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Queen’s Park Watch: Hudak Gets On The Wrong Train

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.


  • Nick

    Great analysis, Patrick!

  • Smith

    I wonder how Tim’s constituents outside Toronto are reacting to this. (You know, the ones who DID vote for him.) If I were his constituent in his riding of Niagara West, for example, how would I feel about him wanting to throw billions of taxpayers’ dollars at “The Big Smoke” where has party holds zero seats, using, in part, my Niagara West tax money. Some people just don’t get that you shouldn’t engage your mouth before ensuring that your brain is in gear.

  • Bojabes

    Very insightful…and hilarious!

  • Anonymous

    I would like to here Randy Hillier’s views on this one.

  • Bo Ngan

    Few remebered that under mike harris budget cutting days Hudak is one of those who spend tax payer’s money to fill the constrction subway holes that was dug at the inititial phase on the Eglinton subway. if he is genuinely supportive of the subway on Eglington. why was he supportive of burying it then and digging it again now. what a political opportunist. so keen of tripping over his own foot snd then puiting it in his mouth. More clowns in gov. is what we need now! nope thank you very much. we aren’t this dumb.

  • Johnnymac6

    Conservatives should “conserve” money, not blow it frivolously on unneeded subway expansion. Hudak is an embarrassment to small government, and more so an embarrassment to himself. Above all he’s a damn liar.

    • Anonymous

      “Small government” is neocon-speak for taking tax money that benefits many, and giving it to their friends and campaign donors. Taxes don’t go down, spending doesn’t go down, services go down.

      • Anonymous

        Not at all what “small government” is.

        • Anonymous

          Sure it is. It’s firing EI staff, teachers and nurses, hiring prison guards, and buying jets and gazebos.

          You can look it up.

          • Anonymous

            Don’t forget blowing tens or hundreds of millions on contract cancellation fees, employee buy-outs, consultants, and out-sourcing.

          • Anonymous

            Interesting don’t see anything about that here:

            What is and what should be aren’t the same thing. You’re mixing up the two.

          • Anonymous

            You’re looking in the wrong place. Try this.

          • Anonymous

            Yes, you are playing a shell game. That was obvious from the beginning.

        • Anonymous

          He’s not claiming that’s what small government IS. His point is that’s what neo-cons MEAN when they say “small government”.

          • Anonymous

            He replied to: “Not at all what “small government” is.”

            So yes, it IS in fact what he’s claiming “small government to be”

            Watch the beat…

          • Anonymous

            It still reads to me like you are saying “the dictionary definition is this” and dsmithhfx is saying “when neo-cons say it they mean this”. And those positions aren’t mutually exclusive, which is why this comment thread is going nowhere.

          • Anonymous

            The OP said: “Hudak is an embarrassment to small government” – which concedes that point already.

            dsmithhfx is attempting to make those 2 subjects mutually inclusive…

          • Johnnymac6

            I think is dsmith is basically attacking Neo Conservatives, not people advocating small government. Neo Conservatives love to hi-jack good ideas and pervert them with corruption.

          • Anonymous

            I know what he’s “attempting to say”. It doesn’t make “what he’s trying to do” any more reasonable.

  • Anonymous

    They are also preying on the general dumbness of the populace, who if you shout at them enough about subways and such will have no ability left to make rational judgments. The comments pages of all of the newspapers are filled with so many dimwitted misstatements and misunderstandings that it’s nearly pointless to have a normal conversation with John Q. Public anymore. Whipped into a needless frenzy by the Tories and Ford, everyone will now suffer.

    What happened to smart people being Conservative? Has Canada really descended into American-style red-state blue collar vs the intellectual blue state elite?

    • Anonymous

      “Has Canada really descended into American-style red-state blue collar vs the intellectual blue state elite?”

      Yes, though we haven’t so much “descended” as “been guided” there by Conservatives (and conservatives) intentionally imitating Republican strategies.

  • Mr Kanyo

    I believe Hudak says that building subway is a “once in a generation opportunity”. Well Tim, you had that opportunity and you filled in the hole. You had your one chance and blew it so move on please.

    • Anonymous

      That was 17 years ago… isn’t that close enough to a “generation”?

      • Mr Kanyo

        I guess it depends on whether you believe having a child at 17 is the norm. I’d say when his 4 year old daughter comes into office she can have her chance too.