Toronto Election 2014: Doug Ford on Seven Key Issues
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Toronto Election 2014: Doug Ford on Seven Key Issues

From transit and cycling to the environment and policing, here's how he would tackle some of the biggest challenges facing the city.

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TRANSIT

While Rob Ford was still a mayoral candidate, his subway plan appeared on September 3, 2014. Less than two weeks later, brother Doug took his spot on the ticket and, with it, that subway plan: they have the same name, the same map, and the same content. (Compare: Rob [PDF] and Doug [PDF].)

The Ford plan contains only subway lines, with the full build-out over two phases and an unspecified time frame. There are no LRT lines or references to better bus service, and GO Transit is not included in the network. It does involve the Downtown Relief Line (DRL): Ford includes the entire Dundas West to Don Mills route in his Phase 2 network.

Ford proposes subways on Eglinton East, Sheppard East, and Finch West. Building these would require Toronto to accept that transit and road networks should be completely separated—transit can’t even be next to traffic lanes, but only under them—regardless of the financial impact this would have on the City’s capital and operating budgets. Operating a subway where ridership does not generate substantial revenue—and these subways would not—can only lead to higher costs for the municipal government, or operating cutbacks elsewhere. Part of Ford’s funding scheme includes taxes from new development spurred by his subways, but it’s not clear how much we would need to increase development in order to produce that new tax income.

Ford cites many potential funding sources (without dollar values for most of them), including baseline revenue growth, revenue due to construction of new lines, and provincial and federal subsidies. Many of these revenue streams would not produce income until well after the subways are built. Toronto would have to finance the capital projects until the new revenues actually materialized, if they ever did.

Phase 1 could not be completed until well into the 2020s, and Phase 2 would follow much later. Riders in many parts of Toronto will continue to rely on existing rapid transit and surface routes. Ford talks of improving transit and his website lists specific examples of what has been done already: “Invested $500 million in key TTC infrastructure, like upgrading signal systems and track maintenance, to improve TTC reliability and service.”

However, these are subway projects, and the signal work—a project begun well before Rob Ford was mayor—won’t actually be finished until 2019, and then only on the Yonge-University-Spadina line. The TTC’s 2014-2023 capital budget includes cutbacks in track maintenance for both the subway and surface networks as a way to offset funding shortfalls. As for surface routes, the Ford administration was responsible for reduction in service quality on bus routes, and the deferral of capital projects to expand the bus fleet.


CYCLING, WALKING, AND OTHER TRANSPORTATION ISSUES

Doug Ford’s plans to improve our ability to get around above ground are summed up in a few concise sentences on his website. He states that he is committed to:

  • Investing in technology to fight gridlock and congestion.
  • Opposing plans to tear down the Gardiner Expressway.
  • Fighting for Toronto’s fair share of federal and provincial infrastructure funding.

He does not elaborate on the technology involved, how much of an investment he’d be fighting for, or what would constitute a “fair share.” The needs of cyclists and pedestrians are not mentioned.


HOUSING

Doug Ford has several credibility issues when it comes to his positions on housing and, particularly, the Toronto Community Housing Corporation. Ford takes credit for visiting “thousands” of TCHC units during his tenure. This claim is ludicrous, but more importantly, Ford cited it in response to a question about the declining state of repair at TCHC properties. Ford has failed to explain why the repair backlog has grown by $220 million during the past three years under his brother’s administration to $860 million.

During his term as Ward 2 (Etobicoke North) councillor, Ford was filmed handing out $20 bills to TCHC residents, presumably to secure political support. Such blatantly inappropriate behaviour from a public official has, sadly, paled in comparison to other controversies involving the Ford brothers, but it must be noted. Ford has also said he would like to bring back former TCHC head Gene Jones, who was fired in April after a report by the City ombudsman found he had violated the organization’s policies and presided over a “culture of fear.”

While Ford continues to offer platitudes about saving TCHC and its residents, his website does not mention housing as a policy priority. During Rob Ford’s tenure (for which Doug now claims much credit), the waiting list for public housing grew by nearly 30,000 residents and, according to housing advocate Michael Shapcott, funding decreased by $250 million.

