Friend And Foe

March 28, 2012

When Rob Ford was elected mayor of Toronto his council critics, opponents, arch nemeses were easy to spot. Hello Councillor Adam Vaughan! The whiny, scheming two steps left of Stalin led by the likes of councillors Janet Davis and Gord Perks. As former mayor David Miller’s 2nd budget chief, Councillor Shelley Carroll was made the symbol of everything tax-and-spendy.

This was the division Ford exploited on the campaign trail and what he pursued during his first year as mayor. Taxpayers versus trough feeders. The reasonable right wing versus the loony left. Etc., etc. etc.

But 16 months into things and the mayor’s aim has become scattershot, a growing number of fellow conservatives taking on friendly fire. His decade long feud with Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby got openly nasty during last week’s Sheppard subway/LRT vote with both brother councillor Doug and Speaker/ toady Frances Nunziata piling onto the fray. Chin Lee, a moderate right of centre councillor from the mayor’s beloved Scarborough has openly drifted from the Ford camp in a manner that suggests it would be very, very difficult for them to lure him back any time soon.

And of course there’s the case of TTC Chair Karen Stintz. A very well established anti-Millerite and solid Team Ford player until just recently, the councillor did Mayor Ford’s bidding by dutifully cutting 10% from this year’s TTC budget and axing service correspondingly. She stood tall for the mayor in the face of the moderate pushback to claim $19 million back in 2012 the budget. In no way could she be considered anything but a good soldier.

Until, that is, the Great Transit Takeback when the TTC Chair led a group of moderate conservative, centrist and left wing councillors to assume control of the transit file. Then it’s all Turncoat/Streetcar Stintz who stabbed the mayor in the back, suddenly becoming a leftie in the process. While Councillor Stintz has been very temperate in her reaction to the hurled invective, saying that transit was a one-time issue and there’d be no problem working with the mayor on other matters, it’s hard to imagine how. I mean, how do you continue working with someone who turns nasty and petulant anytime there’s a disagreement? That isn’t what I’d call a positive work environment.

Now the mayor and his brother have turned their sights on Councillor John Parker. During their radio show musings about running a slate of candidates in the next municipal that better reflect Mayor Ford’s political leanings and do his bidding, the mayor openly praised Parker’s opponent in the 2010 election, an election determined by just 415 votes. (The councillor won his ward for the first time in 2006 by just over 200 votes). “They [Parker and Kristyn Wong-Tam’s opponent] ran — they came very close seconds — but these are the type of people, we have to get them on council,” Ford said.

Folks (if I can borrow some Ford vernacular), I don’t see a winning strategy with this. Pitting conservatives against even more conservatives? Isn’t that what they call, splitting the vote?

Not to mention that with still more than two and a half years to go until the next election, doesn’t this just help forge further the growing alliance between moderate conservatives and centrists, a substantial voting bloc at council? I know there’s been much talk about Mayor Ford in campaign mode, going rogue and running for re-election on his lone wolf ticket but what if council gets into the groove of running things smoothly without him? If in 2014, voters see the mayor only for his bullying, his intransigence? That’s a real leap of faith hoping enough voters are looking for those qualities in a mayor.

Besides, even I who have little politically in common with the likes of Councillor Parker are siding with him in this battle. Yes, we’re uncomfortable with his Mike Harris Progressive Conservative connections and the damage he helped inflict on this city. We largely abhor his fiscal policies and his regular evoking of Greece and the fate that awaits us if we don’t cut, cut, cut. And he joined in on the slime fest by sandbagging Councillor Wong-Tam with the move to tear up the Jarvis Street bike lanes in Public Works and Infrastructure committee,

But in terms of preference to the full on Ford way? No contest. Councillor Parker seems like a decent enough fellow, no willful dummy. He’s quietly funny, much of the time in a self-deprecating way.

