Subway Ground Down

January 28, 2015

I really don’t want to be writing this. Like the Toronto Star’s Ed Keenan, I’m tired of it, of the Scarborough subway debate. Just as likely, you’re sick of it too. notthisshitagainThere’s gathered a great storm of ennui, a wave of yawn. Just Get On With It has now become the default position. Build Something!

But…but…There’s always the but.

In Keenan’s article today he points to a recent Forum Research poll that shows, given the full options of what Scarborough would get if we spent $3+ billion on transit there, 61% of Torontonians would pick the Scarborough LRT extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway line. A healthy majority of those living in Scarborough too favoured the LRT option given to them.

Just yesterday, as I was railing about the $75-85 million the city is in the midst of handing over to the province via Metrolinx for the work already underway on the Scarborough LRT that council cancelled, I cited a Leger poll from back in February 2014 that showed similar numbers. 61% of respondents preferred the Scarborough LRT option over the subway. 56% of those living in Scarborough leaned that way also.

So why the fuck are we here, spending billions of dollars building something the majority of Torontonians don’t want?

Public enemy number 1, of course, is Rob Ford. Subways, subways, subways, am I right? scarboroughsubwaybellowThe people want subways.

Not to diminish his role in the mess but let me say this. At the very least, Rob Ford and to a lesser extent, his brother Doug, truly believed that subways were the way to go. As committed car drivers, public transit was something of a puzzle to them. They hated streetcars that blocked up the middle of the roads. Buses they tolerated because they were easier to get around. But underground transit? Out of sight, out mind, out of the way.

Because the folks voted for him, giving him a mandate, they too wanted subways. Subways, subways, subways! Like the classic bullshitter that he is, Rob Ford (and again, to a lesser extent his brother) actually believed the bullshit he spouted. He didn’t need no stinkin’ polls to tell him what he knew in his heart, heard every day from the folks he met in line at Tim Horton’s.

This is not to excuse him. He served as the bullhorn for the subway cause. The self-appointed guardian of the taxpayers’ nickels and dimes stubbornly contributed to throwing away of billions of dollars of their money to further a cause he willfully knew nothing about.notthisshitagain1

The larger question though is, how, with these numbers, 4+ years after the debate started, 4+ years after the People Want Subways campaign slogan metastasized into a corrupted conventional wisdom, we’re determined to plunge ahead into this madness? The villainous list is long. Rob Ford becomes little more than the inciting incident in this story, a preening, comic foil Malvolio.

The true monsters in this sorry-assed tale sit up at Queen’s Park. First in the form of the skittish Dalton McGuinty Liberal government, seemingly dead in the polls and facing an election in 2011. In the face of the first (and only true surge) of Ford Nation, they quickly buckled when the newly elected mayor unilaterally declared Transit City dead. Hey. If you say so. Whatever. They would survive the initial assault, holding on to power but reduced to a minority government.

But imagine if instead they had stood their ground, stood up in the face of what was little more than a noise-making machine. Was subway support really ever as strong as the mayor and other Scarborough politicians came to claim it was? Certainly Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker didn’t think so in 2012 when city council wrestled the transit file from the mayor and re-instated Transit City.

At this point of time, it seemed cooler heads had prevailed. Subways, subways, subways had been revealed to be little more than the dying bluster of a mayor who’d soon be sidelined to little more than a cranky observer. Pheee-ew, right? We narrowly dodged that bullet.

But then…

What the hell happened?

Well, here’s where the story gets nothing short of clusterfuckery.

New leader of the provincial Liberals, new premier, new beginning, we’re told. They start to get their sea legs, win a by-election or two including one in Scarborough-Guildwood with Mitzie “The Subway Champion” Hunter. A by-election where, curiously, her NDP opponent, former TTC chair Adam Giambrone, an early Transit City advocate, docilely nods in a similar subway support direction.

Suddenly everybody loves subways! notthisshitagain2Egged on by Scarborough MPPs, city council lurches once more, agreeing to scrap the Scarborough LRT in favour of a subway. A subway the city will now have to contribute to building and maintaining. Scarborough deserves nothing less than a subway, we are told.

Except, still, with the options laid out for them, residents would opt for the LRT.

