An Indelicate Balance

December 28, 2015

How to be Rob Ford and not Rob Ford at the same time? This is the quantum politics Mayor John Tory is trying to determine as he enters his 2nd full year in office. quantumphysicsHe misses no opportunity to point out to everyone and anyone who’s listening how he isn’t Rob Ford: the return of civility to City Hall, respect re-bestowed upon Toronto by the international community, no more of the proverbial drunken stupors.

The mayor, however, never wants you to forget that, like Rob Ford, he stands firmly opposed to taxes and waste. Firmly. We can build shiny new things, expand necessary services and programs, world class up Toronto, done and done on high hopes and pure hearts. All we need to do is tighten our belts. Root out efficiencies and dead weight. Like that.

What Mayor Tory needs us to believe and accept is that his predecessor’s mess was manifest purely in the personal not policy realm. Policy failures, such as the cutbacks to TTC service, had nothing to do with revenue shortfalls or fiscal mismanagement but were the direct result of character flaws. The years 2010-2014 projected as tabula rasa on the governance front. disappearNothing but scandal and misconduct.

The problem for the mayor is that he’s not really fooling anybody. Non-Ford supporter critics of Mayor Tory, largely from the left side of the political spectrum, see him fighting for at-or-below inflationary levels of property tax rate increases and fending off talk of new revenue sources and can only conclude that it’s pretty much the same old same old, business as usual. This is what’s got the city in the financial straits it currently sits in.

At the other end, the hardcore Fordists, see through Mayor Tory’s suggested City Building Levy, and scream (rightly) that it’s just a property tax increase by a different name. Like the Scarborough subway levy although, for this camp, that’s another thing entirely. The people want subways. Subways, subways, subways!

So Mayor Tory has certain Toronto Sun columnists and editorialists, who never see a tax hike as anything other than proof positive of government overreach, yipping at him quantumphysics2while those having battled the Ford assault on City Hall coffers and services regard this mayor as just a well-mannered faux-populist who really ought to know better. There’s little room left for him to balance, his base squeezed onto an untenable platform made up largely of wishful thinking and constant thanks that, it could be worse, we could still have a Ford as mayor.

Not to cut the Fords much slack on this but a solid argument could be made that they actually believed their tax-and-spend, stop the gravy train rhetoric. Basic math never really mattered to them. The numbers didn’t have to add up. An obstinate and willful stance in opposition to facts passed for principled politics for the Fords. They didn’t have to be right to be right.

But how can a politician like John Tory, elected to the mayor’s office as a sensible, reasonable, prudent alternative to the madness of the Fords pursue policies with similar reckless abandon? johntoryvisionDuring the start of the 2016 budget process, he is being told by city staff in no uncertain terms that the city has a revenue problem. Its dependency on the property tax base and a still hot real estate market in terms of the land transfer tax is unsustainable. We must look seriously at other sources of revenues.

Mayor Tory’s reaction?

To propose an additional half-percent bump in the property tax rate, call it a ‘levy’, and look for further efficiencies at City Hall. It is as indifferent to staff advice and the reality on the ground as anything Rob Ford displayed. How is that sensible, reasonable or prudent?

Mayor Tory touts his willingness to work with his opponents at council on the Gardiner east hybrid to deliver a better option than the one he championed earlier this year as an example of the improved governance style under his watch.ignore Yet, whatever option finally emerges will be, fingers crossed, the best of the worst option on the table, not to mention, in all likelihood, the most expensive. The obvious choice, the one touted by city staff, the sensible, reasonable, prudent option, was to tear that section of elevated expressway down, rebuild it at-grade. Mayor Tory ignored all that and pushed ahead with what he believed to be the most politically advantageous choice.

In October 2014, nearly 70% of Toronto voters delivered what was almost exclusively an anti-Ford mandate. Picking up a 40% plurality of that vote, John Tory has read those numbers and concluded that it was merely the personal scandals Torontonians rejected, the confrontational and abrasive governance style, too. We were all good with the bad math, the deplorable accounting practices, the complete and utter disregard of expert advice, the detrimental policy choices.

All of which Mayor Tory now vigorously pursues if in slightly different guises. Attritional and limited levels of tax rates and revenue sources. schrodingerscatQuixotic cost savings quests. Ruinous public transit projects. Just like happened during the Ford administration. But somehow different with Mayor Tory at the helm, he wants us all to believe.

