The Golden Rule

September 17, 2013

When it was announced last week that Anne Golden had been approached by the Ontario government to head up a panel to look at revenue generation to go toward building transit in the GTHA, hidebehindI joked that we should all be very excited as Queen’s Park has a history of listening to recommendations made by a panel chaired by Ms. Golden. Listening perhaps, then ignoring.

OK, joke may be too strong a word for it. That would suggest the statement was funny. More sagging, really. Under the weight of bitter, disillusioned sarcasm.

But it did get me thinking about the old Golden Report on the governance, competitiveness blah, blah, blah of the GTA, commissioned back in the twilight of the Bob Rae government. Delivered up to the Mike Harris crew in the early days of that government, it was greeted largely with a shrug. It wasn’t something they’d asked for.

That’s not exactly true either. The Harris Tories did use the report as a little bit of cover in the next couple years as they descended into an amalgamation frenzy including the one here in Toronto. Reading through Andrew Sancton’s account of what happened, shrugAmalgamations, Service Realignment, and Property Taxes: Did the Harris Government Have a Plan for Ontario’s Municipalities?, the immediate impression is of the ad hoc nature of it all.

To begin with, the idea of amalgamation wasn’t really on the party’s radar when it sat on the opposition benches at Queen’s Park. It certainly wasn’t a key part of the Common Sense Revolution. Here’s Mike Harris speaking in 1994, less than a year before he took over the reins of power.

There is no cost to a municipality to maintain its name and identity. Why destroy our roots and pride? I disagree with restructuring because it believes that bigger is better. Services always cost more in larger communities. The issue is to find out how to distribute services fairly and equally without duplicating services.

Bigger isn’t better? “Services always cost more in larger communities”? This was the exact opposite of what we were being told by the provincial government when they were ramming the megacity down our throats. aboutfaceHow times changed.

Sixteen years on, water under the bridge aside from pointing out that the 1994 Mike Harris was right about amalgamations while Premier Mike Harris was wrong. The change of heart might be easier to accept if there’d been a straight forward reason why he did what he did but there really didn’t seem to be.

Sure, there was the desire to bury the dissenting voice of the old city of Toronto’s council under the more friendly voices of the suburban municipalities but that seems to be just a small part of it. The Tories also wanted to remove the taxation power of school boards and put them on a tight fiscal leash. Plus, the whole matter of updating the property tax system was also in play.

Perhaps as important as any of these, the provincial government needed to keep a campaign promise of reducing government. Any ol’ government would do, regardless of the consequences. Six municipalities into one, plus Metro council? A double fucking trifecta.

Keeping up appearances, in other words. This anti-government government eliminating levels of government. It would make for good re-election campaign literature.

There are echoes of this jumbled miasma of reasoning currently going on with our whole heave-ho debate on transit. Everybody knows that the region’s public transit system is substandard. decisionsdecisions1Everybody knows that we’re going to have to pay substantially for the necessarily substantial expansion.

That seems to be where the agreement ends. Who pays? Who knows. What gets built where? Another head shaker. There are metrics to quantify the debate just like there were during the era of amalgamation. Unfortunately, few are very politically palatable.

Adding Anne Golden to the mix only serves to fuel the feeling that the provincial government is doing little more than throwing up more obstacles. Decisions aren’t the desirable outcome here. The appearance of process is, due diligence.

What’s weird about the way the Liberals are going about things here is, unlike how the Harris government did an about face on amalgamation, the Liberals are subverting a plan they themselves put into place. The Big Move. A breakdown of transit needs and priorities throughout the region and a smorgasbord of possible revenue tools to access in order to implement the plan.

Already the Eglinton crosstown construction is underway. selfsabotageThe Master Agreement with Toronto has been signed for 3 other LRT lines, one being the Scarborough LRT extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway line that the government seems determined to undermine at this point, ably assisted by a majority of city council. The motivation behind such a move is hard to discern.