Despite that, here we are. The Liberals are back as a majority government. They now have both the city and federal government pitching in to build a Scarborough subway. They have a new mayor who, despite his claim to prudent fiscal management, campaigned on a pledge not to reopen the subway debate and is perfectly content to just piss away 10s of millions of dollars in order for that not to happen. In addition to which, his signature transit plan, SmartTrack, is offering even more city money to help the provincial government build their regional transit system.

And all the Scarborough pro-subway city councillors who ran for re-election last year are back. (Interestingly, so is the one very vocal pro-LRT Scarborough councillor, Paul Ainslie, easily re-elected.) notthisshitagain4The debate is over. The people have spoken. They want subways.

Except, apparently, they don’t. Or more precisely, if given an option, they’d take LRTs. It’s the politicians who want subways.

If there’s a more salient example of why we’ve become so cynical and disengaged, I can’t immediately think of one. It’s little wonder we’re bored of this debate. Our elected representatives aren’t listening to us. What’s the use of continued talking?

repeatedly submitted by Cityslikr


Don’t Look At Me. It’s Not My Mess.

January 30, 2013

Our premier to be says ungridlocking the GTA by investing in new transit is one of her first priorities. To do that we must generate new revenue streams. madhatter1Our Toronto mayor says he’s not really a tax-and-spend kind of politician. The ROO screams ‘favouritism’. (Seriously. Read through the comments in the linked Toronto Star piece.)

Over at the city’s Parks and Environment Committee, chair Norm Kelly wonders out loud about the expensive necessity of preparing for the fallout of climate change. What if it’s not a thing? Can scientists’ models be trusted? Why the rush to judgement? Besides, if some of the stuff he’s read is to be believed, it could end up being like Tennessee here. How great would that be?! (It should be pointed out to the councillor that climate change alarmist Al Gore hails from Tennessee. Just so the facts are all out there on the table for him.)

It’s days like yesterday when I wonder if it wouldn’t be better for all concerned if we as a species aren’t simply wiped off the face of the earth by one rogue tidal wave created when a big chunk of Arctic ice sheers off and plops into the ocean. Or some mammoth solar flare fries us all to dust. redqueen2Or God simply claps his hands and starts all over again.

I’ve written often of our lack of resolve to tackle important issues that might possibly involve any degree of personal sacrifice. Is that what happens when you see yourself as a consumer or taxpayer instead of an engaged citizen? You can have my money when you take this wallet from my cold, dead hands!

Yes. We’ve become a society of grumpy Charlton Hestons, unwilling to look at the bigger picture beyond our own backyards. Every penny in tax we pay is a penny stolen. Inconvenient truths that threaten our lifestyle need further study. We’re sick of the country asking what we can do for it. What’s it going to do for us for a change?

What have the Romans ever done for us?

Businesses sit on more than half a trillion dollars, yet government boondoggles and outrageous union demands drain our coffers and our patience. There is an easy solution to all our financial and infrastructure problems that don’t involve us giving up anything especially more money because… well, because… eHealth! ORNGE! We already gave at the office, OK?

Build us a casino. One that will pay for everything we need. So simple, it’s a wonder no one’s ever thought of it before.

I don’t want to get too cranky here and sound like some bitter old drunk in a divey bar bending everybody’s ear about the ill-state of the world today. aliceontherun Because in my time, in my time, youngsters, progress has been made on many fronts. Matters of equality in terms of gender, race, sexual orientation have evolved in a positive direction over the past four decades. An African-American president of the United States? A gay, female premier in Ontario? Not during my lifetime, sonny jim. Yet, here we are.

But those are historical inequities and injustices that are far from being leveled and while we’ve been battling on those fronts, new pressing problems have emerged. These are legacy issues as well which will fit nicely under the environmental umbrella. Climate change. Infrastructure to both help cope with the implications of climate change and to mitigate possible worse case scenarios from playing out.

Shrugging it off with pejorative terms like ‘alarmist’ is the easy way out. alfredenewmanAs a late onset boomer, I think my generation’s lasting contribution is fighting to get governments off our backs, to keep taxes as low as possible and minimize our civic engagement. Good for us who got in while the going was good. Not so much for those coming after us. We’re like the anti-social picnickers, enjoying our time out in the sun and leaving all our garbage behind.

