Hero and Villain of the Week: March 13
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Hero and Villain of the Week: March 13

Every week, Toronto is filled with Heroes and Villains. These are their stories.
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Hero of the Week: Gord Perks

Gord Perks (Ward 14, Parkdale-High Park) is a polarizing politician. He was the proponent of a moratorium on new bars in Parkdale, he believes a proletarian revolution will one day come (and has a poster in his office to prove it), and he once stepped up aggressively against Giorgio Mammoliti (Ward 7, York West). These incidents are indicative of the three-term councillor: he is not afraid to hold unpopular beliefs, advocate for what he believes in, or take those principles to opposition others would rather avoid.

So it was with the City budget. Still in his honeymoon phase and enjoying the accompanying high approval ratings, John Tory had many willing allies to support the $10 billion budget that council passed on Wednesday. It wasn’t necessarily a bad budget—it included substantial investment in TTC operating that had been slashed during the Ford years, and there was also a small boost to shelter support services.

But the budget contained significant flaws, too. Rob Ford (Ward 2, Etobicoke North) offered token resistance in his way, but it didn’t matter. His critique only garnered attention insofar as he is perceived to command a sizeable constituency, not because his analysis has any substance.

Perks does not command a so-called nation, but his critique of the budget was smart, thorough, and necessary. He rightly argued that the approach to balancing the operating budget by taking on debt and raiding reserves was unsustainable, and a sign of politicians unwilling to summon the courage to raise the taxes needed to fund the service levels and infrastructure they want and need. His motion to avoid debt financing—which would have saved the City $15 million over five years—failed, but he made his point. He also passed a motion to get a report on the City ordering 60 more streetcars; if Toronto does not do so, streetcar service levels will get worse given ridership growth. Tory, who has made improving transit service a priority, voted against it.

Whatever his ideology, Perks offers something that Toronto needs at City Hall: a smart, articulate, and substantial dissent that challenges the mayor’s office to be better. And we’re better off for it.

Villain of the Week: Cigarette Butt–Filled Snow Banks

Everybody loves that first spring thaw. Torontonians emerge from their winter cocoon, jog in hoodies, and start thinking about what non-wool jacket they’ll wear for three weeks.

But there’s a downside to all the warm weather and melting snow banks, because, at this time of year, something else emerges: a long season’s worth of cigarette butts.

Everything looks so nice, yet as you walk along the street you see hundreds of butts lining newly cleared sidewalks. Some are steps away from garbage cans. Others are plentiful enough that they may qualify for an OCAD student’s found-art project. Some butts seem to merge together and take on a life of their own, like some kind of nicotine rat king.

Smokers, the rest of Toronto asks you to remember one small thing. Snow banks, it turns out, are not ashtrays. Thank you.