You could just write it off to pure political pandering, to keep those Scarborough seats red in any upcoming provincial election. Pretty straightforward. But if it’s just that, why not go all in and build an actual subway? You know, at least all the way up to Sheppard? That way, you can put pressure on the proposed Sheppard LRT too. A subway to the west. A subway to the east. Complete the line from Yonge to Kipling with a Sheppard subway loop.

This two stop proposal just seems like a half-measure. How could this government be that invested and find themselves at this point of time so indecisive? To give the Harris government its due, they did a 180 on amalgamation and in the face of fierce political opposition pushed it through, damn the torpedoes. headlesschickenThese Liberals appear to have little inclination to be as bold even when they have the good cause on their side.

Instead of having to pull some clarity (misguided and malevolent as it was in the case of amalgamation) out of a stew of conflicting policy initiatives, the McGuinty-Wynne government seem bound and determined to reduce transit planning in the region to a chaotic mix of parochialism and unfinished business. If you are able to find a coherent narrative as to why, you have much better eyes for this kind of thing than I do. I just see a glaring lacking of leadership and a desperate desire for expediency coalescing into an all familiar puddle of incompetence that has plagued this city and region in transit building for a generation now.

disheartenedly submitted by Cityslikr


Ask And Ye Shall Receive

September 5, 2013

Late Tuesday afternoon, we were told that the provincial Minister of Transportation, Glen Murray, would be holding a press conference the following day with important news regarding a certain Scarborough subway. raisedeyebrowEyebrows raised. Oh really? I honestly thought they’d let that die after having survived the by-election, relatively unscathed. No federal funding forthcoming. The mayor hasn’t so much as lifted a finger to find some additional financing. It was a great idea. The Liberal government really want to get it up and going but… alas, it was just not meant to be.

Oh well. That ol’ LRT is just gonna have to do, I guess…

Then came word yesterday morning before the minister’s press conference that, no, in fact, subway plans were still alive and kicking. Minister Murray and some faceless folks over at Metrolinx had been hard at it, busily revisiting and revising, ahead of the city council imposed September 30th drop deadline to deliver up a Scarborough subway. scribblingNo siree, bob. Queen’s Park wasn’t playing politics with this. They said they were the subway champions. They will be the subway champions.

And boom!

There it is.

The Scarborough subway, running from Kennedy station all the way up to… Scarborough Town Centre?

What kind of holy fuckery is this?!

The good Minister of Transportation couldn’t be serious, could he?

This story must be some sort of feint, a PR exercise to lower expectations, lower than low, so that the real plan they’ve been concocting throughout the summer will emerge, smelling all fresh and rosy. amimissingsomethingThere is no way in fucking hell the minister, this Member of Provincial Parliament for Toronto Centre can step up with anything even close to a straight face and announce a $1.4 billion expenditure on a subway that runs an even shorter distance than the much reviled RT now runs. He can’t possibly re-route the fucking the thing along the RT route when much heated debate had been expended at city council in June about interrupting that service and using a shitload of buses in its place while the subway was being built.

It. Just. Couldn’t. Be.

We are announcing that we are putting $1.4 billion into extending the subway to Scarborough Town Centre.

Apparently, I was wrong. Hardly the first time I’ve missed the mark, predicting which way a political wind will blow. Probably not the last. amimissingsomething1[Note to self: stop predicting things.]

I must not be seeing the bigger picture on all this. The one beyond the first blush of pure political brinkmanship, of simply some demented bumper car ride initiated back in 2010, on his very first official day of work when Mayor Ford unilaterally declared Transit City ‘dead’. This can’t be the end point. The Scarborough subway people have been clamoring for, Gollum-like, as some sort of symbol of equality.

“Today is a great day, they’re getting subways in Scarborough,” Mayor Ford pronounced. “We’re getting subways for Scarborough. I campaigned on it. Promise made, promise kept.”

That’s it? Subway Supporters of Scarborough (SSS™©®) are that easily appeased? No new extension further into subway-less regions of Scarborough. Simply a re-jigging of a pre-existing line. Burying (maybe) what is now elevated, with fewer stops and a terminus ending before the current one does.

youcanbeseriousIf we’re going to insist on being pandered to, we might want to extract a little more from the arrangement.

