With Equal Conviction

December 6, 2010

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.

— attributed in some variation to Daniel Patrick Moynihan

What a quaint notion, put severely to the test earlier today on CBC radio’s Metro Morning. Perpetually cloying Mary Wiens took to the streets to talk to a couple regular folks about the pronounced death of Transit City. First up, Odessa who faces a daily 3 hour round trip commute from the hinterlands of the inner suburbs to the downtown core. Transit City was planned with her in mind, it could be safely argued, to reduce her commute time. She tells Wiens that she’s looking forward to the new LRTs.

But alas, Odessa voted for Rob Ford. Why? His outspokenness. When Wiens informs her that the mayor was angling to kill Transit City and replace it with subways, Odessa was all over it, never asking a pertinent question or two, like is the mayor’s plan better than Transit City or would subways help her commute more than Transit City.

Next came Denis Lanoue, a much more politically active individual than Odessa but no less factually challenged. Lanoue, president of the Heathwood Ratepayers Association in Scarborough, is also active as part of the Save Our Sheppard group. He just so happened to turn up in the parking lot of a local Tim Hortons to give the CBC a piece of his mind an interview.

Like our new mayor, Lanoue and his group (S.O.S.) hates LRTs (or streetcars as he calls them), convinced with precious little evidence to back it up that LRTs on Sheppard Ave. will end life as we know it there, bringing wrack and ruin just as they did along St. Clair West. “A modest subway expansion is all we need,” Lanoue writes on the S.O.S manifesto. No fuss. No bother. Details to follow.

But Lanoue isn’t just interested in having his say on Transit City for Metro Morning. He wants to inform the audience exactly why there is that downtown-inner suburb divide. Two words: David Miller. According to Lanoue, all was hunky-dory under Mel Lastman but something changed late in Miller’s 1st term or early in the 2nd. What exactly? Lanoue doesn’t really say except that, residents of the inner suburbs just got fed up with handing all their taxes over to pay for things downtown.

Which would be grounds for anger and outrage if it were true but as we have written previously here and here, no one has ever pointed to any evidence or studies that show the downtown core being subsidized by the inner suburbs. In fact, Scarborough councillor Norm Kelly commissioned a report to look at the numbers and come up empty. Yet, Denis Lanoue grabs the mic on the CBC and pronounces it to be true, anecdotally pointing to the proposed 5 story ice rink down on the waterfront as proof positive.

So why does the CBC grant 6 minutes of airtime to the uninformed or deliberately disingenuous? Just because everyone has an opinion doesn’t mean they have to be heard. We already know they’re out there, muddying the debate and discourse, and getting their man elected mayor. Shouldn’t the media be providing more pushback and disputation and less a simple platform for anyone and everyone to air it out? The pursuit of uncovering truth and revealing facts and all that kind of high-minded sense of purpose.

Now, maybe I should view Wiens’ piece this morning not so much as investigative journalism as it is an exposé into The Minds Of Rob Ford Supporters. She did question a couple of the claims made by the interviewees but not directly. Only in gentle asides to the listeners that struck me like she was talking behind her subjects’ backs. Hey. If people are willing to give their opinions a wider voice, then we should at least be solicitous enough to publicly tell them that they’re full of shit when they are especially if their views, opinions or beliefs could possibly have an adverse impact.

So sure, everyone’s allowed to have an opinion. The question is, does that mean every opinion should be accorded equal weight and value? Chances are, if they were, we wouldn’t be having this discussion about public transit because we’d still be living in caves, arguing over how exactly to build that fire again.

submitted by Cityslikr