Who Are They Trying To Kid?

November 22, 2012

Exactly who or what is the Toronto Taxpayers Coalition? Enquiring minds want to know.

Or, at least, I want to know since this other TTC has become the go-to group for conservative columnists in town (the Toronto Sun’s Sue-Ann Levy is a fan) and talk radio show hosts like the Ford Brothers (just this past week, Part 1 of the show) when it comes to getting the skinny on tax and spending matters at City Hall. Even the apparently liberal biased CBC gave the group a nod, mentioning its 2012 City Council Report Card that was released this week. (More on that in a minute.)

From the other TTC Mission Statement: The Toronto Taxpayers Coalition is a non-partisan advocate for the municipal Taxpayer. We are committed to lower taxes, less waste, and holding government to account with respect to how they spend your hard earned money.

Ha, ha! Ha, ha, ha! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha….

If the Toronto Taxpayers Coalition considers itself a ‘non-partisan advocate’ then that term is absolutely meaningless. Fuck. By that measure, we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke are non-partisan advocates.

Their Mission Statement could’ve been cribbed from the Rob Ford for Mayor campaign platform. Taxpayer. Lower taxes. Less Waste. Respect. Respect for the municipal taxpayer from the Toronto Taxpayers Coalition.

When the group’s 2012 City Council Report Card (I’m getting to that. Just a second.) our friend on Twitter, Chaicube, plotted a graph, overlaying the other TTC’s councillor grades with Matt Elliott’s council scorecard which is a ranking given to councillors in accordance with how they vote in relationship to the mayor. (A 100% rating means a councillor is in lockstep with Mayor Ford’s politicies; at 3%, speciation has basically occurred between a councillor and the mayor).

And surprise, surprise. The graph showed a clustering of conservative councillors around Mayor Ford while tax and spenders – otherwise known as left of centre – huddled in a ball below. The Great Left-Right Divide on an X-Y axis.

Makes perfect sense when you think about it. Conservative means being fiscally respectful of hardworking taxpayers’ dollars, right? Enemies of wasteful spending and all that.

Except when you take a look at the issues the Toronto Taxpayers Coalition used to grade councillors. A big one seemed to be support for subways over LRTs. Now, how exactly is that being fiscally prudent or respecting taxpayers? Using the same amount of money to build less transit in fewer areas. I believe that would be called spendthriftry, if such a word existed and I think it should. It’s not about respecting taxpayers. It’s about playing the divisive card.

The plastic bag ban also factored heavily into the other TTC’s councillor evaluation. This makes some sense since it started from their opposition to the 5¢ fee on plastic bags. Nickel and diming the taxpayer to death, as Mayor Ford, the other TTC touts.

And the ban now, well, that’s just going to invite lawsuits from everybody with some sort of interest in maintaining the plastic bag status quo. It could wind up costing the city big bucks. So reverse that ban before Toronto’s coffers take an unnecessary hit.

Curiously however, one of three A+s the Toronto Taxpayers Coalition gives out is to Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong. (Another recipient is Cesar Palacio, a councillor who outside of his own family wouldn’t receive a passing grade from anyone else for his work at City Hall.) It might surprise you to know that in his role as chair of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, Councillor Minnan-Wong actively promoted the private sector taking the city to court over the plastic bag ban.

“For those members of council who didn’t support the bag bylaw and others who regret they supported it in the beginning , we’re leaving it to the private sector to save us from our own madness,” Minnan-Wong told the committee. “They have to save us by hopefully going to court and having this stupidity overturned.”

Evidently for the Toronto Taxpayers Coalition, respect means disrespecting the democratic process when things don’t go your way.

It’s also interesting to note that there was no mention of their A+ student’s spearheading the move to tear up the Jarvis bike lanes at immense superfluous cost to the city. Respect for the taxpayer? More like respect for the car driving taxpayers. Fingers crossed the new parking revenues from along Jarvis Street make up the shortfall for Denzil’s Folly!

Look, I don’t have any trouble with a conservative advocacy group going to bat for Team Ford’s agenda. That’s politics. But can we stop pretending the Toronto Taxpayers Coalition is anything other than that? Claiming non-partisanship doesn’t automatically make it so.

partisanly submitted by Cityslikr


Time To Talk Transit Turkey

October 9, 2012

If Mayor Ford really wanted to turn the page on the nasty car accident that’s been his last year in office or so, he could do worse than to enthusiastically adopt the city CFO’s report on transit funding strategies at Executive Committee meeting today. Instead of spending his time and political capital trying to eradicate any and all evidence that David Miller was ever mayor of Toronto, he could now simply absorb what was his predecessor’s most cherished legacy. Out transit the one time Transit Mayor. You want transit? I’ll give you transit, folks.

Of course, no such thing is going to happen.

The initial response coming from the mayor’s office to Cam Weldon’s report is pretty much par for the course for an administration that’s only viewed the transit file as a potential wedge issue. Private sector this from Councillor Doug Ford, senior levels of government that from the mayor. Any talk of new sources of revenue dedicated to building transit is just a whole lot of tax-and-spending in disguise. Team Ford, no can do.

Instead, Mayor Ford seems intent on keeping to the tried and true path of obsessing and trying to exploit inconsequential matters in the hope of righting the ship. Over on Twitter last Friday, the mayor’s former campaign director and one of his ex-chiefs of staff, Nick Kouvalis suggested 70% of suburban Toronto was unhappy with the plastic bag ban and he predicted Mayor Ford could win re-election on that issue alone. Hyperbole aside (and noting Mr. Kouvalis doesn’t officially speak for the mayor at this juncture), it does point to some skewed priorities from those in the mayor’s corner. They seem unwilling, uninterested and/or unable to cope with the more pressing concerns the city faces.

So what happens when one of those pressing concerns comes before the mayor’s Executive Committee for its consideration?

I imagine Mayor Ford will try to bury the CFO’s report under procedural manoeuvrings. Out of sight, out of mind; defer it in order to keep it from council’s hands for a wider debate. The city’s got bigger fish to fry than contributing to a region wide debate on transit building. Those plastic bags aren’t going to unban themselves, people.

In other words, the mayor’s probably looking to excuse himself from the discussion and hoping to sideline the city along with him. Go on ahead without us. We’ll just stay here and roll up into a ball of irrelevancy.

How many members of his Executive Committee are willing to stick their heads in the sand along with the mayor? This isn’t just some left-right, downtown-suburban issue we’re talking about here. Toronto’s Board of Trade is pushing this discussion. The bigwigs of the region’s post-secondary school institutes are demanding action. John Tory’s Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance group will be rolling out their attempt to kick start the debate this week.

But the mayor of the largest city in the entire GTHA wants to take a pass on participating?

Enabling such a craven approach will not reflect well on those who do so. Transit is too important an item to continue playing politics with it. We’ve avoided having this conversation for at least a generation now. Any elected official once more endeavouring to push it off onto someone else’s plate needs to seriously question why it was they sought public office in the first place. And voters need to question why it was they supported them.

ominously submitted by Cityslikr