Not actually Paul Ainslie

Hell, in the face of a Ford-friendly foe, I might go to work for the councillor to get him re-elected. Ditto Councillor Lindsay Luby.

That’s a kind of consensus that couldn’t possibly be helpful for Mayor Ford’s re-election chances. The left and the right, setting aside their differences to unite around a common foe, the mayor of Toronto. Send up the evil genius signal! Calling Nick Kouvalis! Calling Nick Kouvalis!

Like the TTC chair, Councillor Parker is trying to make nice with the mayor and put all this negativity behind them. Calling the Mayor Ford ‘a man of great passions’, the councillor confessed that he didn’t “…think it is ever going to be a quilting bee around here. We need to keep focused on the job we are here to do.”

Noble words, nobly stated. And if the councillor truly wants to focus on the job he elected to do, might I recommend the next important step in that direction? Ridding the council of its current speaker and replacing her with the deputy speaker, John Parker. Where she brings nothing but shrill partisanship, he is all calm and courteous. Speaker Nunziata wears the mayor’s divisiveness on her sleeve, prone to escalate tensions rather than lessen them. If council is really determined to get on with the business of governing, there’d be no better start than to divest itself of the worst excesses of Mayor Ford’s bid to politicize everything.

Replacing Speaker Nunziata would be a sign that while the mayor operates only in terms of electioneering, two-thirds of councillors are capable of putting Toronto’s interests before their own and getting on with the business of running the city.

helpfully submitted by Cityslikr


Dreaming Of A True Ford Nation

March 26, 2012

Hey.

Did everybody see that? At the NDP federal leadership convention this weekend, councillors Karen Stintz and John Parker, locked arm in arm, cheering the radical left crowd on, belting out Le Internationale.

Yeah, me neither. But apparently that’s exactly what Councillor Doug Ford and his brother mayor witnessed. “You’re on our side or against us,” Mayor Ford said yesterday on his radio show. “You’re on the taxpayer’s side or against them. There’s no mushy middle. It’s left or right down there.”

In what must be the most ridiculous case of repositioning ever, Team Ford is desperately trying to cast the world of municipal politics here in Toronto as a simple binary system, a black-and-white world of simplistic right-versus-left, us-versus-them. You’re either with us or you’ve been brainwashed by the vile and manipulative NDP. The mushy middle has drunk the koolaid.

Councillor Karen Stintz, a dipper. That must be news to the previous incarnation of Councillor Stintz who stood in strong opposition to former mayor David Miller. She was a chartered member of the Responsible Government Group. The other Councillor Karen Stintz speaking out passionately if misguidedly against a motion to reclaim about $19 million in service and program cuts in the 2012 budget.

And former Progressive Conservative MPP and Mike Harris backbencher, Councillor John Parker. Another member of the anti-David Miller Responsible Government Group, now suddenly a left leaning councillor, his blue hues changed overnight to that bilious orange.

Let’s not forget fellow Etobicoke councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby, a long time foe of the Ford family, clearly because of her political stripes. You see, way back in 1999, she had the temerity to oppose Doug Ford Sr. in a political nomination showdown for the… wait for it, wait for it… Progressive Conservative party. Clearly, a lost cause left wing wingnut. So much so that she was a member of Mayor Miller’s Executive Committee before resigning. “I never felt part of that small inner circle”

In the magical world that exists in the Ford family mind, bona fide conservatives become evil socialists the moment disagreement emerges. There is no middle ground, no third way. Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon, in her 2010 race to unseat David Miller Speaker, Sandra Bussin, endorsed by former provincial Progressive Conservative leader John Tory, is now a left winger. Councillor Ana Bailão ran in the 2003 municipal election against very left leaning Adam Giambrone and then won the ward in 2010 by beating Giambrone EA, Kevin Beaulieu. Councillor Josh Colle, offspring of Liberal MPP Mike Colle, and up until the recent rash of transit votes, sided with the mayor more than 40% of the time. Councillor Chin Lee, another member of the Responsible Government Group back in the day, backed Mayor Ford more than half the time.

