This council is markedly more powerful than any that have sat before it, and citizens should embrace this as an opportunity to redress a number of grievances that have long been insurmountable because of conflicts with other orders of government. Now that the City of Toronto has a charter, we can finally rewrite our rather prudish history with laws more suited to us metropolitan types. By no means a complete list, these are things that our new powers should change especially:
Extend “last call” for the last time! Some readers may remember the drinking age in flux in Ontario, and many more will remember last call in Toronto the Good being on the order of 1 AM, the time when many Europeans are just starting to head out to the clubs. Now, the province’s 1979 justification for making the drinking age 19, Grade 13, has been eliminated, and for years, citizens have been calling for a longer night at the bar. For some reason, Toronto the Responsible could handle 4 AM last call for Nuit Blanche because it was a “cultural event,” but the weekly cultural ritual of Partying on the Weekend is too mundane an occasion to give us some freedom. Thankfully, the AGCO can no longer turn us down because of the City of Toronto Act.
Repeal the curfew. Few people are aware of this ageist edict that says teens under the age of 16 must not be outside one minute beyond midnight unless accompanied by a parent. The Child and Family Services Act, unknown to most until the stabbing of a 12 year-old at Queen & John in March, charges parents with negligence if their children are found out of doors between midnight and 6 AM. This law has already had a chilling effect on local music: formerly “all ages”-safe venues like the Big Bop and Funhaus have recently instituted strict 16+ policies for shows. It’s time to start treating teenagers like people.
Take a tougher stance on automobiles. Frankly, the arguments against congestion charging don’t convince us, especially for larger vehicles. Clean air and cars simply don’t mix. Highway user fees, expanded HOV lanes and mandatory carpooling are just the tip of the melting iceberg: if we are to take on deadly smog and the increasingly real threat of climate change, we need to half our carbon emissions in less than a decade. The best place to start is with private transportation, but don’t stop there: why not offset every municipal kilowatt with renewable energy?
Collect a share of the sales tax, sort of. It seems obvious that neither McGuinty nor Harper will budge on a share of the PST or GST, which is not as big a calamity as it may seem. The City of Toronto Act, of course, only solves half the problem: regardless of the powers it may now exercise, the funding structure of the city is still essentially flawed. With the GST on decline, it would not make a cent of difference to Torontonians if 1% of all sales made within city limits went directly to city coffers. We, for one, would be happy to pay a few pennies on a cup of coffee if it meant we could drink it on a shiny, new, low-floor streetcar.
Are there things that have bugged you for years, readers? How would you like this council to take the reins from Ontario?
Photo by Cretaceous in the Torontoist Flickr Pool.