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


Fight For City Hall

April 27, 2012

OK. Here’s an idea.

During Mayor Ford’s unofficial leave of absence, instead of tucking back and sharing the same shell of disengagement, why not expand your municipal politics horizons. Get to know your city councillor, say. Who’s that, you ask? Don’t even know what ward you’re in? Well, now’s the time to do a little brushing up on your civics as I imagine they say in show business.

If you need a little help, David Hains has a series going on over at Open File Toronto, Better Know a Ward, featuring councillor interviews. The Toronto Star’s David Rider works similar terrain with his occasional councillor focussed articles. These are your actual local representatives, folks. The ones addressing your day-to-day concerns at City Hall.

The timing’s also good because it seems the mayor is reaching out to individual councillors even some he wouldn’t have had the time of day for back when he was the king of the castle.  He’s looking for ideas that city council should pursue going forward since apparently he’s done everything he was elected to do already. A small checklist it must be because I’m not needing more than two hands to count off the accomplishments. And I lost 3 fingers in a deep sea fishing accident. (Thank you. Next show at 10. Remember to tip your waitress.)

On top of which, as the Toronto Sun’s Don Peat reported, a group of the more centrist councillors met yesterday in order “…to hash out what issues they want city council to tackle next.” Ranging from TTC Chair Karen Stintz to TCHC task force chair Ana Bailão (an average of 52.5% on the Matt Elliott Ford For Toronto Ford Nation scale), the sit down seems intended to combat the inertia that settles in at City Hall with Mayor Ford’s abdication of authority. “Councillor Colle says agendas are pretty light at City Hall lately,” Peat tweeted, “nine items on four committee agendas.”

Just a whole lot of chin wagging, according to the Toronto Sun’s Sue-Ann Levy in a screed intended to diminish any attempt at consensus building that Mayor Ford seems unable to build himself. And while the group emerged with no concrete list of ideas they did agree to continue talking and meeting. Rome wasn’t built in a day and to expect a group of politically disparate councillors to deliver a package of working proposals in a matter of hours after 18 months of divisive and contentious battles at City Hall may well be the height of deliberate sabotage.

So the timing of this is favourable to all those who want to get their voices heard, opinions counted. With power in flux on council, chime in to your local councillor, let them know what you think is important and how you’d like them to proceed. If everyone’s looking for ideas, now’s the time to speak up.

The vacuum that has materialized at City Hall is no accident and neither is it the result of some evil cabal of scheming councillors bound and determined to undermine the will of the people and push Mayor Ford to the sidelines. This administration is based on the principle of reducing the size and role of government in our lives. While they will use innocuous sounding terms like ‘finding efficiencies’ and ‘culture of entitlement’ and, yeah, ‘stopping the gravy train’, it’s all about putting a hurt on the public sector and roll back its ability to do the job it was it was designed to do.

Mayor Ford, his brother and deputy mayor have made it known on more than one occasion that in order for them to fully implement their anti-government agenda, the people of Toronto need to send councillors to City Hall more attuned to this sensibility. They’ve declared war on dissent and gone as far as to threaten electoral ‘execution’ on those who do not toe their line. Council has stepped up and asserted its power and the administration has petulantly reacted by asserting some sort of divine mayoral right, claiming a mandate to override the will of majority rule.

The mayor is one voice, the loudest voice since the office is the only one elected city wide, but still just one voice of 45. That’s how this is supposed to work. Councillors should adhere to that and continue to assert their authority. This authority comes from the voters, the people of Toronto. Start letting your local elected representatives know that this is what you expect of them, to represent your best interests and those of the city.

Paul Ainslie Ward 43 Paula Fletcher Ward 30 Denzil Minnan-Wong Ward 34
 

Maria Augimeri Ward 9

 

Doug Ford Ward 2

 

Ron Moeser Ward 44

 

Ana Bailão Ward 18

 

Mary Fragedakis Ward 29

 

Frances Nunziata Ward 11

 

Michelle Berardinetti Ward 35

 

Mark Grimes Ward 6

 

Cesar Palacio Ward 17

 

Shelley Carroll Ward 33

 

Doug Holyday Ward 3

 

John Parker Ward 26

 

Raymond Cho Ward 42

 

Norm Kelly Ward 40

 

James Pasternak Ward 10

 

Josh Colle Ward 15

 

Mike Layton Ward 19

 

Gord Perks Ward 14

 

Gary Crawford Ward 36

 

Chin Lee Ward 41

 

Anthony Perruzza Ward 8

 

Vincent Crisanti Ward 1

 

Gloria Lindsay Luby Ward 4

 

Jaye Robinson Ward 25

 

Janet Davis Ward 31

 

Giorgio Mammoliti Ward 7

 

David Shiner Ward 24

 

Glenn De Baeremaeker Ward 38

 

Josh Matlow Ward 22

 

Karen Stintz Ward 16

 

Mike Del Grande Ward 39

 

Pam McConnell Ward 28

 

Michael Thompson Ward 37

 

Frank Di Giorgio Ward 12

 

Mary-Margaret McMahon Ward 32

 

Adam Vaughan Ward 20

 

Sarah Doucette Ward 13

 

Joe Mihevc Ward 21

 

Kristyn Wong-Tam Ward 27

 

John Filion Ward 23

 

Peter Milczyn Ward 5

 — helpfully submitted by Cityslikr