Now, because of their disagreement with him over transit plans have all been hopelessly lost to the dark side, left wingers all.

There was a reason some of the more outspoken critics of the mayor and his brother began calling them ‘radical conservatives’. Actually, two. One, because the Fords are radical right wingers. Despite the election promise not to cut services and programs that’s exactly what they’ve done. They want to make government smaller under the banner of efficiencies. They are endeavouring the smash the unions. They want to privatize everything not nailed down.

That is, in fact, a radical right wing agenda.

The other reason to colour them with this label is to differentiate the Fords and their hardcore supporters on council from actual moderate conservatives. Despite what the brothers will try and tell you over the course of the next 2.5 years, city council is made up with a fair rump of moderate conservatives, those who are able to reach out and form a consensus with a majority of council members. That is what occurred on the transit vote. A consensus of 24 councillors from the moderate right to the left (29 when it came to assuming control of the TTC board) to take  the transit file from Mayor Ford when he failed to bring forth a workable plan to build a Sheppard subway that would almost get to Scarborough.

But the mayor and his brother see such cooperation as nothing short of betrayal and treachery. In their us-versus-everyone else who disagrees with us on any issue worldview, true conservatives march in lockstep. Since they are conservatives, you can’t vote against them and still be a conservative.

So now they’ve pledged to run a slate of candidates against any councillor that dares to defy them. This isn’t new. They did it on a limited scale in 2010. They nearly unseated Councillor Lindsay Luby as well as Councillor Maria Augimeri. Councillor Peter Milczyn similarly had to fight for his political life with a Ford backed candidate in the race. He, unlike councillors Lindsay Luby and Augimeri, has largely turtled and become a pliant supporter of the mayor except for some of his recent votes on transit.

In Ward 1, the Fords did manage to boot then councillor Suzan Hall, locking in undying fealty at city council from one Vincent Crisanti. Councillor Crisanti immediately assumed the position as a largely silent deadwood paper weight rubber stamp yes man for the incoming mayor. When he does rise to speak, he invokes the babbling oratory of councillors Frank Di Giorgio and Cesar Palacio. In the debate over transit and the Sheppard subway, Councillor Crisanti insisted busses ran faster than LRTs and endeavoured to ensure Etobicoke would not see improvement in transit in our lifetimes.

That, folks, is the slate of candidates the mayor wants to put together. Team Ford and Vincent Crisantis in 2014.

sirenly submitted by Cityslikr


Childish Behaviour

February 24, 2012

I could not disagree with Christopher Hume more if he were, well, Rob Ford.

He’s plea to the province to assume control of Toronto’s transit file is nothing short of madness, an adolescent whine. I want my mommy. Send lawyers, guns and money. Dad, get me out of this.

Long has been my stance, if not in these pages than in discussions I’ve had, that the main reason voters in cities including here seem comfortable casting their ballots at the municipal level for, how to say this delicately, clowns, clowns, jokers, the inept and certifiably deranged, is because they believe that it doesn’t really matter. There’s this blind faith that regardless of what happens, no matter what shit we manage to cover ourselves with, there’s a safety net to break our fall. The province would never let us burn our playhouse down.

We are the junior level of government, the farm team if you will, the bush leagues. Expectations are low, so why not have some fun with it? Politics as performance art. Since there are no consequences, we can afford to take a flyer or two, an appliance salesman here, a blustering buffoon there. It’s not like it’ll make any difference to our lives, right?

As we’re slowly beginning to realize, that’s not in the least bit true. In fact, it’s downright misguided from where we’re standing. Municipal politics matters. A lot. But to scream for a lifeline now, to call for the cavalry only reinforces the already hardened preconception that we’re not responsible enough to take care of ourselves. That when push comes to shove, we’re happy to hand over responsibility to the adults in the room and let them sort through the mess we’ve created.