As it stands right now, this proposed subway does nothing to help the transit weary in Scarborough. In fact, as a line drawn on a map, it can only exacerbate what problems there are already. Looking at it and listening to its most ardent defenders, it’s hard not to think the only purpose this serves is to mollify those with their noses out of joint over the perceived slight of being subway deprived.

You wanted subways, Scarborough? We gave you subways. Enjoy!

When this discussion first got started, there were grand plans to extend the Sheppard subway east until it met Eglinton where the LRT would all be underground. Once that was in place, we could close the loop, bringing a subway all the way down to meet the Bloor-Danforth subway.

When that idea foundered on the rocks of Where the Fuck Would the Money Come From?, a more modest proposal emerged. Replace the proposed Scarborough LRT with a 3 stop subway, from Kennedy station up to what would be the Sheppard LRT. emptycupNot as all encompassing as the previous plan, and not without its serious concerns but a Scarborough subway nonetheless.

This is what it comes down to? This Sheppard subway redux is the measly result of all the fuss, all the indignation, all the foot-stomping and petulant screaming? We need a comprehensive transit network plan for a woefully under-served quarter or so of this city but we’ll settle for two lousy subway stops in the one spot in Scarborough that isn’t faring too badly when it comes transit service already?

We all can roll our eyes, shake our heads and mutter about the uselessness and self-serving of our politicians of every stripe and at all three levels of government. In this story alone, there is plenty of villainy to go around. But if our demands are so easily met, if our expectations and understanding of an issue as fundamental to the proper functioning of this city as public transit is are so superficial and little more than slogan thin that we can be assuaged with a token gesture which qualifies as nothing more than in name only, well, come on, folks. scratchedbellyThere’s nobody else but ourselves to blame.

The people wanted subways. The people got a subway. If all we ask of our elected representatives is for them to pander to us, we will be pandered to. That’s one prediction I’m fairly confident I’m right on.

 — postulatingly submitted by Cityslikr


Subways It Is

July 18, 2013

Hats off to Toronto city council’s subway warriors, for they won the hearts and minds of a majority of their colleagues and have earned the right to finally deliver more subways to our Scarborough brethren. robfordstreetcarsLet us take a break in the seemingly never-ending transit battles and allow them room to manoeuvre, to bring their subway dreams to fruition. This is, after all, a democracy, and that’s how democracy works.

After 3 years or so of Sisyphean struggles, Mayor Rob Ford can now claim to have delivered on his campaign promise of subways, subways, subways. On paper, at least. The devil, as they say, is in the details and having watched the mayor this week during the transit debate we were reminded that he is not really a details kind of guy.

It’ll also be interesting to see how the mayor attempts to square the circle of higher than promised dedicated property tax increases to pay for his Scarborough subway. Or, to put ‘skin in the game’ as he liked to say over and over and over again. Since the city manager’s report on the LRT-to-subway conversion came out last week, Mayor Ford has held firm on his no more than a .25% increase. rollingrockWell, yesterday he wound up voting in favour of the city manager’s recommendation of anywhere between 1.1 – 2.4% over 3 years, beginning with .5% in next year’s budget.

But as we have seen in the past, the mayor seems unperturbed by logical inconsistencies and operates under the assumption that normal rules of reasoning and accountability don’t really apply to him.

It’s a knack the TTC chair appears to want to hone and develop.

Councillor Karen Stintz, having a Scarborough subway road to Damascus moment sometime during the course of the past year, loved LRTs (after she didn’t) when she pulled the carpet from under the mayor’s bid to build a subway extension on Sheppard Avenue. roadtodamascusShe thought they were just great running along Sheppard, east of the subway. And along Eglinton and Finch avenues.

But apparently not as an extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway line. Why the change of heart? Some chalk it up to mayoral ambitions but there’s no way of knowing that for sure. Until next year’s campaign, at any rate. For now, let’s just take her at her word that there’s a funding plan in place, based on a whole lot of contingencies and variables which, if they don’t all fall neatly into place, we will simply revert back to the original LRT plan.

