This week Tim Hudak and the Tories really kicked up their Toronto-transit agenda. Here's why that's all kinds of stupid.
Poor, dear Tim Hudak. Last October’s election was his to lose, and he did. Now it looks as if the whole awkward experience taught him nothing about the dangers of choosing short-term political advantage over sound policy or even common sense.
The Ontario Progressive Conservative leader has now placed himself squarely in the front lines of the Toronto-transit melee. On Tuesday, he presented an Opposition Day motion calling on the Liberal government to force Toronto to spend the province’s $8.4 billion transit contribution on subways rather than the light-rail lines recently (re)approved by city council. The motion was destined to be defeated, but it gave Hudak the chance to do a little more grandstanding on what’s become the Tory affront du jour. Anti-LRT sentiment has also taken over the party website, which boasts a giant pic of the Toronto skyline with the tag “World-Class Cities Build Subways.” All it’s missing is a picture of Karen Stintz wearing a straw hat and overalls, to illustrate Toronto’s descent into rube-ishness.
Hudak’s campaign to keep transit riders down below with the Morlocks and out of the way of drivers is, of course, politically motivated. With the provincial Tories having failed to make any gains in Toronto in last year’s election, Hudak is betting that jumping on the Fords’ outrage bandwagon will be the ticket to a (presumably motorized) victory lap of Queen’s Park next time around.
The flaws in this strategy are so many and so obvious they hardly merit description, but we’ve got some white space to fill so here goes.
Practically speaking, Hudak’s call to force the City to use the province’s $8.4 billion to put the whole Eglinton LRT underground makes no sense (which is why city council rebelled against the Fordists and kicked the idea to the curb in the first place). With all levels of government pleading poverty, the enormous cost of putting a quasi-subway where it’s not needed would preclude transit expansion elsewhere for the foreseeable future.
The Fords, and now Hudak, have tried to duck the issue by touting alternate means of funding for other lines, notably on Sheppard East (the Tory website specifically calls on the premier to “endorse the Sheppard subway extension”). The problem is that Rob Ford has been parked in the mayor’s gold La-Z-Boy for 17 months now, and aside from Gordon Chong’s suitably rosy report and some Dougish musings about casinos and road tolls, there’s been zero progress made on “outside the box” transit funding. There may be alternative dollars available at some point, but with the city desperately in need of efficient transport yesterday, it’s time to start using what money we’ve got.
Hudak’s attempt to get the province to overrule council and mandate Toronto transit strategy is also spectacularly hypocritical coming from the man who promised , as a key component of his election platform, to “restore local decision-making powers to local municipalities.” Does he genuinely believe that this concept makes sense in West Lincoln and Wainfleet, but not in Canada’s largest city?
Even from a cynical, purely political point of view, the Tory strategy is illogical. Playing the suburbs off against the core is proving costly for the brothers Ford, who have recently been losing every key transit vote to their opponents on council. At this point, cozying up to them for a shot at the future votes of a few disgruntled Etobicokans is like turning up at the Bonaparte house with a bottle of champagne the day after Waterloo.
So there you have it: a trifecta of political dumbassery. Trying to shame the Liberals into supporting Rob Ford is practically stupid, morally obnoxious, and politically inept. Shame on you, Tim.