And even that’s more than a little galling. In terms of public transit in Toronto, we are hardly the chief culprits in the bind we’re in currently. Plenty of blame to go around, with Queen’s Park topping the list. I mean, hey. If cities are nothing more than creatures of the province than the province has to bear some of the burden in how we’ve turned out, right?

Imagine if you will, the Mike Harris government (and yeah, I’m looking hard at you, Councillor John Parker) not filling in the hole that had already been dug in Eglinton Avenue back in 1996. This whole above/below ground LRT battle would be moot. We might even already have a Sheppard subway extension! Or what if the McGuinty government had long since made good on its promise to re-upload it’s portion of the annual TTC  operating budget that their predecessors had wiped their hands clean of (again, I’m looking hard at  you, Councillor John Parker)? That’s hundreds of millions of dollars Toronto would’ve had in its coffers or been able to give to the TTC for expansion or state of good repairs. Maybe had Premier McGuinty not wavered back in the spring of 2010 and scaled back on some of the original Transit City plans, then candidate for mayor Rob Ford wouldn’t have seen it as negotiable. Maybe had Premier McGuinty not wavered again, this time in the face of a Mayor Rob Ford, and signed their Memorandum of Understanding, throwing all transit planning back up into the air.

These are the people Mr. Hume wants to take charge? Arguably the very architects of our transit disarray? What on earth will that accomplish?

Despite Mayor Ford’s continued intransigence, city council is getting a handle on the situation. Doddering patrician types like the National Post’s Terence Corcoran sniffs at the February 8th city council meeting that asserted council’s primacy over the mayor, calls a timeout and declares we should just start all over. Well you know what, Mr. Corcoran? Fuck you. Democracy’s messy.

If people would just accept the fact that Mayor Ford lost, that city council (re)approved the Transit City plans for the Eglinton and Finch LRTs, that in a sop thrown to the mayor, a panel will make recommendations about Sheppard Avenue next month, we could just get on with things. Ignore the petulant child jumping up and down, holding his breath and turning red in the face. It doesn’t matter. Paying attention to him only reinforces the grade school view of municipal politics.

As does asking the province to come in and sort our problems out. Ironically, it also puts the normally fierce critic of the mayor, Christopher Hume, on the same side as the man he so obviously loathes. You don’t think Mayor Ford would love to divest himself of public transit decisions? Here, take it and all the related costs. Then we can just bitch and moan if it doesn’t work out to our liking, blameless. Take our traditional place in the backseat, counting on our parents to get us to where we’re going and only asking over and over, are we there yet? Are we there yet?

We’re not but we also need to realize that dad’s handed us the keys to the car.

adultly submitted by Cityslikr


Our Harmful Politics Of Transit

February 3, 2012

So, a few days of bashing Mayor Rob Ford’s flailing, rearguard action to save some semblance of his ad hoc transportation city plan, it’s time to pause and not forget the other contributor to the sad, sad state of transit affairs in these parts: our negligent overlords at Queen’s Park.

You got to hand it to them for possessing the sized stones they obviously possess, chiming in now, telling us to get our ducks all in a row so we could push ahead with building us some transit. Didn’t we already have that up until March of last year when the premier caved in and signed the Memorandum of Understanding that allowed the mayor to unilaterally rip up a plan that was in place at the time, that thing called Transit City? Where was the province’s demand for council approval back then?

I know, I know. It’s all political. The wobbly provincial government facing a fall election was unsure of the power of this thing called Ford Nation that the mayor touted. Better safe than sorry. Live to fight the fight another day. Besides, if Premier McGuinty forced Mayor Ford’s hand then, the mayor might’ve won the day and we’d already be on the wrong track of transit expansion.

