As former Toronto chief of police Bill Blair rides off into the sunset of federal politics, Two Twits Talking look back in anger (and much wailing and gnashing of teeth) at the legacy he leaves behind, a combination of unfulfilled promise and a toxic chemical trail of distrust and outright animosity.
Politics these days seem to operate counter to our ingrained, chivalric notion of how to behave during an emergency: women and children first. Maybe it was always thus, nothing more than a lofty ideal, entirely untested under real world situations. As a relatively able-bodied male, I’m all for jettisoning such quaintness when the tornadoes’ are coming and the ships are sinking. Every man for himself! (The gender specificity of the noun was entirely deliberate.)
With our political house on fire — at least that’s what’s being yelled in the municipal campaign theatre of operations by our front running mayoral candidates – it’s all about trampling the slow footed and weak on our way to the exits. Everybody’s vowing to get tough with the easy to get tough with targets. Faceless city bureaucrats who make our existence miserable each and every day. Outside workers bringing hell down upon this city with each strike they subject us to. Snoozing, break taking, booze-sodden TTC workers and their can’t-do attitude. Oh, we’re so going to declare you an essential service! Economics of it be damned!!
In typical bully fashion, however, nary a peep has been heard about what to do about the out-of-control spending the city’s lavished upon the Toronto Police Service. Shhhhh! Don’t mention the Police Service. They might hear us.
According to some numbers being bandied about over the weekend, during King David’s profligate reign at City Hall, the TPS’s budget has grown nearly a quarter billion dollars, from just over $700 million in 2004 to just under a billion dollars in 2010. That’s over a 35% increase in 6 years. In fact, just this past year when budget chief Shelley Carroll was asking all departments for 5% cuts in their budget, the TPS received nearly a 4% increase. That’s the kind of bird flipping candidate George Smitherman vowed to crush if elected mayor yet, so far, it’s been all quiet from him in terms of going to war with the Police Service.
Ditto tough guy Rob Ford. Nothing on the matter from Rockin’ Rocco Rossi’s camp. Sarah Thomson’s been similarly mum on the matter.
Why ever would that be, we wonder?
Now, I’m not here to say that the Police Service is being coddled and mollified, shown far more respect than all other city services. For all I know, they deserve every single penny the city hands over to them. It’s just the glaring double standard that our leading candidates for mayor are employing that has caught our attention.
Hey, hey, hey, you’ll yell at me, and point out the dropping crime statistics over the last decade or so. Shouldn’t we be rewarding a job well done? If we cut police spending, crime will climb. Probably.
Probably although I am no social scientist, so don’t know the ins-and-outs of that line of argument. But if we equate success with increased expenditure, why don’t we start throwing money at other problem areas? Increased spending on social housing could mean decreased homelessness. More money on infrastructure might translate into better roads and fewer water main breaks.
Imagine if we unleashed countless billions on the TTC! We could have a transit system that would be the envy of the—No, wait. We do spend billions on the TTC and everyone’s displeasure with it is near unanimous.
So a money-equaling-effectiveness argument is a tenuous one, as many of the mayoral candidates have stated themselves. We can’t just throw money at our problems, we are told. And yet no one is complaining about all the money being thrown at the TPS. Why the deference?
Much of the discussion about this that I encountered over the last few days began with variations of the familiar disclaimer, I’m as pro-police as anybody, It’s not that I’m anti-police, as if a pledge of fidelity is needed before anyone can offer up a critique of our men and women in blue. Where’s the similar sentiment – I’m as pro-TTC as anybody – when criticizing our transit system? It’s not that I’m anti-garbage collection, it’s just that I think we should open bidding up to the private sector.
You’re either with us or you’re against us is the established parameter when offering up any sort of police-related opinion. We saw that with the G20 fallout earlier this summer. Members of City Council fell over themselves to prove to our besieged police service that they were in no way siding with the criminal element on the issue. The doubters, the panderers to terrorists, simply ducked for cover. In this environment, it doesn’t pay politically to be seen as anything other than the law & order type. It is an easy exploitable sign of weakness.
So our cadre of tough talking front running mayoral candidates tip-toe past the TPS budget numbers without raising so much as a collective eyebrow. Should they? I’m as pro-police as the next guy but it just seems to me that if they’re all going to run around like Chicken Littles telling us that the fiscal sky is falling, there should be some discussion about one of the biggest ticket items in the city’s budget. Otherwise, it reveals either a glaring lack of attention to detail or a knee-jerk cravenness in the face of a powerful interest group. Neither quality is one we really should be looking for in our next mayor.