Whose Tune Are We Dancing To?

Set aside the back and forth debate on any and all ramifications of the island airport expansion and possibility of jets flying in and out of there. reasonablepersonThis is not about that. I have opinions for sure. But that’s not what this is about.

Trying not to invoke the language of hyperbole associated with this issue, that’s always seemed to be a part of the discussion surrounding the island airport, I’m searching for more moderate words, less combative declarations and judgments. To state it fair-mindedly and even-handedly. It seems to me… blah, blah, blah Steve Paikin not Christopher Hume sounding.

So, here goes.

It seems to me that at the heart of the island expansion and Porter desire to fly jets out of it debate is nothing less than the hijacking by a small gaggle of special interests of our entire democratic system of governance.


“The clock is ticking for Porter Airlines to get a decision on jets at Toronto’s island airport,” Vanessa Lu wrote in the Toronto Star last Friday, “because the airline must soon put down non-refundable deposits on its Bombardier CSeries order.”

How soon, you might ask?

“Porter was originally scheduled to make non-refundable payments on its conditional order for 12 of Bombardier’s new CSeries jets in December,” Lu answers, “but won an extension to April.”

April, you say. Like this April? The month that starts next week with, well, wouldn’t you know it, a city council meeting where this item will figure prominently on the agenda?

Why, one might wonder, is the city working to a private company’s timetable? Supporters will point to all the new jobs and wonderful boost to the economy a jet flying, expanded island airport would bring to the city. Unfortunately, those claims are as hard to pin down as most of the others. In his interview with Metro Morning this morning, mayoral candidate John Tory manyunansweredquestions(who assured host Matt Galloway and the CBC audience that he had read the staff report) said there were 45 questions he needed to have answered before he’d give the plan the go-ahead.

45 different unanswered questions!

None more important to my mind than the design of the extended runway that would be needed to accommodate the jets. A runway extension right smack dab in the harbour. How would it affect other users of the public space? Boaters, waterfront residents and visitors. How would the new extended runway and the takeoff and landing of the jets affect the water front development further east along the donlands?

Maybe not at all. Maybe we wouldn’t even notice. But how can we decide about these things with so many open-ended questions still to be answered?

What’s the rush?

Well, we know the rush. Porter has to start putting serious cash down on the table, non-refundable cash for its order placed on 12 jets under the assumption, I guess, the airport expansion was a mere formality. Seems there might’ve been some misjudgement of the situation. rushWhy is that the city’s problem?

Under questioning from members of the Executive Committee last night, Deputy City Manager John Livey was as upfront as a bureaucrat can be expressing his view why the city should simply defer the question until next year when a whole bunch of the unanswered questions, including the new proposed runway design, might be available. Don’t do it. “It would be a very big mistake.”

“I lose leverage, I believe, in the negotiations,” the deputy city manager told the committee. “It would be a very big mistake to do a conditional approval. I think you, as council, would regret having made that decision.”

Yet those pushing hardest for the conditional approval are some of the biggest self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives on city council including Mayor Ford. Looking after every single taxpayer dime, he tells us ad nauseum, but there he was, pushing a motion calling for a conditional approval now. Let’s do this thing. Get `er done!

How exactly is putting the city in a weaker negotiating position going forward in any way fiscally prudent or deemed to be minding the store? porterairYou give a conditional approval, Porter hands over money to Bombardier it can no longer get back, come the time when a decision needs to be made and you don’t like the answers you’ve been giving and turn it down, Porter cries foul! But you said yes!

They’re then out millions and millions of dollars. Who are they looking to make reparations? The city’s been down that road before, has had to uncross that bridge, so to speak.

On top of which, as Councillor Peter Milczyn (the lone dissenter on the Executive Committee from pressing forward with the airport discussion) said on Metro Morning earlier today, there could be as much as $300 million worth of infrastructure upgrades required around the airport terminal at Bathurst and Lakeshore intersection in order to accommodate the airport expansion. bugsbunnysquaredanceThe Toronto Port Authority has already asked senior levels of government for up to $100 million of that.