But no one will be able to accuse Councillor Karen Stintz of denying Scarborough residents their long overdue subway. Especially not Mayor Ford if it just so happens they meet on the 2014 campaign trail.

Ditto Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, another late convert to the need for a subway in Scarborough. glenndebaeremaekerLike the TTC chair, he extolled the beauty and sleekness of LRTs during last year’s Sheppard subway debate but now finds them something less than perfect when proposed to run through his neighbourhood. He expertly tapped into the vein of entitlement, resentment and divisiveness in Mayor Ford-like style this week in demanding his residents in Scarborough get the respect and subway they deserve. LRTs may be just fine for other Torontonians but his tribe, well, they actually vote in Councillor De Baeremaeker’s ward.

As a confirmed and noted tax-and-spender, the councillor won’t have to contort and convulse having to explain the billion dollar+ extra expense for building the subway. Unlike some of his more “fiscally conservative” colleagues who gave the project a thumbs-up. Take Councillor Mike Del Grande, for instance. whome1During his time as budget chief in the first few years of the Ford Administration, no one was more vocal about the profligacy of the David Miller regime and its love of taking on debt to buy cupcakes for the widows and orphans.

But for a subway in Scarborough that will actually have little effect for transit users in his ward? Completely different story. Our debt is better than their debt, I guess.

But at least such naked parochial pandering on the part of the mayor, the TTC chair, Councillor De Baeremaeker and a bevy of council fiscal hawks that supported the subway plan could be visible to the jaded eye that chose to look at things through that sort of lens.

How the likes of councillors Joe Mihevc and Paula Fletcher got all caught up in these proceedings is more of a mystery, their motivations more opaque. Was it just to come to the rescue of their fellow leftie colleague from Scarborough? iminchargeIt’s one thing to compromise and juggle your integrity for the sake of your own political career but for another councillor? The nice word for that is loyalty. I’m sure the good people of Scarborough will find that devotion commendable if it amounts to any sort of delay in expanding rapid transit for them.

We have been assured no such thing will happen. Many of the amendments brought to the motion yesterday were safeguards against things like unforeseen delays, lack of funding from other levels of government and a multitude of variables, any of which could amount to an actual decrease in rapid transit expansion throughout the city. There’s even a drop-dead deadline, we’re told, September 30th, for the provincial and federal governments to shit or get off the pot. If this isn’t sorted out in full, all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed, well, then an LRT it would be. No harm, no foul.

I will take them at their word on all that.

I will believe that city council is in full control of the situation, able to negotiate multiple competing agendum and put the brakes on any situation that arises that in any way threatens the plans we already had in place or risks any sort of significant delays in building rapid transit. stayquietThis is what we were told. At this point, I have no reason to not believe it and only my healthy skepticism whispering negatively in my ear.

I’ll try my best to ignore my concerns and take the next few months to think of other things than dismal transit arguments and dubious transit plans. It’s a big city, our Toronto. Plenty of stuff to focus on. Subway advocates won the day. They’ve earned the right to step forward and see this through.

That’ll be me, quietly standing on the sidelines, enjoying the sultry summer.

chill-ly submitted by Cityslikr


Try And Try Again

July 16, 2013

It may come as something of a surprise to many of you but this week’s city council meeting – surprisedthe last one of the summer – is not a hastily convened, special transit session, called specifically on the eternal question of a Scarborough subway. No. It is a regularly scheduled meeting, in place to deal with the entirety of the city’s business. An agenda that, according to Councillor Janet Davis, is the biggest she’s seen in her 10 years at City Hall.

But you’ll be forgiven if you thought otherwise. The talk’s been almost exclusively about the brewing Scarborough LRT-versus-subway brouhaha leading up to today’s start of council meeting. It’s as if there’s nothing else really going on.

I’m not going to contribute to this transit talk overload. My views are well documented. You’re probably as sick and tired reading about them as I am writing about them.

If you’re a glutton for punishment on this issue, however, and you really want to get down to the nub of this never-ending debate, sotiredI highly suggest reading John Lorinc’s take on it yesterday and Steve Munro’s over the weekend. I’d happily link to any persuasive pro-subway articles but the problem seems to be THERE AREN’T ANY! To see the sorry state of the subway proponents’ case, take a leisurely scroll through the Twitter timelines of councillors Michelle Berardinetti and James Pasternak.