We aren’t the first era ever to face seemingly insurmountable challenges. What era has been spared such a dilemma? As of now, we’ve avoided stepping up to accept the responsibility. What, me worry? is our official motto, Alfred E. Neuman our spokeman.

Not sure who that is, kids? Ask your parents. They can tell you.

responsibly submitted by Cityslikr


This Toronto Thing

January 29, 2013

I am not a party person. Although I am a big fan of 24 Hour Party People. But politically speaking, in order to less messily gets things done, I reluctantly and grudgingly 24hourpartypeopleaccept that parties are a necessary evil in a parliamentary system while still maintaining they are also the bastion of highly destructive, poo-flinging partisanship.

So I don’t get all caught up with leadership conventions and the like, choosing instead to maintain a safe distance to watch the parade. An interested observer. A conscientious objector. I’ll examine the entrails when the voting’s done and results announced.

And as a Monday morning quarterback reviewing the outcome of this past weekend’s provincial Liberal leadership race, I will tell you I’m pleasantly surprised. For the first time in about 30 years (nearly my entire voting life), I feel that I’m being offered something to consider from the Liberals. So all you party canvassers out there on vigilant minority government election watch, consider this cowboy in play for a change.

Incoming premier Kathleen Wynne strikes me as frank, funny, down-to-earth, smart as a whip. Obviously, to climb such treacherous career heights, she must possess some political chops but, unlike her predecessor, she does not wear her calculating on her sleeve. courtingcoupleWhat I’ve heard from her so far, I like, and I’m willing to listen to more.

“Can we just get this Toronto thing out of the way…” Kathleen Wynne said during her victory speech on Saturday [at about the 6’40” mark].

This Toronto ‘thing’.

Almost as big an obstacle to winning for Wynne as her sexual orientation.

The provincial Liberals seem to have a thing against electing leaders who call the GTA home. When the only non-GTAer in the field, Sandra Pupatello, raised that warning specter during the campaign, I went back to see when it was a Toronto area based politician led the party. Andy Thompson, way back in the 60s — 1964-66 to be exact — if Wikipedia is to be believed.

That’s a whole lot of non-love toward an area that has provided a strong and vital base of support certainly during the McGuinty era. I mean, what don’t they get about this being the centre of the universe? chocolatetownIt’s almost as if they want to hook up with us every 4 years or so and then pretend like they don’t even know us the rest of the time.

If I didn’t know any better, I’d think the Liberals are using us for our good looks and money.

To be fair, I’d argue that all the provincial political parties over the course of the last 20 years or so have wished Toronto and environs would just be quiet or go away. Leave your votes and tax dollars on the table. Here’s your hat and coat. There’s the door.

Because it seems to be political advantageous to cater to the long held belief outside of the GTA that we’re simply a drain on the well-being of the province, a suck of money and attention. We demand too much and return very little. The generous residents of Not Toronto, Ontario build our subways and feed our homeless.

That’s ‘this Toronto thing’.

A myth based entirely on perception rather than reality.

Unfortunately, a myth eagerly used to exploit divisions. Rural-urban. Suburban-urban. North-south.

Once premier, Kathleen Wynne will be watched closely for any sort of home team advantage. dominoesWhen she speaks of building transit to meet the growing needs of the GTA, she will need to speak of the transit needs of all Ontario municipalities. She won’t be wrong to do so but it would be nice to hear her push the discussion further. That this region’s needs in things like transit are more pressing than those places less dependent on it to function fully. A Toronto bogged down in congestion, bogs down the GTA, bogs down the GTHA. It then reverberates negatively throughout the province as a whole.

By all means, our premier needs to represent and speak for all of Ontario. But it’s time to start speaking truthfully and not out of fear of some parochial regionalism. If you don’t fix what’s ailing Toronto and the GTA, you can’t fix the problems the rest of the province faces. That’s the conversation we’ve been avoiding for a couple decades now. Hopefully, it’s one our incoming premier is up to having and going to an election battle with if need be.

homerly submitted by Cityslikr


Mayor Menace

November 25, 2011

There was a time back last fall, either right before the municipal election when the possibility of Rob Ford becoming our mayor solidified into reality or just after the fact when he indeed did just that, a collective exhalation of breath among those who hadn’t voted for him could be heard. Maybe it won’t be that bad. Maybe the office of the mayor will soften him, draw out his inner statesman. Surely there won’t be 22 councillors willing to risk their political future pandering and aiding his worst instincts.