$100 million that could be spent elsewhere. $100 million the city would put toward more pressing infrastructure needs. $100 million to service Porter’s needs, not Toronto’s.

Why would any city councillor put the interests of one private business ahead of those of the city they were elected to represent? That’s what this debate should be about. The rest of it is just shiny baubles and misdirection, intended to deflect from the real and, quite frankly, disturbing reason we’re having this debate at all.

curiously submitted by Cityslikr

We Don’t All Hate Rocco Rossi

I need to set the record straight before this goes on any longer.

After nearly a month on board the good ship All Fired Up in the Big Smoke, I fear that it might be listing a little too much toward left wing screed. My very first post here stated up front that I’d been a tepid John Tory supporter back in `03. Nothing that has occurred since then tells me that my instinct was incorrect. Except for, perhaps, Mr. Tory’s subsequent flaccid performance in the political arena.

Still, what the man stood for at the time made me think he’d do right by this city. Fiscal sanity, political probity, a good working relationship with the behind-the-scenes power brokers; hardly characteristics one should sneeze (into your sleeve) at. So maybe Tory didn’t know how to campaign vibrantly. Is this how we should take the measure of a man in office? He’s a good campaigner? Well, that’s what we went for and, behold, look at what’s become of us.

That is not to say that I was immune to the appeal of David Miller. He clearly had something going on or maybe it just seemed that way in the light of his predecessor. Miller possessed solid credentials. As an Ivy Leagued, one time Bay Street lawyer, he was no idiot. The problem as I saw it, which is even more glaringly apparent now with perfect hindsight, is that David Miller thought too big.

He got us to believe that we actually had any say in how things got done around here. Yes, he vowed to kill the bridge to the island airport, and did, but that made the airport somehow more viable. Now 6+ years on, it’s been renamed the Billy Bishop Airport in a brilliant sleight of hand, suggesting a twee little airfield where biplanes and crop dusters go about their quaint business rather than the incessant stream of luxury aircraft that is Porter Airline’s stock in trade. Why just this past Friday, the federally run Toronto Port Authority announced that it was going ahead with plans to dig a pedestrian tunnel to the airport. Wrapping it all up in an environmentally conscious bow, it was simply the latest flipping off of the city by a senior level of government and providing perfect imagery for how things get done.

Like it or not, Canadian cities have no constitutional standing. We are, as they say, ‘creatures of the province’ and the playthings of senior levels of government. As my colleague Acaphlegmic said in his post Saturday, “municipalities are vehicles for decentralized provincial service delivery”. Nothing more, nothing less. To think otherwise is political lunacy. David Miller never accepted this fact. That was his undoing. Perhaps someone like Rocco Rossi sees things more practically.

If the feds and/or the province want to strangle off progressive, grassroots, local movements or nip some social services in the bud, they do so indirectly. By not handing over the money owed and forcing municipalities do it for them. By confiscating land they don’t own and running it as if it exists in a bubble.

So disagree with Rocco Rossi’s politics all you want but the man appears to be a realist who knows which side his bread’s buttered on. No Don Quixote he but like the good Dr. Carrasco, he sees life as it truly is. Dream time’s over, Toronto. We need to wake up and look into the mirror and see what’s become of us. Just like fat Elvis we’re bloated, lazy and dysfunctional with a taste for fried bologna sandwiches. It is not sustainable. Rocco Rossi realizes that. He shouldn’t be mocked for saying so out loud.

realistically submitted by Urban Sophisticat

Politics Straight Up

In the political trenches, the battle of ideas is almost always won by those who are best able to explain their position(s) clearly, succinctly and without the slightest hint of subtlety. “Keeping it simple keeps it real, yo,” I am told by a local political strategist and overnight/weekend infomercial host who asked to be quoted anonymously pending the outcome of legal proceedings. “That way, voters don’t have to think too much about it.” He goes on to say that ideally politicians should try to get their point across in one breath. “So Joe Q. Public will remember it easily and regurgitate it without having to forgo a mouthful of nachos.”

