hell did the EA go? Den-ZILLLLL!

Like the administration it represents, the current Public Works and Infrastructure Committee reflects its mandate by doing the exact opposite of what it should be doing. Tearing down instead of building up (unless, of course, we’re referring to roads). Looking back instead looking forward. Status quo instead of adaptation.

Or as Rowan Caister so succinctly put it: …money that we could spend on public space and innovative infrastructure is being clawed back in order to dismantle inexpensive infrastructure (Jarvis) and keep expensive infrastructure on life support (Gardiner).

At Wednesday’s meeting the committee chair and one of the newest members, Councillor Michelle Berardinetti, both indulged their colleagues by voting to receive the report update on the Gardiner EA while knowing full well what the outcome must/will be. There will/must not be any removal of any part of the Gardiner. sewersDrivers depend on it. Any alternative will result in chaos.

As it was and has been, so it shall always be.

It isn’t the motto a Public Works and Infrastructure committee should try to uphold. Cities flounder when they do. That’s just how important this committee is to our well-being. We need to treat with the respect and attention it deserves.

*  *  *

(*Not including the Executive Committee which is made up of the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, Chairs of the 7 Standing Committees and 4 at-large members.)

diggingly submitted by Cityslikr

Denzil The Despicable

I’ve got to give credit where credit’s due, and hand it to Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong.


As loathsome a politician as I think he is — How to measure Political Loathsomeness? Take a politician’s positive contributions and divide them by their negative impact. – the man is nothing else if not a brazen piece of work. And when all is said and done, he is nothing else.

Lost amidst this week’s budget and casino kerfuffles, caught dead to rights trying to smother in its infancy a Mayor David Miller council endorsed environmental assessment of the eastern end of the Gardiner Expressway, the dude not only didn’t deny it, he mustered a reasonable facsimile of outrage at the time and cost it would take to restart the EA and allow it to play out to its conclusion. mockoutrage“Six to nine years?!” he thundered at city staff at last Monday’s Budget Committee meeting. “Fifteen million dollars?! Fifteen million dollars!?”

Yeah, seriously.

“Denzil Minnan-Wong says it was his original intention to kill the Gardiner EA,” NOW magazine’s Ben Spurr tweeted, “but he then decided to shelve the letter about it.”

Just like that, the councillor as chair of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee simply disregarded the will of city council and set a new course for transportation spending all on his own. Of course, a skilled politician never leaves his ass totally exposed. snidelywhiplash‘A number of parties’ were involved in the decision to shelve the EA, Councillor Minnan-Wong later clarified.

“It was suggested by the public service and Waterfront Toronto, and the mayor’s office agreed to it as well as the chair of public works,” he said, according to Elizabeth Church of the Globe and Mail. “My intention when I asked for the letter was to bring it forward to executive to kill it. We had a number of discussions about this and it was decided to put it on the back burner.”

A number of discussions with everybody but city council, it seems. And now that the EA is on the verge of being revived, ‘the chair of public works’ as the councillor refers to himself in the 3rd person is indignant at such a waste of time and money. “It’s like a bad horror movie,” he says, as if he’s simply just some passive audience member.

Follow the bouncing ball on this. (From the 2013 Capital Budget Briefing Note, Page 2, bolding mine).

  • On September 16, 2010, the Gardiner EA Steering Committee, co-chaired by the former Deputy City Manager whose responsibilities include Waterfront Revitalization, and the President and Chief Executive Officer of Waterfront Toronto, agreed that minimal work would proceed on the EA in order to manage study costs until the new administration and Council could be properly briefed.
  • In mid-November, 2010, the Steering Committee co-chairs jointly agreed to delay the next step in the EA, which was release of the design concepts, pending direction from the new Council and administration. About $3.28 million of the total $7.69 million budget had been spent.
  • On March 2, 2011, the former Deputy City Manager whose responsibilities include Waterfront Revitalization was requested by the Chair of Public Works and Infrastructure Committee to draft a letter for him to table at Executive Committee requesting a report on the contractual, financial, regulatory, process and other implications of cancelling or modifying the Gardiner EA study.
  • On March 31, 2011, the Waterfront Secretariat, in consultation with City Planning and Transportation Services, provided the Chair with the draft letter for him to table at Executive Committee. The letter was not subsequently tabled at Executive Committee.

Given the time frame of this, early on in 2011, Mayor Ford was at the height of his power wielding at city council. His Public Works and Infrastructure Chair in all likelihood could’ve brought the EA back to council and officially put it out of its misery. sneakInstead, he sneakily knocked it off desk, out of sight against the wall, suggesting one of two things, perhaps a combination of both. A shocking lack of political acuity or a full sense of just how flimsy a construct the notion of a Ford Nation really was. They gleefully came out of the gate manhandling all the easy pickin’s: the VRT, councillor office budgets but steadfastly ignored the more contentious issues which might threaten their support.

Like offing the Gardiner EA.

It’s conceivable that had it not been quietly suppressed, the EA might’ve been completed by now. Council could proceed with the 2013 capital budget, knowing the best course of action to take in regards to repairing, rehabilitating or replacing the Gardiner. Instead, they’ll be pressed into deciding whether or not to waste money maintaining a section of it, pending the completion of the ill-advised delayed EA.

And is the man responsible for the delay repentant? Hardly. He carries on as if he had nothing to do with it, as if it was just another example of the bumbling ineffectiveness of a government he so despises.

He’s got moxie, I’ll give him that.

What he doesn’t have is any sense of city building. Denzil the Destroyer. He serves to tear things up. Not so much a public servant as he is a public nuisance.texaschainsawmassacre

Yet he continues to be elected to office, since 1997, returned 3 times although it is worth noting his share of votes shrinks every time his constituents go to the ballot box. In 2003 when the city went to one councillor/one ward, he scooped up 70.0% of Ward 34 votes. In 2006, 60.7%. In 2010, 53.4%. (Interesting comparison: Councillor Minnan-Wong’s Don Valley East council mate, Shelley Carroll has watched her percentages climb from 36.6% in 2003 to 57.7% in 2010.)

So maybe we should take heart. It seems the more the people of Ward 34 see of their councillor, the less they like him. As a high profile member of Team Ford, there’s never been more attention on him than there is now. We should take every opportunity to shine the spotlight on him and his antics, in the hopes of finally ridding the city of Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong’s destructive approach to governance.

fingers crossedly submitted by Cityslikr