He’s got away with it for his first year. With reports due early in the new year on things like the Scarborough subway and SmartTrack, an impending budgetary shortfall forcing some tough choices out into the open, 2016 looks to provide a somewhat rockier road for Mayor Tory. How much longer can he continue trying to be not Rob Ford and Rob Ford simultaneously? Even the smallest of particles has to ultimately become one thing or the other.

summarily submitted by Cityslikr


Coffee With Mr. Parker

April 29, 2015

“I’m sure you know how tear gas works.”

I don’t actually (or only from a safe, televised distance). teargasThat John Parker does, with real life, foot on experience, should settle the matter any City Hall watcher in all likelihood has contemplated at least once: How much fun would it be to sit down and chat with John Parker? Lots, in fact, and it heads off in directions you never expected it heading.

Like that time he was backpacking in Europe during the 70s and found himself in the middle of a square in Italy, in the middle of a political donnybrook. Or talking about Cats, the musical Cats, and one of the characters in it, Macavity. I don’t know anything about musicals, councillor. Yes, but T.S. Eliot? Coffee spoons. Coffee spoons.

Sure. We talked some politics too, beginning with his time as an East York M.P.P. and member of the Mike Harris government. I wanted to know how he negotiated the middle ground in the megacity amalgamation battle, representing residents who overwhelmingly didn’t want to be amalgamated. Resistance in his neck of the woods was surprisingly fiery but short-lived, he suggested, settling back once into a sort of acceptance once the deed had been done.

Governance reform was in the air when the Tories came to power. Reports were piled up, gathering dust. johnparkerThe big one, commissioned by the Bob Rae government, with Anne Golden at the helm was pretty much a non-starter with its suggestion of some sort of GTA-wide amalgamation. No one in power at Queen’s Park, not just Mike Harris, would contemplate establishing a local government that would rival the province in political clout, Parker believes. Not back then. Not now.

Was the Harris forced amalgamation an overt anti-Toronto act, I asked him.

He didn’t believe so although there did seem to be some ideological basis for going down the amalgamation path the way the Harris government did. Parker said there was a perception that Toronto, the older, legacy city, had grown “pampered” by its high tax base and social spending. It was thought the suburban municipalities would serve as a “moderating” influence on the excesses of dowtown.

We both chuckled, and thought of Rob Ford.

In retrospect, did amalgamation turn out as well as he’d hoped?

John Parker is in a unique position to address that question. Having been forced to fight for a second term in 1999 in another riding, ironically a victim of his own government’s anti-government mantra that reduced the number of provincial seats from 130 to 103, Parker lost. macavitySeven years later, he won a city council seat in Ward 26, vacated by Jane Pitfield for her ill-fated mayoral run against David Miller. So, like tear gas, he got to experience the effects of amalgamation first hand.

It wasn’t perfect, Parker tells me. The loss of a metro wide level of government without some sort of replacement was almost an off-the-cuff decision, and left city council as first 56 and then 44 squabbling fiefdoms. This basically undercut why Parker thought amalgamation would be good in the first place. The city and most of its big ticket services were already amalgamated. He thinks some of the current council problems could be alleviated with the addition of at-large councillors into the governance mix.

Parker does believe that one of the benefits of amalgamation is the slow but inevitable merging of the planning process from six departments to one. Planning is clearly a passion of John Parker’s, and one of the biggest disappointments for him in not securing a third term in last year’s election. There’s a lot to be excited about, the waterfront, plans and development along Eglinton Avenue as the Crosstown LRT comes to fruition. Unfortunately, he’s not going to be there, on the inside, to actively participate.

This seems to genuinely upset him.

And I think I speak for more than myself when I say, I’m upset with him. Of all the incumbents who were returned to office in 2014, 36 of them in total, only John Parker wasn’t. johnparker1Pick a name. Giorgio Mammoliti. Mark Grimes. Frank Di Giorgio. Ron Moeser. I could go on but I won’t. You get the point. All re-elected. John Parker was not.

Had he not won a 2nd term back in 2010 (another close race), perhaps no one might’ve noticed Parker’s exit from the local political scene. He certainly was not well-regarded on the left side of the spectrum, getting failing grades from media outlets like NOW and from organizations like the Toronto Environmental Alliance. Right-leaning news outlets like the Toronto Sun were lukewarm toward Parker, at best. “Not ready for the chop yet!”