But the equivocation, the serious case of constant cold feet toward public transit have been the rule rather than the exception for provincial governments, if not forever, than for the past 27 years or so. (And lest you think I’m letting Ottawa off the hook on this, I consider them largely an absent parent who shows up occasionally with a gift of electoral bribery.) What if the Mike Harris government never filled in that hole along Eglinton Avenue in 1995 and killed the subway plans? Or, had the same government not ceased paying its portion of the TTC’s annual operating budget? While there is much to criticize about the TTC, it would’ve been a different organization had it and the city not been forced to pick up the provinces half of the tab.

A situation Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals promised to rectify in 2003 when it was elected. And has continued to promise for the past 9 years. It seems the timing just hasn’t been optimum, money-wise. Ever.

Even their grand gesture to finally solve the city’s transit woes with their backing and funding of Transit City, quickly became a little less grand. When the economy went south with the global financial crisis in 2008, they began to blanche and waffle to the tune of some $4 billion, and a scaled back version established a certain easy come, easy go tone to the government’s attachment to the project. A tone the mayor quickly exploited in his bid to kill it last year.

Unfortunately this m’eh attitude toward public transit shown by Queen’s Park is ingrained. Hell, one might even call it endemic. Yeah, yeah. We know there’s a problem but, hey, we already got a lot of balls in the air. When the time’s right, the money’s flowing, when pigs fly, we’ll get right on it. Until then, here’s a biscuit. Don’t count on getting one regularly but be ready to jump when we say jump.

There was that favourite line of mine from The Sopranos, back in season one I believe it was. They shit on our heads and want us to thank them for the hat?! If you’re going to go around acting all mature like you’re the only responsible grown-ups in the room, might I suggest accepting some of the responsibility that goes along with that? Including, but not exclusive, to making deals and then backing out of them on a fairly regular basis.

As the senior level of government in this relationship, shouldn’t they be instilling a certain degree of stability into the dynamic? Isn’t that what good parents do for their children? Bring a sense of consistency.

Whatever you thought about the government of Mike Harris, they couldn’t be knocked for a lack of consistency. They hated Toronto and couldn’t give a fuck about public transit. Unfortunate but you were never dealing with surprises.

This Liberal government? All over the map. And there’s not even a pattern to its inconsistency. We’ll call it, willy-nilly.

Champions of Transit City, then not so much. Do whatever you want kids. Come on! Make up your mind already!

There’s no rhyme. There’s no reason. No vision. No leadership.

So why are we answerable to them? A historical glitch. This once rural country gave provinces sole domain over what were, at the time, insignificant cities. An after thought. A, yeah whatever.

Sadly, an attitude that remains in place nearly 150 years later, long after the country has become predominantly urbanized. A haphazard, outdated approach that puts the province’s interests first, ignoring the glaring obviousness of the new reality that as go the cities, so goes the provinces, the country. So a bad decision (or worse, an ill-informed, solely political one) on transit at this juncture as we already lag so far behind other cities throughout the world, will not only adversely affect Toronto but Ontario and Canada.

And the galling thing about it for us (perhaps not the politicians involved) is that we have a built in structure of plausible deniability. No one has to take the blame. We gave them money. They wanted to build subways. Kids, eh? What are you going to do?

chidingly submitted by Cityslikr


What’s In A Name?

January 10, 2012

You know, for a bunch of bona fide name-callers, the radical conservatives marching under the banner of Mayor Rob Ford sure are thin-skinned when it comes to taking what they love to dish out. Oh, I’m sorry. Did I hurt your feelings? Offend your delicate sensibilities? Yeah well, put that in your pipes and smoke it, you right wing zealots, ya.