Well, mark your calendars, folks. November 24th, 2011. If it wasn’t obvious to everyone before then, it has become crystal clear now. Mayor Rob Ford is as bad as our worst fears. He is truly a destructive force, laying waste to Toronto either because he doesn’t understand what makes a 21st-century big city work or he just doesn’t give a fuck. At this point, it doesn’t matter the reason. He has simply become Mayor Menace.

How else to explain yesterday’s announced cuts to 56 TTC routes? And yes, they were cuts. Call them ‘efficiencies’, reductions or whatever euphemism you need to rationalize your continued support for the mayor’s War on the City… actually, it’s more than that…War on Modernity, the simple fact of the matter is, once more, Mayor Ford has broken his campaign promise of ‘No cuts to services. Guaranteed.

You want to shrug it off with a ‘m’eh, all politicians do it’ or ‘we all knew he couldn’t keep that promise and anyone who did was just playing dumb’ and any other intellectually lazy and morally bankrupt games you want to play, ask yourself this. If then candidate for mayor Rob Ford had said out loud that he would be instituting a 10% reduction to the TTC budget and possibly raising fares if elected, would he be mayor right now? I hate hypothesizing but given his precipitous drop in favourable poll numbers even before this frontal assault on public transit, can you honestly respond ‘yes’ to that question? Yeah well, who’s playing dumb now?

Even by the mayor’s own bird-brained rubric of government being run like a business, this move makes zero sense. What business, seeing demand for their services at an all time high, would cut back on those services? Charge higher prices, maybe, but cut back? Only if you’re looking to put your business out of business.

Of course, for a city of 2.5 million people or so, in 2011 public transit should not be regarded as some sort of for-profit enterprise. Mayor Ford spearheaded the drive to have the TTC declared an essential service earlier this year but is treating it as anything but. In an already congested city, diminishing TTC service will inevitably put more cars on the road, only making a bad situation worse, socially and economically.

It comes as no surprise that this idea is lost on the mayor and a handful of his more ardent, antediluvian council supporters. But what’s up with TTC chair Karen Stintz? If she has any thoughts about running for higher office, how is overseeing rollbacks in TTC service going to help her cause? “Hi. I’m Karen Stintz. I’m running for mayor. You might remember me as the TTC chair who helped kneecap public transit in Toronto. Can I count on your support?”

Aside from Councillor Maria Augimeri, none of the other councillors sitting on the TTC board have spoken out against the cuts as far as I know. Perhaps we should ask them to clarify their positions.

Peter Milczyn, TTC vice-chair, Ward 5.

Vincent Crisanti, Ward 1.

Frank Di Giorgio, Ward 12.

Norm Kelly, Ward 40.

Denzil Minnan-Wong, Ward 34.

Cesar Palacio, Ward 17.

John Parker, Ward 26.

When tossing around blame for these TTC cuts, it would be unfair not to mention the role of our provincial legislature in all of this. After 8 years in office, the Dalton McGuinty government has not made good on its promise to re-assume its obligation to pay half of the TTC’s annual operating budget. It never seemed like the right time, as they continued to deflect criticism by (rightly) pointing out big investment in other parts of transit, both in Toronto and the wider region. But it stood back and allowed the public transit system in its largest city to severely struggle and indulged the mayor in his phantasmagorical scheme to kill Transit City and try to build an ill-thought out subway in its place. Now hunkered down in austerity mode, there appears to be little help coming from our provincial overlords. So here’s a couple other names you might want to have a chat with.

Premier Dalton McGuinty.

Bob Chiarelli, Minster of Transport

Kathleen Wynne, Minister of Municipal Affairs.