I will say a couple things on the topic though.

Any councillor ultimately voting in favour of re-opening the Master Agreement between the city and Metrolinx in the hopes of building a subway extension rather than an LRT at the current eastern terminus of the Bloor-Danforth line loses any claim to being fiscally prudent or conservative. There is no viable economic argument to make the switch. None. moneybagsIt is nothing less than tossing out an already funded plan (by another level of government, no less) and replacing it with a much riskier, numbers still on a cocktail napkin pipe dream. In no way do any possible benefits outweigh the very considerable costs to the city and city’s taxpayers, both current and future.

Secondly, absolute credit has to go to Mayor Rob Ford for keeping the dream of MOAR SCARBOROUGH SUBWAYS alive through his dogged, single-minded determination (Forditude? Did someone already coined that word? If not, dibs. See? I am getting punchy.) to pander to a bloc of voters he absolutely needs if he has any hope of being re-elected next year. Failing spectacularly earlier this term to get a Sheppard subway extension up and going, he’s hopped aboard the Bloor-Danforth version, looking for sellable talking points to take to the voters taxpayers and his devoted radio listeners. He promised you subways, Scarborough, and he’s delivering you subways. screamingYears late and for billions more but the mayor’s never really been about the fine print.

That’s doing him some disservice. The fact that he’s got a seeming majority of council ready to take this senseless leap, along with a handful of Scarborough Liberal MPPs and two successive Liberal governments at Queen’s Park, is a testimony to the power of his retail politicking. Any sort of subway extension for Scarborough is nothing more than politics for him. So much so that he’s abandoned his core political principle, revenue tools are just taxes and he’s against taxes, for it. In order to build his Scarborough subway, Mayor Rob Ford has had to go on record saying that taxes used to build a subway should be seen as an investment. An investment. Not some onerous reach around into the taxpayers’ pocket.

Yeah, that Rob Ford.

Such naked, hypocritical pandering, rather than being toxic as you might think, seems to be infectious. Everybody’s in on it now, willing to bend over backwards to feed the apparent sense of entitlement felt by Scarborough commuters, generated by the mayor’s constant divisive drum beating. imwithstupid1Once more, transit planning has become a game of chicken, intended only to assist political aspirations at both the provincial and municipal levels of government.

All the key players have descended to the mayor’s level, catering to his ill-thought out and ill-advised transit views instead of challenging them on their merit and feasibility. Despite losing control of the transit file over a year ago now, he’s still dictating the terms of the conversation. Regardless of what happens this week, Mayor Ford’s already won.

tiredly submitted by Cityslikr


Transit Talk And Talk And Talk

July 12, 2013

It’s kind of like living in a time lapse photography sequence these days, following along with the twists and turns of the city’s ongoing and perpetual transit debate. timelapseIn three years, we‘ve been able to catch a glimpse of decades after decades after decades of toil and strife, where talk almost always trumps action. Weren’t paying attention first time around? Fear not. There’s always another kick at the can. Always.

Word emerged yesterday that the dreams of more Scarborough subways weren’t dead. Such rumours were apparently exaggerated. The province’s Transportation and Infrastructure Minister, Glen Murray, and the city’s TTC chair chatted openly about the possibility the door hadn’t yet closed and that there just might be some way to work out the details of finding the extra cash necessary to convert the proposed Bloor-Danforth LRT extension at Kennedy to a subway. moneytreeWhat’s another half billion to 900 million dollars generated by as of yet agreed upon revenue tools when there’s by-election outcomes and mayoral aspirations at stake?

Look, at this point, I almost (almost) couldn’t give a fuck what kind of transit gets built in Scarborough as long as it leads to the How You Going To Pay For It conversation. There’s never been any logical reason to build further subways either along Sheppard or as an extension to the existing line there. Lord knows, there’s certainly no compelling economic reason to do so. It’s always been about divisive political posturing, pure and simple. Subways, subways, subways. The people want subways.