As the hardest of the hardcore Team Ford members on the budget committee pushed through further proposed cuts to libraries, closed pools, daycares, homeless shelters and TTC service, they managed to find time to take umbrage at the clearly orchestrated use by their councillor opponents of various iterations of the term ‘radical conservative’ thrown in their collective direction. (‘Umbrage’, you say? The dumber of you budget committee lot can ask the more bookish to explain it for you. Councillors Peter Milczyn and John Parker will know… and speaking of Parker. How rich was it, how fucking rich to listen to him mewl defensively about being referred to as a ‘radical conservative’? The very same John Parker who, as a member of the very right wing Mike Harris government, helped impose amalgamation on an unwilling 6 municipalities in Toronto along with an asymmetrical downloading of services, both of which remain root causes of the fiscal squeeze this city is currently experiencing. ‘Radical conservative’? Moi? Nonsense. Oh yes, amidst all the slashing and burning that Councillor Parker referred to as ‘reasonable’, he managed to secure city funding to build a 2nd ice rink in the Leaside neighbourhood of his ward.)

It’s as if they all felt that name calling and labelling those with different political views was their sole domain. Proprietarily they voiced indignation at having the tables turned on them. We’re the ones who take intellectual shortcuts and brand those we disagree with in bumper sticker slogans not you, you teat-sucking, trough swilling silly socialists.

Remember Stop the Gravy Train?

Now, I don’t know where I sit with the ‘radical conservative’ moniker. We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke have certainly played with variations of it at least since then Councillor Rob Ford announced his candidacy for mayor back in March of 2010. Far right wing. Radical right wing. Neoconservative Ideologue.

The problem is, their actions don’t seem particularly radical for conservatives these days. They are simply doing what conservatives have been doing for over 30 years. Transferring wealth upwards. Using the guise of fiscal responsibility to shrink government in size and efficacy. Privatizing everything not nailed down. Check, check and double check. It’s just what conservatives do. We shouldn’t expect otherwise regardless of what they tell us while campaigning.

Our good friend, Sol Chrom, has argued that what passes as conservative now has nothing in common with the ideals of traditional conservatism as espoused by Edmund Burke back in the days of yore. To attach any version of ‘conservative’ to the likes of Rob Ford and his enablers is to render the word meaningless. From that point of view, a ‘radical conservative’ is actually a radical non-conservative.

But honestly, we haven’t really seen much of traditional conservatives for some time now unless they’re calling themselves Liberals. At the federal level, the last real ‘progressive’ conservative was Joe Clarke. Provincially, the concept died in the wreckage of the Big Blue Machine. In fairness, Toronto has maintained a short supply of these radical non-conservatives and, usually kept them far from the reins of power. And I don’t think it out of line to say the city’s been the better for it.

The one shred of traditional conservatism this gang retains, the one all neo-conservatives in the country and continent maintain in their political DNA, is a distrust and dislike of anything to do with cities and urbanism. They prize individual ease over community comfort. How else to explain their axe wielding at public transit, libraries, daycares, community centres? One of the mayor’s favourite mantras goes something along the lines of ‘The city shouldn’t be in the business of…”, and if it isn’t anything to do with immediate personal safety or clean and wide open streets to drive on, the city shouldn’t be engaged in it.

What the mayor is, and everyone who helps further his agenda as well, is radically anti-urban. Let’s remove the political ideology from the equation. Team Ford is only conservative as far as it has declared a war on a liveable, equitable city. That’s the extent of their traditional conservatism. So, let’s start calling it what it actually is.

Radical anti-urbanism.

Let them try to defend themselves against that label.

elitely submitted by Cityslikr


The Bold And The Beautiful

October 13, 2011

It’s difficult to reconcile being in a room full of articulate, passionate and fully engaged Torontonians for about 6 hours or so and the state this city finds itself in currently. I mean, if we’re facing such seemingly intractable and menacing issues, why aren’t some of these people in charge? After all, they can’t be that busy. Here they were, taking an afternoon to talk to the likes of us.