Courtesy of Laurence Lui

But the ultimate responsibility falls on Mayor Ford and the council that continues to allow him to rampage over this city. We can sit and talk ourselves blue about partisanship, petty grievances, the urban-suburban divide and tit-fot-tat politics. These cuts to the TTC, however, should transcend all that. This is a serious setback to public transit in this city. Combined with all the other measures the mayor and council has pursued like tearing up bike lanes, burying the Eglinton LRT, they are making a grave situation much, much worse. A situation that’s not only going to affect citizens dependant on the TTC. Roads will fill up. Everyone’s commute times will increase. Toronto’s competitiveness will continue to come under threat from other jurisdictions that place a higher premium on public transit and liveability.

Cutting and slashing your way to prosperity is an illusion like all of the mayor’s other views on governance. We knew it last year but too many of us closed our eyes, crossed our fingers and hoped it wasn’t true. Time to wake up to the reality, admit our mistake and go about defending Toronto from anymore of Mayor Ford’s deluded impulses.

exhortingly submitted by Cityslikr


Finding The Better Way

November 10, 2011

A political case could probably be made for Premier Dalton McGuinty, his Minister of Municipal Affairs, Kathleen Wynne, and Transportation, Bob Chiarelli, to seize the moment and reframe the transit debate in Toronto. Our mayor has been staggered by a series of largely self-induced setbacks. He no longer commands a vaunted political force (if he ever did) under the banner of Ford Nation. His Transportation City plan is fraying around its already fuzzy edges. While not needing to shore up support in Toronto or the GTA, the Liberal government could lock it down for the foreseeable future by being seen to elevate the transit issue in importance here.

But really, should a political case have to be made stepping up for transit? Look around, listen. It’s not just car-hating, bike riding, downtown pinko elites demanding action. Carol Wilding and the Toronto Board of Trade have been beating the drum for a while now. Transit planning and funding have not kept up pace with the growth of this city and region. It is a situation now past the point of deleteriousness. Not just for Toronto or the GTA but for the province and the country. (Uh oh. Is that an example of the self-importance the rest of Canada hates us for? Ah, fuck `em. Oops. Too smug?)

If a politician wants to leave a positive mark, a legacy if you will, at some point of time they have to step forward and do the right thing and not just the expedient or most popular. Take a stand on an issue that may not curry them favour with a wider swath of the electorate but says, this needs to be done. Fifty years ago, for no discernible reason aside from Cold War fuelled hyper patriotism, President Kennedy exhorted his country to send a man to the moon. Less than a decade later, mission accomplished. Surely to christ we’re capable of building a viable transit system or, at least, a working portion of one in that kind of time.

It’s hard to see how, however, as our functionaries continue to play footsie instead of getting down to serious business. Witness yesterday’s ceremonial breaking of ground for the Eglinton crosstown LRT and the insipid press release it inspired. Jobs! Secure future! Jobs! New global economy! Jobs! Did we mention Jobs!

Unwritten went the fact that under the rejigged plan for the Eglinton LRT that now sees it buried underground for most of its 25 kilometres or so, sinking funds for the previously planned LRTs along Finch and Sheppard along with it, there’s uncertainty about how exactly to cross the Don Valley. Can you say cost overruns and delays? The $650 million in ‘leftover funds’ from building the Eglinton LRT has already dwindled to about $200 million before construction has barely begun, none of which is being fronted by the province to the mayor in order for him to help jump start development of an extension for the Sheppard subway which he promised could be built entirely with private funding. It has now been downgraded to a station by station concept, pay as you go kind of thing that will only succeed in keeping Toronto further and further behind the necessary transit curve.

A brewing monumental clusterfuck is what we’re facing and it’s time for the province to forcefully step in and get this thing back on track. It should be clear by now that Mayor Ford and his team is not up to the task. In fact, a convincing argument could be made the he is now nothing more than an obstacle to transit planning in this city.

At least make the case that before we proceed much further this has to go back to city council for a more serious debate and vote. We’re no longer talking about a simple rearranging of funds that had already been allocated to build transit. There’s going to have to be additional money provided by someone. It’s hard to see how another environmental assessment can be avoided whatever way they come up with as a plan to cross the Don Valley along Eglinton. This is now beyond the scope of simply the mayor and the TTC. The entire city council, and the city itself needs to have a say in how we go forward.

