Sunday, March 25, 2012

Rob Ford and Subways

While I know that the selection of Thomas Mulcair is the major topic of discussion today, I shall defer to those more knowledgeable than I and return to a topic of regional interest, but a topic that also, I think, sheds light on the right-wing mentality: Toronto's Mayor Rob Ford.

While I have previously written about the benighted mayor and his minions, they continue to fascinate me, providing as they do a window into the alternative reality they apparently inhabit, the best example being their dogged insistence on subways over more practical, less expensive forms of urban transit such as LRT.

What is especially striking in the entire debate that culminated in the humiliating defeat of Ford's vision is a) the ideological footprint behind the obsession (cars, as emblems of individual freedom, must have precedence over the collective good), and b) the refusal to accept that it is too expensive without raising taxes and/or user fees (Ford's insistence that once 'shovels are in the ground', private money will magically appear).

For me then, the politics of Toronto sharply parallel our national government, insistent as it is on measures that have no utility or are not needed (think omnibus crime bill) and the frank insistence that continuing to lower tax rates for corporation in light of massive deficits, naively and without empirical proof insisting that they create and maintain jobs in Canada (think Electro-Motive Canada or Vale Inco).

Finally, today's Star has a letter that prompted some of these Sunday morning reflections; I am taking the liberty of reproducing it below. it provides a logic and reasoning seemingly absent from the Ford Inc. worldview:

Re: Ford transit agenda buried by council, March 23

Rob Ford is right about one thing regarding the current transit issue. Generally, people do want subways. They are faster, they have a higher capacity than LRT and, let’s face it, those new trains running on the Yonge line are pretty cool. I love subways and wish we could have more of them. But I also want to live in the penthouse of the new Trump hotel, eat out every night at expensive restaurants, and travel the world and never have to work again. But then, reality hits. I simply don’t have the money for that kind of lifestyle.

Rob Ford will likely take Thursday’s council decision as a direct personal attack, when all he really had to do was show council the money. All this could have gone the other way if he didn’t act like a schoolyard bully so often. So much of being the mayor is in the approach you take with the other elected council members and the citizens you represent. Even Adam Vaughn would have supported a continuation of the Sheppard subway if the Fords were able to present a viable business plan on how to fund it.

On this particular issue, it’s all about the money. Subways simply cost much more than LRTs and take longer to build. It seems like we’re just compromising with LRTs, but we’re not. They will be great because they will be in their own dedicated lanes. Despite what you may have heard, zero car lanes on Sheppard are being sacrificed. However, there might have been a way to fund the subway even it was just one kilometre a year. But an eleventh hour parking tax proposal, which seemed to have little or no research behind it, came across as the act of a desperate child who isn’t getting his way. If there had been a well-studied new levy or a tax that went directly to new subway construction and progress was being made, most people would have probably been okay with that. Had Ford done his homework before declaring Transit City dead, rescinding the vehicle registration tax and promising subways while freezing property taxes, he would be in a much better mood today.

Joel Zigler, Toronto


  1. Karen Stintz tried to offer Rob Ford a compromise of extending the Sheppard subway to Victoria Park Avenue. Mr. Ford wouldn't compromise. At that point, he alienated conservative-leaning councillors and started to become a lame-duck mayor.

    I do predict that Rob Ford will be a one-term mayor. While there may be some public support for him, he will likely gain less financial donations from conservative-like people who want a stable conservative municipal government. The business community may donate to someone else's campaign. Karen Stintz's?

  2. I don't support subways along Sheppard even if we could afford to build them. Simply put, subways are expensive to run and need to have the users whose fares help with ongoing costs. Queen would be a subway that would have capacity and a positive effect in Parkdale and Riverdale. Sheppard does not have commuter capacity to make sense - LRTs, sure!