He’d come to City Hall with a newly re-elected mayor, David Miller, who had his agenda firmly in-hand and needing little new support to get it through. Parker eventually found himself part of the Responsible Government Group, a handful of conservative leaning councillors often in opposition to Mayor Miller. The group never really gelled into a potent organized force, Parker says, the coalition often undercut by higher political ambitions of some of the members and other right-leaning councillors. It petered out further after its main target announced his intention not to seek a 3rd term in 2009.

Despite his outsider status and ideological differences with the Miller administration unionjack(although it is fun to hear Parker tout Transit City on more than one occasion when we’re talking transit policy), his first term must’ve been bliss compared to the next 4 years, the Ford era. “A complete disaster”, “disgraceful” is how Parker sums them up. He’d hoped that Rob Ford, after his surprising victory in 2010, would be distracted by the trappings of the mayor’s office and ignore policy which is what he’d done during his 10 years as councillor. What many councillors hadn’t counted on was his brother, Doug.

Parker has no kind words for his former council colleague who basically was calling the shots, and the one targeting things Parker holds dear, transit and the waterfront especially. It was on the transit file, from my perspective, that Parker rose up out of quiet obscurity. He had caught people’s attention as council’s deputy speaker, a calming, funny voice, stepping in whenever the more cacophonous, hyper-partisan speaker, Frances Nunziata, took a break from the chair.

But when Parker, also a TTC commissioner, went on record, referring to the Fords’ Scarborough subway plan as “goofy”, you knew something was up. Soon after, council took back control of the transit file from the mayor, only to take it off in another wacky direction.

ward26Parker had hoped that Transit City simply would’ve been reinstated

This all leads to the question that’s been nagging at me during our conversation. Why did John Tory, who was desperate to convince enough progressive voters that he was reasonable, rational, moderate, publicly endorse the opponent of a reasonable, rational, moderate incumbent like John Parker? Something he promised not to do and only did once, openly campaigning against an incumbent. Once.

If Parker knows the answer, he’s not telling although he did deepen the mystery further for me.

Back in 2007 when John Tory was leader of the Progressive Conservative and running for a seat in Don Valley West, Parker, who represented a ward in that riding at City Hall, reluctantly came out in support of Tory against the incumbent and future premier, Kathleen Wynne. His video appearance figured prominently on Tory’s website (and did not go unnoticed by Ms. Wynne). After the disastrous election results, Parker, as a former member of the party, advised caution in a rush to appear panicky and dump the party leader, once more backing John Tory.

So, why the snub in return? Not once, but twice, Parker informs me. As a high-profile non-candidate in 2010, John Tory also endorsed Parker’s opponent, Jon Burnside, giving his candidacy some legitimacy for any future run.

Parker shrugs. You tell me?johntoryjonburnside

Obviously, I can’t peek inside the “pure heart” of our mayor but it most certainly goes to a question of his character where loyalty and fair play get short shrift. Such machinations on his part would be slightly more understandable if his chosen candidate in Ward 26 appeared to be anything more than a compliant ticket puncher for the mayor. So far, evidence to the contrary is severely lacking.

John Parker doesn’t seem to be bitter about this. Just disappointed about this lost opportunity. Not for just himself but for the city if the new council doesn’t get the big decisions it’s facing right. Transit. The waterfront including stopping the island airport expansion. Eglinton Connects. He’s not sure the right person’s on the job to safely shepherd those issues.

During last year’s mayoral campaign, Parker was an initial supporter of Karen Stintz’s nascent and still undeclared mayoral bid. Policy differences, especially on transit, made that increasingly untenable. He found something of a natural fit in his support for David Soknacki. johnparker2The two men campaigned together.

When that campaign folded, Parker gravitated in a surprising direction. On the big issues that mattered to the city, he said that Olivia Chow was right. Transit. The bulging police budget. Spending on social issues. Olivia Chow got John Parker’s vote for mayor.

A lovely and entirely organic end to a very interesting run at City Hall, during huge upheaval and tumultuous times. Hopefully, now as a private citizen, John Parker’s voice isn’t lost. He’s got a lot of important things to say and it’s a lot of fun listening to him say it.

Thanks, John.

sadly submitted by Cityslikr


Transit Defiled

April 25, 2013

“If 30 members of council want to sign a petition to call a special meeting to raise taxes on the backs of citizens who can’t afford them, that will be the first campaign poster for the mayor’s 2014 campaign.” Mark Towhey, Chief of Staff, Mayor Ford.

snidelywhiplash

For a bunch of reasons, the 2014 municipal campaign can’t come soon enough for me. But mostly I’m just eager for this angle to play out. Mayor Ford, steadfast in his respect for taxpayers, refuses to so much as even discuss options for transit expansion.