Or the latest idiocy to tumble out of a councillor’s mouth about the issue. “The province needs to step up to the plate, otherwise they will be letting down the people of Scarborough,” mewled Councillor Michelle Berardinetti. “You can’t go to residents with revenue tools and not even deliver a subway.” tellmewhatIwanttohearYou see, Scarborough deserves subways because, well, subways. Subways, subways, subways.

But if you think the province is acting any more sensibly, get a load of Minister Murray’s thoughts on the matter. “We’ve certainly been flexible in the past and will continue to be when it comes to accommodating a municipality,” the Globe and Mail quotes him saying. “It will be over my dead body that Scarborough goes wanting for high speed, rapid transit. I’m not prepared for people in Scarborough to miss this round…”

Flexible. Isn’t it adorable how the minister positively frames being politically craven and calculating. If this Liberal government at Queen’s Park hadn’t proven to be so ‘flexible’ at the outset, if they hadn’t immediately caved to our new mayor’s 2010 unilateral decision to junk Transit City, we wouldn’t still be having this conversation three years on.

And what the fuck is he talking about with the Scarborough ‘wanting for high speed, rapid transit’ and the ‘miss this round’ business? jumphowhighThis kind of bullshit only serves to further unfairly diminish LRTs in the already dim view of some and continues to put the notion of subways on this entirely unwarranted 1st class pedestal. It’s technology porn and completely warps the conversation.

Every time you think (no, hope and pray) you see a little ray of sunshine on transit – hey, maybe this time, maybe this time, maybe, maybe, maybe – the dark clouds of naked ambition roll in. It’s enough to make you think we get transit built only when it’s expedient for a critical mass of politicians. The most cost conscious of mayors has been joined by elected officials covering the entire ideological spectrum essentially telling voters in Scarborough that when it comes to getting them their subway, money is no object. In this, they are all tax-and-spenders minus the taxing part.

You’d think that after the scandals that continue to plague them, the Liberal government might shy away from such obvious pandering and willingness to throw money around in order to shore up support for ridings that are in play. Change of leader, change in approach. igotnothingIt most certainly is not business as usual.

But maybe their calculus factors in one other variable. If, as a voter, public transit in Toronto is your big issue and you find the Liberals’ ‘flexibility’ on the subway versus LRT question counter-productive, where do you turn for a better solution? Both Hudak’s Conservatives and the NDP have been content to stand on the sidelines, with fingers crossed, hoping the government self-immolates, occasionally shouting BOONDOGGLE as their sole contribution to the conversation.

You don’t like how we’re going about building transit, the Liberals might ask. Ask them how they’re going to do it. And, of course, neither opposition party will provide a satisfactory answer. They’ll shrug and yell BOONDOGGLE again.

Who could blame them really? There doesn’t seem to be any negative consequences to not building transit. Posturing will suffice. It doesn’t really cost much out of pocket. The problems will get worse but after many of the politicians have moved on to other careers. murderersrowThis city’s history is filled with characters dedicated to inaction on the transit file, so the current players including our mayor, TTC chair, premier, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, Queen’s Park opposition parties aren’t going to stand out as exemplary villains in this story.

They’ll just be joining the ranks of murderers’ row. The long line of politicians who put their own self-interest before the city’s. It’s not a particularly exclusive club.

fit to be tideingly submitted by Cityslikr


Double Down On Blue

June 24, 2013

If nothing else, this $150 million latest Mayor Rob Ford-Queen’s Park brouhaha should lay wide open the very essence of our mayor’s fundamentally terminal approach to governing. punchyourselfA dullard’s populism that contradicts itself with every policy utterance and eats its own tail without so much a burp of self-awareness. He’s mad as hell but probably only because of who’s making the proposed cuts and the colour of their team’s jackets.

Don’t get me wrong here. I don’t trust the province’s numbers one little bit and I’d like to see the work behind Royson James’ math or, at least, some context. It’s particularly galling to read the shiny remembrances of gold-standard fiscal management by the previous administration at City Hall from a guy who had few positive things to say about that matter in real time.