So it was yesterday as I sat in attendance in the Baillie Court auditorium at the AGO for a symposium, Imagine Toronto, that kicked off the launch of The Toronto Project followed by a Walrus sponsored debate, Be It Resolved That Toronto Will Never Be Beautiful. The room was packed with bright stars both on and off the stage, exchanging ideas, expressing hope (guarded), concern (sincere), outrage (very, very palpable). David Crombie moderated the afternoon session that featured 10 takes on the essence of Toronto, past, present and future. There was author-professor-philosopher Mark Kingwell. From the Maytree Foundation, Ratna Omidvar. Author-editor-stroller, Shawn Micallef. CivicAction‘s Naki Osutei. Rahul Bhardwaj talked about Toronto’s worrisome Vital Signs but remained surprisingly upbeat. Architect Wayne Kuwabara. Visual artist Shary Boyle tore up the place, beseeching the audience to imagine a Toronto that embraced itself and its artists proudly rather than half-heartedly. Writer-activist Dave Meslin called for more community, grassroots engagement in our political process.

That was all before the evening’s entertainment had begun.

One crossover between the day’s two meeting of minds was journalist John Lorinc. His cover article for the November issue of The Walrus magazine, Where Toronto Went Wrong, has been the talk of the town since it came out and was the cornerstone of both gatherings. No, folks. Things didn’t suddenly go south when Rob Ford became mayor. Even the enforced amalgamation foisted upon us by the Harris government and the subsequent downloading and bailing of responsibilities by Queen’s Park cannot be pointed to as the only culprit although it certainly served as a key role in how things are playing out here presently. Weaving a historical overview, Lorinc writes about how for every positive step the city leaders and their provincial overlords took, such as the creation of a two-tier system of regional governance with the formation of Metropolitan Toronto in 1954, there were two steps back like, well, the undoing of Metropolitan Toronto in 1998. (Amalgamation didn’t have to include the elimination of the metro level of government.)

My take on the whys and hows Toronto ‘lost its groove’ can be distilled in two points Mr. Lorinc makes in his article.  “Unfortunately, Toronto’s history is filled with examples of high-minded plans for open spaces that were crushed by its deep-seated disinclination to invest in the public realm.” Four paragraphs later he writes, “Such not-so-benign neglect, borne of a culture of stinginess, has been a long-standing element of Toronto’s DNA.”

Our leaders have suffered from a severe aversion to boldness, masked in an embrace of parsimoniousness calling itself fiscal prudence. Not only have we allowed them to conduct their business in such a fashion, we’ve encouraged it, demanding low taxes before civic amenities. ‘Need-to-haves’ over ‘nice-to-haves’ to use Mayor Ford’s words.

A ‘stinginess’ with money infecting a ‘stinginess’ of spirit. No to a Yonge Street subway in 1912 because of its price tag, repeated some 80 years later when Mike Harris buried the hole already dug for an Eglinton Avenue subway. The costs too rich for our blood that would haunt and saddle future generations with a significantly higher amount of money needed to think big on matters of transit. A history of here and now closed-mindedness and fistedness.

Remember a few months back when Councillor David Shiner killed plans for the Fort York bridge because he thought it ‘too fancy’? A miserliness of thinking handed down from his mother, Esther Shiner, Spadiner Shiner, who led the charge to extend the Spadina Expressway from where it had been stopped in its tracks at Lawrence Avenue down to Eglinton Avenue. The so-called Davis Ditch which, among other proposals was one from Buckminster Fuller that feature a mixed use development atop the Spadina subway extension. Instead, we got Allen Road. Anyone who’s ever tried to negotiate that intersection on foot, bike or even a car knows the price we paid for that.

We have inherited a short-sightedness in terms of money that never seems capable of taking in the bigger picture. A deficit of boldness that always means passing the buck, both literally and figuratively. Sometimes, oftentimes, a penny saved is not a penny earned. It’s just responsibility deferred.