“I promised taxpayers I’d keep their taxes low. I kept their taxes low.”emptypromise

“You also promised taxpayers subways,” counters a hypothetical opponent. “Subways, subways, subways.”

“City Council refused to let me build a subway. It’s their fault.”

“But you had 3 years [four years by the time the campaign rolls around] to come up with a plan to build subways. Where is it?”

“The private sector. P3s. P3s. The private sector. The private sector. Did I say, ‘P3s’? P3s. The private sector. The people want subways. Subways, subways, subways.”

Maybe Mark Towhey and the rest of the Team Ford brain trust are really, truly salivating at the prospect of running a re-election campaign on the mayor’s bread-and-butter issue of low taxes but the ground has shifted considerably since 2010. This time he won’t just be running against some easily smearable, downtown tax-and-spender. In his determined digging in of his heels and holding his breath until the transit conversation loses steam or Tim Hudak is elected premier, Mayor Ford is painting himself into a sad, lonely political corner with only the Toronto Sun holdmybreath(and maybe not even the Sun based on today’s transit talk with columnist Sue-Ann Levy) to keep him warm.

His continued transit funding intransigence (as a matter of fact, yes, I did have to go there) has left Mayor Ford running against not just a majority of his city council but the Toronto Board of Trade. John Tory and the CivicAction Alliance. Hazel McCallion and almost every other elected official in the 905 region. Hardly a left-leaner among them.

There is a significant difference between a lone wolf howling at the moon and a crazy person shouting the same thing over and over again on a street corner.

In the hopes of riding an anti-tax wave back into office next year, the mayor will have to cross his fingers that voters and his opponents will forget some of the other stuff he promised and claimed in 2010, and not just subways. The city didn’t have a revenue problem, remember? It had a spending problem. Yet, he’s spent considerable political capital pushing for a downtown casino because all of the revenue it would generate for the city.

Oh, I see. The city doesn’t have a tax revenue problem. It’s the other type of revenue we’re a little short on.fingerscrossed

Expect a boatload of that kind of semantic hair-splitting going forward.

Mayor Ford’s also revived his 2010 campaign idea of cutting our way to a better city by joining the empty chorus of finding efficiencies experts who insist a little belt tightening will pop out the loose change we need to build whatever it is we want. Short on details, of course. Long on vague pandering populism.

Ditto the whole boondoggle angle being embraced by those trying to fend off new taxes. Add up your eHealths and your ORNGEs and your gas plants and your PRESTO fiascos, and you’re still well short of the funds needed to build the proposed transit. That’s not to condone these trip ups or simply shrug them off. Of course, there’s a huge trust issue with handing over more money for another major public infrastructure endeavour to a government whose track record in matters of oversight is somewhat sketchy. It still doesn’t mean doing nothing about congestion and our woeful lack of regional transit.

But that’s the thing.

Mayor Ford is simply looking for any excuse to do nothing on the transit file. The thought of actually doing something runs counter to every political instinct in his body. robfordstreetcarsOutside of public safety, the government isn’t supposed to do anything. Certainly not if it means disrupting traffic flow or demanding drivers pay more for the privilege right to drive their vehicles.

While Team Ford disavowed any attachment to it back in 2010, it is very telling to read through the mayor’s chief of staff’s views on public transit and the TTC back in the day. (Captured for posterity by Steve Munro, and brought to our attention by yesterday by Jude MacDonald.) In short it reads: stop funding the TTC, sell off the assets and let the market decide how people get around the city.

Since coming to office, has Mayor Ford done anything in terms of transit that has been less indifferent than the attitude his chief of staff displayed three years ago? So why would we expect him to change now? Of course, he’s fighting tooth and nail against new revenue tools for transit expansion. He doesn’t give a shit about transit.

So Team Ford has to do its best to frame this as a pitched battle to keep taxes low because the flipside of that debate – government shouldn’t be involved in actually governing – is unwinnable. shellgameThe mayor and those planning his re-election campaign seem to believe people will be content enough with the notion that their taxes have been kept low to return him to office. Moreover, voters will be ready to punish any councillor who even so much as raised the possibility of new taxes.

