Five Cent Politics

July 2, 2013

In the north country over the long weekend, stocking up on provisions (“Are you sure that’s enough Pringles?”), pringleswe’re asked by the cashier if we need plastic bags. Hells yeah! We’re on vacation here. Our concern for the environment is purely a workday, 9-5 affair. We’ll be leaving these bags behind for somebody else to deal with.

Then we’re hit with the bill.

.05¢ per plastic bag?! What the fuck’s with that? Out here in the middle of nowhere? At someplace calling itself a ‘General Store’? Where’s all this small town and rural conservatism we keep hearing about, tired of being nickel and dimed to death?

It’s whatever the opposite of refreshing is to travel outside our little lakeside bubble here and realize that many of the places around us have accepted the inevitable, not got dragged down into trivialities and simply moved on with what had to be done. generalstoreThat Toronto wasted so much political time and energy debating and re-debating and debating again such an inconsequential matter as a five cent plastic bag fee should be both mind-boggling and soul-crushing. It reflects the blinkered mindset that’s held this city hostage for the past 3 years.

If it’s not plastic bags, it’s the misguided demand for subways. Technology-envy, if you will. We not only want more public transit (which is a worthwhile discussion) but we want a specific kind of public transit (a less vigorous debate) based almost entirely on the fact that other parts of the city have it. Oh yeah. And we’re not going to broach the subject of paying for our transit wish list.

These are not the types of conversations big cities with any sort of aspirations toward being places their children and children’s children want to live have. iknowyouareDwelling on such petty matters – and yes, insisting on your right to a subway based solely on the fact they run elsewhere in the city is the very definition of petulance – is a passive-aggressive way of simply avoiding big decisions. It clogs up forward motion and squanders opportunity at every turn.

I’d like to think that this farcical interregnum of debility we’ve subjected ourselves to for the past three years is the result of the lack of a truly bold campaign in 2010. Into the void of that vision thing, stepped the reactionaries and the governance-challenged who convinced a plurality of Torontonians that we were only a cut or two away from greatness. There were no tough choices to be made. Only a taxpayer windfall that would somehow propel us toward future prosperity without costing us a single dime.

Six months out from our next municipal campaign, it’ll be interesting to see if anyone contemplating a run for mayor rises above catering to our worst, self-interested instincts and lays out a positive platform. risksaheadA recent poll suggests there’s a sizeable base willing to get behind someone who rejects crass populism for a more constructive city building agenda. That may be hard to believe, listening to our current debates at City Hall but it’s also possible that the public is ahead of the politicians on this. They’ve had it up to their eyeballs in fights over plastic bags and inaction on transit funding. Perhaps the politician recognizing that will get a leg up on their rivals heading into the 2014 campaign.

hopefully submitted by Cityslikr

The Mayor Of Small Things

June 7, 2012

Just a quick update before heading back to City Hall the day after what can only be described as the craziest fucking spectacle I have witnessed in my short time council watching.

Follow the bouncing ball with me on this one:

On the campaign trail in 2010, candidate for mayor Rob Ford had no real problem with the 5¢ plastic bag fee except for the fact it went into the pockets of retailers. What he wanted instead was to see the fee go into some environmental program. Which is exactly what councillor and Executive Committee member Michelle Berardinetti proposed to do, have merchants submit the money to the city’s tree canopy program. But in 2012, now mayor Rob Ford had decided the plastic bag fee was a tax. Tax is bad. Tax must go.

With the maladroit, anti-Midas touch he’s exhibited over the last 10 months or so, Mayor Ford managed to elevate a largely inconsequential matter into a titanic, monumental struggle, blowing up a mountain to a molehill to die on. After nearly 7 hours of largely eye-splittingly mundane debate – oftentimes focusing on the proper material to pick up after your pet with – the mayor beat back Councillor Berardinetti’s motion (and by beat back, I mean wrestle into submission with a draw) and have the fee rescinded only to watch a total plastic bag ban motion by another member of his Executive Committee, Councillor David Shiner, win handily.

Ludicrous,” is how the mayor referred to the ban as if it’s not a course of action a growing number of municipalities are taking from megalopolis Los Angles to heart of the Alberta oil sands Fort MacMurray.

The rumblings have started that this is the exact kind of wedge issue Mayor Ford was looking for in his bid for re-election in 2+ years hence. Certainly all the angry populist ingredients are there. Little guy mayor fights to remove the onerous 5¢ (6 if you include the HST, the mayor and his supporters like to point out) from off of the backs of Ford Nation but an out-of-control council swoops in and delivers a kooky, elitist blow to deprive hard working families of their right to free plastic bags.

But 2014 is a long way off and as more and more cities ban plastic bags, it may well be the acceptable norm by then. And really, what kind of winning ring does Mayor Rob Ford, Champion Of Plastic Bags have?

Stay tuned and until tomorrow…

on locationally submitted by Cityslikr