To be bold means more than strictly adhering to the bottom line. Down the road, money you think you’ve saved just accrues, collecting interest that will have to be paid by someone else. Not doing something because it seems unaffordable now may seem noble and conscientious and shows Respect For The Taxpayer but in many cases, when it comes to building a sustainable, liveable, just city, is nothing more than a refusal to govern. It isn’t even caretaking. It’s obstructionism. Politicians priding themselves in that would do us all a favour and step out of the way. As I witnessed yesterday, there’s plenty of people ready to offer up solutions and ideas to get Toronto back on the right track.

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr


Letting Them Off The Hook

October 12, 2011

I’ve got no particular axe to grind with the Globe and Mail’s columnist Marcus Gee. His columns seldom either infuriate or excite me. He’s not the worst journalist covering the City Hall, not by any stretch of the imagination. At least, not until Sue-Ann Levy stops her doodled rants on the pages of the Toronto Sun. And takes Joe Warmington with her when she goes. Mr. Gee is much more palatable writing about this city than he was international affairs all those many years ago.

But he still doesn’t get it. Or, if he does, he adamantly refuses to accept the facts as they are. His stubbornness in viewing municipalities as mere after thoughts on the governance scale, last on the bus, last to exit, does us no favours. In fact, he may help entrench the view of cities as wayward children, naïve to the ways in which the world works.

“Whatever party had won [the provincial election] on Thursday night,” Gee wrote last Friday, “and whatever governing arrangement emerges now, the prospects of wringing a wealth of benefits for Toronto out of the provincial government are dim. With a projected $15-billion budget deficit, and the threat of a global economic crisis, Queen’s Park is in no position to help another level of government with its money problems in any substantial way.”

The Toronto-Queen’s Park relationship shouldn’t be about leverage and looking to cash in on enforced, political largesse. Any problems the provincial government has with its books must include obligations it has to the municipalities it oversees. Ditto the federal government. The rising deficits cities face, both from a fiscal and infrastructure stand point, originate with the debt the two upper levels of government owe them.

Even that phrasing – upper or senior levels of government – denotes a degree of priority which is long past a best before date. Municipalities in this country are groaning under the weight of negligence inflicted upon them by Ottawa and the provincial legislatures. They’ve washed their hands of responsibility and left cities to make the impossible decisions of what to cut and how deep. We are living in an era of absentee landlords, deadbeat dads if you will.

We are told by Mr. Gee that as premier Dalton McGuinty has done alright by us. He’s re-upped some of the downloads imposed by his predecessor, Mike Harris. He’s made strides on the transit portfolio, albeit in half measures. What more do we want? “Even under NDP pressure,” Gee opines, “he [McGuinty] seems unlikely to reverse himself completely and disinter Transit City. A provincial commitment to 50-50 sharing of transit costs seems just as far-fetched, given the great cost and the awful state of the provincial accounts.”

Why, Mr. Gee, should we not expect the premier to live up to his promise, now almost a decade old, to resume the provincial share of the TTC annual operating budget that was in place until the previous government at Queen’s Park reneged on the deal? How is it any different than a citizen of Toronto deciding he could no longer afford to pay the full amount of the property tax bill and cutting the city a cheque for 50% of the amount? Walking away from your responsibility is still walking away from your responsibility regardless of the state of your finances.

Besides, allowing municipalities to sink in a sea of red ink and to collapse under the weight of neglected infrastructure and a second-rate transit system does no one’s bottom line any good. That shit’s got to be paid by someone sometime or everyone suffers irreparably. This isn’t about doing something out of the goodness of your heart or because it’s politically expedient. It’s about good governance. Withholding on your responsibilities is anything but.

Marcus Gee enables such deplorable behaviour from our senior levels of government. He gives them an escape clause. We’d really love to help you out but we’re a little bit strapped at the moment. Maybe after that whole economic meltdown plays itself out, we can talk about what it is you need to get yourself back up on your feet again. Until then, you’re on your own. There’s really nothing we can do.

That’s a cop out, plain and simple. We’re paying the price for someone else’s shirking of duty. And Marcus Gee blithely let’s them off the hook scot-free.

dutifully submitted by Cityslikr