It is a strategy that conservatives — both big and little ‘C’s – have mastered. Ever since Ronald Reagan’s ‘Morning in America’ back in 1980, the political left has been, well, left stammering, hopelessly yammering on with awkward, tongue-tying slogans that have seldom resonated with voters. For every one “It’s the Economy, Stupid!” or “Change We Can Believe In!” there’s been countless numbers of clunkers that ultimately fell on deaf ears. Who can remember the rallying cry “Climate Change Is A Complex Dynamic of Inter-related, Multilevel Systems Susceptible To Even The Slightest Variation But Overall The Science Is Solid.”? Or how about even this pithy but obscure proto-Keynesian economic challenge, “Countercyclical Fiscal Policies Now!!”? Me neither, which has been the progressives problems for decades now.

Yes, governing is not simple. It demands complicated and multifaceted approaches that don’t always operate on easy-to-understand, intuitive gut levels. But that doesn’t mean explaining how you’re going to do it has to get bogged down with detail heavy insights, thoughtful deliberations or big, multi-syllabic words. If you want a crack at power, it’s all about “The Axis of Evil”, being “The Decider” and “You’re Either With Us Or You’re Against Us”.

Here at the local level, we can see this discipline already at work in the early days of this year’s municipal election. Toronto Sun columnist and Hater-Of-Everything-To-Do-With-David-Miller, Sue-Ann Levy, came hard out of the gate last week after Councilor Joe Pantalone announced his intention to run for the mayor’s office. Not even waiting until the first sentence, Levy brings the pain right there in the title: Mayor Pantalooney? No Way!

Ha Ha! Joe Pantalone? Joe Pantalooney!! He can’t be mayor. He’s crazy! Crazy as a loon, that Joe Pantalooney!!!

How will the man ever dig himself out from the hole Levy’s tossed him in? His twenty-nine years of civic duty which Levy dismisses as merely a “career” only serves to prove that Pantalone is categorically unfit to be mayor because he’s crazy. Who’d dedicated nearly 30 years of his life to public service? You’d have to be crazy. Probably couldn’t get a “real” job, that Joe Pantalooney.

Since Sue-Ann Levy doesn’t agree with anything Joe Pantalone stands for, ipso facto, the councilor must be crazy because certainly Sue-Ann Levy isn’t crazy. Would such an august operation like the Toronto Sun hire crazy people to fill its pages?

It’s a hardball approach that Levy seems to relish and that must save her heaps of time to not do reporterly stuff like investigative researching. Why, just a few days ago, she turned her sights on those “whining airport wingnuts” who were stamping their little feet over the possible expansion of flight numbers by the good folks at Porter Air. How dare a gaggle of “self-centred, ridiculous bunch of whiners” (Sue-Ann does love her quotation marks) treat the waterfront as their very own “fiefdom on the lake”! Haven’t these people cottoned on to the fact that the “fiefdom on the lake” is the personal playground for the likes of federal political patronage appointees, Robert Deluca and downtown business bigwigs who have neither the time nor the inclination to make their way out to Pearson when duty calls? The airport is here to stay, dammit, and anybody who continues to fight the inevitable is simply crazy. And probably a hippie.

So, to all you left wingers out there and island airport opponents who see its continued presence and Porter’s possible expansion as the ongoing extension of a politically underhanded and democratically dubious land and money grab of the Toronto Harbor Commission by the federal Liberal party over a decade ago… you see, there you go again, talk, talk, talking, like you’re being heard by rational, relatively sentient beings. Just blurt it out. From the gut to the tongue, bypassing the brain entirely. It’s worked for the right wing for decades now. It might even get you a job writing for the Toronto Sun.

insanely submitted by Urban Sophisticat