At this juncture, it seems more like wishful thinking than any sort of sound strategy. But that’s really all this administration’s ever been about, isn’t it.

bay of fund it all readily submitted by Cityslikr


Her Master’s Voice

April 7, 2013

You might almost start to feel sorry for Toronto Sun columnist Sue-Ann Levy if it weren’t for the fact that she has to be the luckiest newspaper columnist around. ?????????????????????????????????Seriously. She must wake up every morning, look into the mirror and just cackle to herself.

A terrible writer of words, she gets paid to write terrible words that oftentimes include heavy doses of union/leftist bashing, all the while being safely ensconced inside a union. It doesn’t get any better than that, really. Sanctioned and handsomely rewarded sanctimonious hypocrisy. Talk about your sweet deals.

Not only that but she’s risen to the ranks of official court reporting, the Ford Administration’s go-to print mouthpiece. Sue-Ann Levy, the voice of the mayor of Toronto. Who could’ve seen the stars align in such a way for that to happen?

Still, partisan hackery isn’t all bons bons and caviar. Sometimes there’s real work to be done. All the moving parts of this Rube Goldberg contraption that is the Rob Ford mayoralty have to work just so for it to function properly, and god knows there’s been some seizing up of the machine for a while now. rubegoldbergIt takes some resolve to continue tinkering in order to keep the wheels from coming off completely. Less loyal apparatchiks would (and have) simply walked away from what they view as the smoldering remains.

But not Sue-Ann. She’s not willing to give up on her spot in the sun, her position of power. Do you know the chances of this situation ever arising again? She’s been on the outside looking in for too long to simply slink back now and resume yapping at the moon. In for a penny, in for a pound as they say.

So there she was, spilling ink over the mayor’s hollow Hero Burgers victory at city council this week and vilifying those who dared interfere with the sacred process of proper procurement. Her shit-list grows longer – overlapping seamlessly with the mayor’s list — now including ‘rogue councillor’ Paul Ainslie. A recent addition, there’s no patented SAL schoolyard nickname for him yet. Something catchy that makes a 10 year-old laugh like she’s honed for the TTC Chair. Councillor Stunts. (Get it? Her name’s actually Stintz). La TTC Turncoat. nyahnyah(Remember? Councillor Stintz backstabbed Mayor Ford and thwarted his chances of building a make-believe subway on Sheppard Avenue).

You see, anyone disagreeing with or defying Mayor Ford is dead to Sue-Ann Levy. It’s not about partisanship. It has nothing to do with left and right although Sue-Ann does especially hate her the Silly Socialists. Since she’s thrown all in with Team Ford, anyone who doesn’t is going to find themselves on the business end of grade school nickname a la SAL.

That is the mark of a true a flak. Never question your meal ticket’s actions. It’s always the other guy’s fault. Haughty ambitions or weak constitutions are to blame for any falling outs with the mayor. Never is he or his brother or the third Etobicoke amigo, Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday in the wrong. Suggesting as much could lead to some unwelcomed introspection or, even worse, unreturned phone calls from the mayor’s office.

It’s called ‘Knowing Which Side Your Bread Is Buttered’. Politics as blind allegiance not good governance. sueannlevyrobfordYou got to dance with the one that brung ya. And Sue-Ann Levy has danced with Rob Ford.

Any hint of desperation in Sue-Ann’s outbursts – and it’s hard to detect since it sounds like her usual ravings – is because she’s hitched her little red wagon so firmly to Mayor Ford’s star. A star that’s dimmed significantly over the course of the last year to 18 months. If Sue-Ann and the Toronto Sun can’t keep the Team Ford super nova from flaming out entirely, they’ll find themselves once more in the power shadow, no longer the mayor’s official paper of record and just another rag with a Sunshine girl and sports scores.

Being so closely aligned with the current administration and lashing out at any apostate, regardless of political stripe, Sue-Ann Levy risks being relegated deep into the bleacher seats again. Having been granted access to power, she’s showing her true colours and they’re not conservative blue. It’s a shade you turn when you give up reporting or even opining, and just start typing out p.r. memos from head office. What’s that look like? A buttery yellow?

Sue-Ann Levy refers to herself as a ‘general s— disturber’. Actual shit disturbers don’t say s— disturber. They say shit disturber. hismastersvoice1And real shit disturbers don’t simply regurgitate talking points and pick fights as a proxy for those in power. That’s called sy—phancy.