Now I thought that was the case right from the beginning when the mayor declared Transit City dead. I didn’t see how he could do that single-handedly and most of those who sprang to his defence did so with greyish technicalities. I was surprised the Premier played along. In hindsight, I’m glad he did. Mayor Ford’s popularity was higher than it is now, his clout more substantial. He just might’ve been able to bury Transit City for good and we’d be right back to scratch as we seem to find ourselves regularly on the transit portfolio.

Forced to sell his plan to council now, the outcome is nowhere near as foregone. With the bad news keep on a-coming, what councillor in their right mind would stand up to be counted as backing the mayor’s Transportation City plan? It’s going to cost more and deliver less transit to the city. Yes, if we go with Transit City, there’ll be ‘streetcars’ back on the street but that’s his millstone to bear. How many councillors went out on the hustings touting that to voters?

No, Transit City is not perfect. The province made it a little less so when it blinked in the face of a darkening economy a couple years ago and pulled some funding back off the table. But it still delivers reliable transit to parts of the city that will continue to be woefully underserved without it. Let’s call it a reasonable start to an increasingly daunting problem facing us.

An argument could be made to let the mayor dangle further, bluster ahead with his plan and watch it disintegrate further with each successive misstep. That will only squander valuable time and money both of which are at a premium presently with very little prospect of any increased rosiness in the near future. It’s time to stop playing political football with this, push aside the mayor and get on with building proper transit with the serious intent he’s shown no inclination in having.

adultly submitted by Cityslikr


More Thoughts On Presto

July 27, 2010

Just a follow up on yesterday’s post here re: the Presto smart card and the resulting pissing match between the province and city.

In our comments section, a reader pointed out that a Mr. Tony Gaffney sits on the board of directors of the Toronto Board of Trade whose press release last week precipitated an ensuing war of words between the Minister of Transportation, Kathleen Wynne, and TTC chair, Adam Giambrone. The province wants the TTC to cease shopping around for an alternative or complementary form of payment for transit use outside of the Presto card that is already in use throughout the GTA and several TTC subway stations. The above mentioned Tony Gaffney’s day job is Managing Partner at Accenture, the company behind the Presto smart card.

Now, we are not suggesting that there’s anything untoward in this set up. Given the make up of the BOT’s board of directors – from banking and financial services to telecommunications and computer technology – private sector/public sector overlap just comes with the territory. But the vigorousness with which the Board of Trade pushes a product that is operated by one of its board of directors should be treated as not entirely unbiased. Rather than a dispassionate, objective analysis, it is the opinion of a special interest group and needs to be viewed as such. One of many, opinionated points of view that get bandied about during policy making debates. The democratic process at work.

That mayoral candidate Rocco Rossi so wholeheartedly embraces the Board of Trade’s view on this issue and has been slavish in his praise of the Presto card is what’s truly disturbing and unsettling to us. Yes, yes. His campaign has been built almost exclusively on a platform of discrediting the Miller Administration and anyone involved in it to generate a groundswell of anti-incumbent feeling in the electorate. This contretemps between the province and the TTC is simply just another hammer to use in his arsenal. George Smitherman did likewise.

But for Rossi it’s also another display of what seems to us to be his corporatist agenda. (Lifted directly off  his website: “Rossi is the only candidate with an extensive career as an executive in large corporations…”.) From his desire to sell off whatever he can of Toronto Hydro to contracting out city services, Rossi seems all about putting business before people. Presto may in fact turn out to be the best system of automated fare payment for the TTC and the GTA. There just seems to be some serious questions about that and Rocco Rossi might be better served garnering some of his information on the issue from the likes of an outside observer like Steve Munro and not exclusively from those with vested interest in the outcome like Toronto’s Board of Trade.

Otherwise, it just looks like Rossi’s running to be CEO of Toronto rather than its mayor.

dutifully submitted by Cityslikr


Presto, Minions. We Said Presto!

July 26, 2010

We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke would never think of ourselves as experts in anything. There’s too much delving into the tiny details, combing through the minutiae. It taxes our tiny brains. Generalists we, rather than specifists; meta-analyzers.