Doug Ford’s actions have also raised doubts as to whether he supports the right of all people in Toronto to have access to housing. In May, he suggested that a residence in Ward 2 for children with autism had “ruined the community.” Ford even mused about buying the house himself to take control away from the operators.


ENVIRONMENT

Doug Ford has made no public statements on the environment (although he supports the proposed expansion of Billy Bishop airport), and didn’t respond to the Toronto Environmental Alliance’s candidate questionnaire, thereby earning himself a rating of zero. On the earlier TEA report card (which is based on how councillors voted in 31 key votes pertaining to environmental issues), Doug Ford rates an F. “Very disappointing,” his report reads. “A sad way to end your career on Council.” Ford also skipped a TEA-sponsored mayoral debate.


CHILD CARE

If Doug Ford has any interest in children being cared for, he hasn’t expressed it publicly. His actions as a city councillor indicate it’s not a priority for him—he voted against a number of budget items intended to benefit kids. Earlier this year he made insensitive remarks about autistic youths while campaigning to have a home for autistic teens moved out of an Etobicoke neighbourhood.


POLICING

Doug Ford has been vague on the issue of police carding, the controversial police practice of stopping civilians and documenting their personal identification. Ford has said that while he doesn’t support discrimination (carding disproportionately affects non-white Torontonians), he feels that “certain carding is required.” He has not noted any specific problems with carding, nor proposed any changes to the practice.

Ford has repeatedly affirmed his support for, specifically, Toronto’s front-line police officers. This distinction is necessary because of his well-publicized conflict with Police Chief Bill Blair. In August, Ford suggested Blair was responsible for leaking news that Mayor Rob Ford, Doug’s brother, would be called to testify in the case of accused extortionist Sandro Lisi. When Blair filed a defamation notice against Doug Ford, the latter apologized for his comments.

During an interview on CBC’s Metro Morning, Ford boasted that his brother had set a target of hiring 300 new officers, and that the force had hired 200. He did not say he was committed to hiring the additional 100, nor did he explain why Toronto needs these officers as crime rates continue to decrease across the city. Ford has also never addressed the fact that, despite the mayor’s ostensible dedication to cutting costs, he negotiated a significant increase in police salaries in 2011.


TAXES

Since his late arrival into the campaign, Doug has adopted much of his brother’s platform. In August, Rob pledged to keep property taxes “well below” the rate of inflation. This may prove difficult.

In August, Mayor Rob Ford’s budget chief, Councillor Frank Di Giorgio (Ward 12, York South-Weston), said that expecting property tax increases below inflation would be “unreasonable going forward.”

Next year’s budget assumes a property tax increase of 2 per cent, as well as a TTC fare hike and other revenues, and still presents the City with a sizeable revenue gap.

Ford vows that his first act as mayor would be to cut the land transfer tax by 15 per cent and that he would then introduce additional 15 per cent cuts each year.

Like the property tax promise, this may also prove difficult to make good on. Rob promised to repeal the entire land transfer tax in his 2010 campaign, but once it was clear that that would be impossible, he unsuccessfully sought to reduce the tax by 10 per cent and then 5 per cent.

While Doug Ford does not have any specific campaign policies related to user fees, he supported user fee increases over the past council term—part of a broader trend post-amalgamation that has seen the City shift more of the revenue burden to fees in order to alleviate property taxes.

Doug Ford’s transit plan [PDF], the first phase of which he claims can be built for $9 billion, is based on several vague funding tools. Among the nine options he proposes are TIFs, money from other orders of government, and public-private partnerships. While his brother proposed a less extensive transit plan in 2010 and had the same funding options available to him this term, he and Doug were obliged to vote for a 1.6 per cent property tax increase for the three-stop plan.

Other proposed funding sources for his transit plan include Build Toronto’s asset sales—projected to be worth $540 million. However, a City spokesperson told NOW Magazine that $445 million of the $540 million has already been earmarked for other projects.

Ford has repeatedly voted and argued against new revenue tools for the City.



  OLIVIA CHOW
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JOHN TORY
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