Such lack of self-awareness would be sad if it weren’t on display by the likes of Sue-Ann Levy. In her, it’s more pathetic but in a funny kind of way.

almost sympathetically submitted by Cityslikr


Days Of Sue-Ann Supreme

November 23, 2012

In future days, will this be the face of the Toronto Sun?

DEVILITATOR

One might argue it already is but I’m referring specifically to the paper’s former editorial page editor, Rob Granatstein’s thoughts on the most recent cuts to Sun Media’s newspaper chain.

The cuts have crushed the local newsrooms. When the latest victims of downsizing are gone, Toronto will be down to three general assignment news reporters, according to people in that newsroom, unless staff is reassigned. That’s flat out ridiculous. The Sun will rely even more on its columnists to generate the news going forward. [Bolding ours.]

The Sun. Columnists. Generating news.

Information flowing forth, free of context, full of personal opinion. News from top down not bottom up.

This isn’t just about it being the Toronto Sun. Any newspaper working with a skeleton crew of reporters and teetering precariously with op-ed writers isn’t a newspaper. It’s, well, an organ of opinion, both informed and otherwise.

It would be just like… All Fired Up in the Big Smoke. Only with inkier fingers.

Frankly, I wouldn’t be able to do whatever it is I do without piggy backing on the work of Daniel Dale, David Rider, Robyn Doolittle, Kelly Grant, Elizabeth Church, Don Peat and a handful of other reporters who tirelessly dig up the dirt and parse information on Toronto politics on a seeming 24 hour, 7 day schedule. I’d hazard a guess neither could the bigger names a couple paragraphs up. The less reporting that gets done, the more, what would you call it?, PRing happens?

Picture Toronto, with the discourse only consisting of the views from the likes of Sue-Ann Levy, Joe Warmington, Royson James, Christopher Hume, Rosie DiManno, Chris Selley, Matt Gurney, Christie Blatchford, Marcus Gee, Margaret Wente?

“Columnists have found themselves out of jobs because they were too agreeable to those in power,” says Granatstein in this week’s Grid profile of Ms. Levy, “and it makes for weak reading. Wearing the Ford colours has hurt Sue-Ann…That means she struggles to get the other side of the story sometimes. People don’t feel she gives them a fair shake.”

While at the moment this may be a bigger bind for Sue-Ann because she’s in so deep with Team Ford, this can be a ditch all opinion writers must fight not to steer into. I’m sure the Star’s Christopher Hume has problems gaining access to the mayor and his staff. His colleague, Royson James, could hardly be considered an honest broker back in the day with the Miller administration. Remember his one-man, moralistic crusade to de-rail Adam Giambrone’s mayoral bid?

But that’s not really why we read columnists, is it? For impartiality or objectivity? We’re looking for opinions. Hopefully ones based on at least a semblance of reason and reality but we certainly don’t view their words as gospel or final on any given topic. Their purpose really is to either make our blood boil or confirm our biases.

Newspapers stressing op-eds over real reporting are nothing more than modern versions of olde thyme pamphleteering. And, if I do say so myself, that’s kind of our bailiwick, over here on the interwebs. We need newspapers to remain newspapers. Otherwise, we’ll all just be making shit up to push forward our agendas, unchecked and unsupported.

opinionatedly submitted by Cityslikr


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


The Sun Stays Behind The Clouds

October 30, 2012

Acaphlegmic showed up a week or so ago and hadn’t returned back to wherever it was he had returned from, remaining cagey about where exactly that was.

He sat across from me, feet up on my desk, reading the Toronto Sun. Turning pages with a frequency that suggested he wasn’t reading much of the material, he’d occasionally let out a chuckle. A chuckle that sounded, to my ears at least, entirely insincere.

Heh, heh, heh, heh. Heh, heh, heh, heh. Heh. Heh. Heh.

“Why are you pretend laughing?”

“Would you prefer to hear me pretend cry?”

Yeah, OK. I got it. He was winding up for a Sun ablution. It was probably the only reason he came back. In fact, I was somewhat surprised it had taken him this long to get to it.

I let out the requisite sigh. There was an order to this ritual.

Followed by a longish pause but hardly Mametian in scope. A couple ..s Not …

“Why do you bother? Seriously. You can’t be surprised by anything in there.”

Acaphlegmic gave the newspaper a flick before setting it down, still open on his chest. He stared at me for a long time, long enough to think that he’d forgotten how this chat went. His eyes then turned back down to the paper. He brushed some stuff off of it into his lap.

