Mayor Rob Ford officially launched his re-election campaign last night with a promise to keep taxes low and to fight for accountability at Toronto City Hall. In a speech that lasted almost half an hour, Ford repeated his widely disputed claim of having saved taxpayers a billion dollars, and assured supporters he would find more “efficiencies” if given a second term.
“I’ve got a message for all those caviar Calvins, and those special-interest Sallys: you said it couldn’t be done. Well, guess what? We got it done!” Ford said to screaming supporters from the stage at the expansive Toronto Congress Centre on Dixon Road.
Image of the SR.N2 Hovercraft from Flight International (March 9, 1962).
Today, John Tory released his five-point gridlock-fighting initiative. Some of those points are related to issues not infrequently discussed: bus lanes (he thinks the City should add queue-jumping bus lanes), the future of the Gardiner Expressway (he thinks it should stay put), and parking enforcement during rush hour (he’s in favour of that), for example.
And then there’s number three, which involves “exploring how we can use Lake Ontario’s waterways for commuting.” Forget the crowded bus or the congested roadway: John Tory’s Torontonian commuter of the future would be boating to work on the wide-open water. “Opening up our waterways for commuters will help tackle congestion, mitigate the impact of major road works, encourage more development at, and help reconnect us all to, our magnificent lakeside setting along the waterfront,” his statement reads. “Water taxis and commuter services are also another way for commuters to help shrink our growing carbon footprint, since boat travel consumes less fuel than buses and taxis.”
When former federal finance minister Jim Flaherty died suddenly last week, his stunned colleagues and many political observers reacted with sadness but also with high praise. Those who had known and worked with Flaherty, even as political opponents, remembered him as an effective, personable, loyal, and dedicated public servant.
Many others, though, remember the legacy of a man whose administrations—the Mike Harris government in Ontario, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s federal Conservatives—made a point of accommodating certain Canadians while leaving others behind. The soaring tributes to Flaherty simply don’t ring true for many, particularly those who experienced poverty and marginalization during his 20 years of governance. Flaherty often espoused the view that those struggling to survive in Ontario and across Canada had only themselves to blame.
When Kathleen Wynne became premier over a year ago, she offered Toronto’s urbanists and transit supporters hope that the GTHA’s transit funding problems would finally get the serious attention they deserved. The McGuinty-led Liberals had always said the right things, but when it came time to paying for transit, whether it be in the form of Transit City or Metrolinx’s Big Move, they showed an uncanny knack for retreating on their policies and cutting back or deferring the plans their experts claimed were best.
It was hoped that Wynne, who has been the minister for both municipal affairs and transportation, would break this cycle, and Monday’s transit announcement at a Toronto Region Board of Trade lunch was seen as the last best chance for her do so. After all, it’s increasingly likely she’ll face an election in the coming months, and both the Conservatives and NDP have taken populist stances on transit investment—that is, they support the notion of investing in transit, but don’t favour the new transit revenue tools most experts agree are necessary. This may be good politics in the have-your-cake-and-eat-it too sort of way, but it leaves an important policy deficit: $30 billion is needed to fund the Big Move, and, based on growth projections, the Big Move would mostly involve maintaining our current level of congestion and preventing it from getting worse.