Even if the province is simply playing politics with this announcement, Mayor Ford has put himself in no position to fight back without looking like a massive hypocrite. potkettleThat may be of no consequence to him – he seems quite comfortable wearing that – but it does undercut his legitimacy and, by extension, the city’s.

You can’t claim the government you lead doesn’t have a revenue problem and then cry foul when some of that revenue is cut. Earlier this month the mayor was beating his chest about the $248 million surplus in 2012. So hey. You should be able to take a $50 million hit (the $150 rollback would be over a three year period) and accept a smaller surplus. Mayor Ford is on record hating those one time savings anyway.

You can’t go around cutting your own revenue stream (the VRT), threatening to reduce another (LTT) and keeping the main source impractically low (property taxes) and then stamp your feet and pop off when Queen’s Park does likewise. When the mayor came to power under the banner of getting the city’s financial house in order, he set about to cut spending. He demanded the same from the province. pleasesir1Get their fiscal house in order. Cut spending.

So they cut spending. To the city. Now he’s got a problem with that?

You can’t continually pick fights with your provincial overlords and not expect some pushback. Some pushback that is detrimental to the city you were elected to serve. Oh, it’s on, Mayor Ford declared, when he killed Transit City and demanded the province give him all the money to build his Sheppard subway or else he would unleash the electoral power of Ford Nation on them. They complied. The mayor reneged and got all partisan in the subsequent provincial election. There was no Ford Nation.

Like Junior Soprano told his nephew Tony, if he was going to come at him, he better come at him hard. Our mayor is all bluff, no bite to his bark. By now, everybody but the mayor and his brother realize that fact. juniorsopranoHis threatening gestures ring hollow.

You might actually feel for the guy if he was taking the fight to the province looking out for the best interests of Toronto. Increasingly however, it looks like anything but. Fuck, it isn’t even ideological with him. If it were, there might be some sense to it all, some straight line you could draw from intent to action.

More and more it just seems like nothing but a branding battle. The mayor and his brother are Conservative blue to the bone. Anything to do with Liberal red or NDP orange is automatically bad and must be fought. Both Fords, elected to represent the residents of Toronto, seem far more interested in changing the government at Queen’s Park than they do effectively running City Hall. bluemayorI think they’d happily sacrifice the best interests of the city if it meant the Tim Hudak Conservatives became the next government of Ontario.

In his unflagging support of local sports team, the Argos, the Leafs, the Jays, you might think he’s just doing his job as mayor acting the local booster. I think he just likes the colour blue. As both a sports fan and as the mayor of Toronto.

me-too-bluely submitted by Cityslikr


The Winning Formula

March 3, 2013

Unless they don’t already know that Mayor Ford is out on the campaign trail, anyone who decides to throw down and challenge him for his job next year will not have to battle with the element of surprise. georgchuvaloHe is nothing if not predictable, our mayor. Puts it all out there for everyone to see. TO poli’s very own George Chuvalo.

Fresh from squeaking by on a split decision at the Compliance Audit Committee last week and escaping any further examination of his 2010 campaign financing, the mayor did a media round with Sun News. Touting all the accomplishments from his first year in office, he then outlined what he’d be pushing for throughout the remainder of his term in office. “We’ve got the casino, we’ve got the Gardiner (Expressway) and we’ve got the election,” he said, counting on his fingers. “I think a lot of people are already in that election mode and just wrapping up a few loose ends and we’re going to be on the campaign trail.”

Oh, and don’t forget subways… err, ‘a long term transportation strategy’. No, OK. Just kidding. Subways.

“We’re going to be getting, guaranteed getting, subways,” the mayor said on his TV interview with David Menzies. Or ‘The Menzoid’. As most grown men who aren’t professional athletes or musicians prefer to go by their nickname.

“Everyone is doing polling in their area. We’re doing polling. cocktailnapkinideasI see the numbers and they see the numbers and when you ask about subways and why so and so didn’t support them, they’re not going to win the next election.”