So we wade very trepidatiously into the Presto/smart card versus open fare payment debate that flared up last week, once again pitting the province against the city over public transit planning. And certainly not to offer up any new insights into the pros and cons of either method as that’s something done much more thoroughly and knowledgably by someone like Steve Munro (whose blog we leaned heavily on for this post). No, we’re focusing on the politics behind the issue and how it’s playing out on the municipal campaign trail.

As anyone who’s traveled to any city that has a major transit system will tell you, Toronto is miles behind in how it collects fares. Tickets, tokens and transfers are a thing of the past in most metropolitan regions. It’s all about smart cards/open payments whether through a dedicated transit card or with personal credit and debit cards. Some systems even allow riders to swipe their cell phones as a method of payment. All of which help ensure a more streamlined and efficient operation, allowing for better opportunities to have the trains run on time.

But never fear, Torontonians, a decade into the 21st-century, ready or not, we are on the precipice of finally embracing the future. There is no choice as the new streetcars that are on their way will not be token or ticket friendly. We’ll have to swipe to ride. The only question now is, swiping what exactly?

The province has hitched its wagon to the Presto card which it has already implemented on GO lines and in a handful of subway stations in Toronto. For its part, the TTC is still deciding. While not ruling out Presto, it wants to make sure there is an open payment option which they feel is more conducive to further innovations down the road. PrestoPlus, let’s call it. An idea that even the brains behind Presto seem to be already exploring.

Lots of room for agreement and accommodation clearly, yet the provincial transportation minister, Kathleen Wynne, delivered an aggressively worded post onto the government website last week, stating emphatically that the TTC was to consider no other payment option but Presto. Presto Now. Presto Tomorrow. Presto Forever. Thinking otherwise was a wasteful exercise in misusing precious tax dollars. End of discussion.

Gas Tax funding was provided to GTA Municipalities, including the City of Toronto, with the requirement that they participate in the PRESTO fare card system, provincial funding towards the cost of the City of Toronto’s replacement streetcars is also conditional upon the City’s full participation in PRESTO and we’ve communicated to the City that the 182 light rail vehicles for the four Transit City projects in Toronto must be PRESTO ready.

Within this paragraph lies the nub of the patronizing approach the province has toward municipalities. When it stopped contributing to the annual operating budget of the TTC back in the late-90s, many assumed it was purely for the cost saving involved. But it seems obvious here that there was more to it, and the real reason that the McGuinty government has been slow to keep its election promise of reassuming the funding is not for money reasons but for the power they can wield in doling out funding on ongoing conditional bases.

With money comes power, and this Liberal government has become expert at withholding the first in order to use the hammer of the second.

Now, we encourage everyone to follow this fight on their own to decide the rights and wrongs of it. Only to say, that it does appear to these eyes that the province got into bed with Presto without consulting any of the affected municipalities and is now demanding that everyone fall into line behind them or else risk losing transit funding. Eat your peas or you won’t get any pudding!

What we find even more interesting is the response of a couple of our mayoral hopefuls to the imbroglio. Both Rocco Rossi and George Smitherman issued kneejerk statements, lambasting the TTC and chair Adam Giambrone for the decision not to whole-heartedly embrace Presto. Basing his response on the Board of Trade’s endorsement of Presto, Rossi used the opportunity to singularly castigate the TTC for not falling in line behind the province, using some questionable claims in the process. For his part, Smitherman’s view can be summed up with this: “Mr. Giambrone has been a barrier to the modernization of Toronto’s transit system and we should be glad he will soon be out of our hair.”

Two men, in their bid to become mayor of Toronto, categorically side with the province despite there being some very valid, non-partisan questions about the issue. What does this say about how they’ll lead if elected? Will the province always be right when it comes to resolving problems with the city? Rather than serve as mayor, will either of these two be nothing more than the Queen’s Park representative on city council, head of neo-Family Compact.

This is especially worrisome with George Smitherman. Once the highest ranking Toronto M.P.P. in the Liberal government, he delivered nothing by superficial air-kisses to this city. Is he now looking to be mayor to atone for that negligence or is he coming to town as nothing more than a deputy sheriff, intent on quashing the last of our independence and eliminating all voices of dissent against ham-fisted provincial rule? Every sign so far points to the latter.

worriedly submitted by Cityslikr