“It’s hardly surprise I’m looking for here, my friend. Repentance. Repentance is what I want. What I demand.”

He then picked up the paper back up and began flipping wildly through it.

“I want Saul on the road to Damascus repentance from the Toronto Sun. Struck blind by the light of reason and true seeing.”

“That’s more conversion than repentance, wouldn’t you say?”

Continuing to flip back and forth between pages, clearly on the hunt for something in particular, he shook his head as if he were trying to get rid of a disagreeable image.

“You can’t convert without repenting first. There has to be an admission of past mistakes and misjudgements. That’s just basic biblical law.”

Really? I wasn’t versed enough in religious studies to know if that was true. Acaphlegmic had always claimed to be a former seminarian. That could mean anything, of course.

Finding what he was looking for, Acaphlegmic folded the paper in half and set it down in front of me. Toronto councillors quietly boost office budgets by Sue-Ann Levy. Ah, yes. Back At the Trough.

“You know of this lady’s work, I trust?”

Heh, heh, heh, heh. Heh, heh, heh, heh. Heh. Heh. Heh.

Did I know this lady’s work.

“Yeah. So what? If you’re looking for repentance, you’re barking up the wrong tree, bucko. That lady ain’t for turning.”

Acaphlegmic sat back in his chair, shaking his head. He didn’t believe what I’d said. Small movements, big refusal. Like De Niro had just before he smashed a glass into your face.

“But with so much going on, so much the city faces, how long can you hold on to such minor matters before you just burst into indignant flames of self-loathing and contempt? How does it not eat through to your inner core?”

It was a fair question to be sure. How is it possible to remain so righteously small-minded for so long? Don’t you ever itch for a shot at the bigs, tackling weighty issues and getting truly involved with matters of real import to the city’s future?

Instead of the bleat, bleat, bleat, a hundred thousand here, a hundred thousand there, porkers, gravy, shameful and a fusillade of alliterative name-calling to bring it all home.

That’s a whole lot easier, I guess. Demeaning and giving the raspberry rather than contributing to a robust dialogue about the direction the city has to go, the measures that need to be taken in order to build a place we all want to continue to live in.

Get your hands out of my pocket, you porkers. Find some other trough to feed at.

I held my hands up, shrugged just a little.

“It’s the mayor’s bread and butter. Speaks directly to the base. They want to seethe not solve.”

Acaphlegmic seemed unconvinced. He was doing his De Niro head shake thing again. I found it surprising and somewhat endearing that he still could summon that much belief in people. In some people. In Sun people.

“No one wants to be ignorant, said the Lord.” (Did He?) “Some may want to remain in the darkness but no one wants to remain in the dark.” (Said the Lord?) “No one would willingly, wilfully embrace the surely self-defeating premise of self-delusion. You just need to give them a reason to say `yes’, my friend. That is your job. That is your quest. To dream that impossible dream.” (Said Miguel De Cervantes via Joe Darian and Mitch Leigh?)

With that, Acaphlegmic swiped the Sun from the desk and onto the floor. He stood up, thrust his hands into his pockets and looked at the door. I leaned back over the desk toward him.

“Some people just…” I began but wasn’t sure how to finish. Some people what? Do they really believe that you can fix the kind of problems Toronto faces right now by reeling in hundreds of thousands of dollars in councillor office expenses, the tiniest of tiny fractions of annual costs? By keeping our taxes low and throttling our revenue stream when the solutions being put forward need to be counted in the billions of dollars?

Acaphlegmic looked back at me.

“Some people just what?”

I leaned back, shrugged.

“Just need to be convinced otherwise, I guess.”

“You’ve got truth and facts on your side, right. So it should be easy.”

He headed toward the door. I asked if he was gone for awhile again. He stopped with his hand on the door knob. Took a moment to decide.

“Depends.”

“On?”

“How long it takes to find me some jerk chicken. Maybe fried plantains…”

With a finger swipe of his nose, he was gone.

It really shouldn’t take him long at all, since there was a place not far up the street with the menu he was looking for. But as always, you could never be certain how literal Acaphlegmic might be playing it. For him, sometimes jerk chicken wasn’t just jerk chicken.

But there was something you could always count on from Acaphlegmic. Leaving you thinking about something that had nothing to do whatsoever with the story at hand.

spicily submitted by Cityslikr