“They realize that they have to support subways to get re-elected, it’s huge. That’s what people want especially out in Scarborough – they need a subway and I’m going to get subways for them.”

So heads-up all you would-be mayors and councillors. If the mayor has his way, 2014 is going to be all about subways. Subways, subways, subways. Deny the people subways at your political peril.

If that all sounds too one-track to sustain a campaign for 18 months or so, Team Ford has drawn up another line of attack. Flouting rules and then thumbing their noses at anyone who protests. Don’t like it? Sue me. Seriously. Sue me. I double dog dare you.

With the mayor away down in Florida, it came to light that his office was still soliciting funds from registered lobbyists for donations to his football foundation. Remember that, just a couple months weeks ago? nyahnyahEssentially the root cause of what lead to his near booting from office due to a conflict of interest over using office letterhead to solicit donations…from lobbyists….

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

According to Daniel Dale and David Rider of the Toronto Star, it appears the mayor (minus his office logo) sent out a donation request to one lobbyist on January 28th of this year. Three days after a winning appeal got him out from under his conflict of interest conviction. Three days, folks. Municipal Code of Conduct rules? What Municipal Code of Conduct rules?

The mayor’s brother-councillor Doug didn’t see the problem, saying the paper might want to focus on “something more interesting”. Although, why would he want them to do that? Toronto Star generated controversy seems to help Mayor Ford, says the conventional wisdom. “You guys are killing yourselves,” the councillor pointed out, “you can write whatever you want; the more you write, the more his (poll) numbers go up. It’s fact.”

Not just a Ford ‘fact’ either. But an actual fact.keeponkeepinon

According to a recent poll put out by Forum Research, despite all the time spent in court and the lack of any serious goals in governance since late-2011 or thereabouts, Mayor Ford’s numbers have ticked upwards, from a 42% approval rating in mid-December to 48% last week. The more people attempt to hold the mayor accountable for his actions, the more popular he seems to become. So instead of learning any sort of lesson about flying right and keeping their noses clean, they’re just keepin’ on keepin’ on.

So solicit lobbyists away! Bring another conflict of interest case against him. It’ll practically guarantee his re-election, we’re told. Hell, they’ll even further help your cause by having the mayor’s chief of staff respond to the allegations of lobbyist soliciting for a private foundation while on city time. There’s another conflict of interest case for you to take to the Integrity Commissioner.

And we all wring our hands, wondering how on earth to stop this seeming defier of common sense and political reckoning. eyeontheballIs there no way to counter his supernatural ability to fail to success?

Let me offer a word of advice in an attempt to soothe our troubled souls.

I know Rob Ford and his mayoralty is something of a conundrum and anomaly. But it’s still worthwhile to look at things from a historical perspective, to the same juncture of time in their first terms in office, his predecessors in amalgamated Toronto. With 18 months to go before re-election both Mel Lastman and David Miller were flying significantly higher than Rob Ford is. Neither man would face a serious contender in the subsequent campaigns. Lastman was re-elected with about 80% of the vote, Miller with 57%.

In the last full year of his second term, before the MFP scandal broke wide and after his handshake with a Hell’s Angel, Mel Lastman’s poll numbers dropped to 47%. While some City Hall watchers marvelled at his lingering popularity, others took it as a sign Mel’s days were numbered. koQualified candidates began lining up to challenge him the following year.

That should be the familiar scenario for us currently.

I’m not writing Mayor Ford’s political obituary here but the idea he can continue to blunder and bluster his way to a second term shouldn’t necessarily vex anyone. There’s some hard rain coming his way over the next few months. The expanding transit debate with the accompanying taxes and tolls. A casino, yes or no. Some tough, city defining slogging. It’s been some time since the mayor’s had a major political victory outside of a courtroom and his roster of council allies to help him out looks mighty thin and ragged at this point.

This is not a scenario that screams winning to me. Don’t give in to the spin. Viewed through a rational lens, this is a troubled administration with the barest of accomplishments to show for itself and a leader disinterested in almost everything else but campaigning. Team Ford might like those long shot odds. That doesn’t mean they’re still not long shot odds.

realistically submitted by Cityslikr