Stairway To Stardom: How #Stepgate Put Toronto on the Map
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Stairway To Stardom: How #Stepgate Put Toronto on the Map

And why we should all be thanking Toronto's crusading columnist, who is still out there chasing the gravy train.

parks and wreck

She may write for a major Toronto newspaper, but no story is seemingly too inconsequential for the Sun‘s resident Right Wing Gay Jewish Muckraker, Sue-Ann Levy, who, not unlike Batman in the 2008 film The Dark Knight, can be thought of as Toronto’s watchful protector, always there when The Little Guy is getting pushed around by those Marxist bureaucrats and bean-counters. So when Levy’s Batphone rang last week with a tip that a 73-year-old Etobicoke man was the latest target of the Loony Left when all he was trying to do was help people out, she knew she had a big story, one that had the potential to expose the graft and wild expenditures oozing out of City Hall.

The Etobicoke resident, Adi Astl, spent years watching seniors and small children try to navigate a steep embankment leading into nearby Tom Riley Park. With a stairway 120 metres away blocked off for a long term construction project adjacent to the park, and with concern for the safety of the park-goers, Astl approached his councillor, Justin Di Ciano (Ward 5, Etobicoke Lakeshore), about the possibility of installing a proper staircase on the embankment. Astl says he was told by the City’s parks and recreation department that it would cost anywhere between $65,000 and $150,000 to have a set of steps installed. Instead of waiting for taxpayers to be hit with this bill, Astl decided to take matters into his own hands, literally, by raising some money from the community as well as funds of his own, and for the grand total of $550, he and a local homeless man built a set of wooden steps, a 12-hour job.

Little did Astl know that his benevolence would spark the wrath of the damn bureaucrats at City Hall, whose union buddies would now be missing out on the contract to get these stairs built the quote-unquote “proper” way, observing the usual liberal buzzwords like “building codes” and “paying people for their time and labour.” Days after Astl finished the project, officials from parks and rec showed up with their yellow caution tape and roped off the staircase pending a decision on the overall safety of the project. Councillor Di Ciano was informed that Astl had to remove the “illegally built stairs” immediately or he’d be charged for violating City of Toronto Municipal Code Section 608 (whatever that is).

This was all too much for Levy, whose story on l’affaire escalier was the front page feature on Tuesday’s edition of the Sun. Levy, knowing the road to hell is paved with good intentions, was shocked that a good samaritan would be threatened with violating civic bylaws just for taking an initiative while saving thousands of taxpayer dollars to boot. Levy’s sources on the outrageousness of the bureaucratic overreach included the local councillor:

DiCiano said it’s “gross” that city officials would consider spending so much money for a simple project.

“Instead of just building a simple staircase so the vast majority of people can use it, they want to build the Taj Mahal,” he said. “It boggles my mind … if it’s going to cost $150,000 to build a simple eight-riser staircase, what does it take to build heavy duty infrastructure projects in the city?”

Levy’s dogged pursuit of the story soon captured the imagination of the entire city, with major media outlets dispatched to cover the controversy; at one point, CP24 broadcast live footage from a helicopter surveying the staircase job. And now it’s gone international; even the BBC is on the story.

You would think Levy would be pleased that her exclusive was being picked up by other news organizations, but instead she was frustrated that unlike, say, Woodward and Bernstein, she was not getting her due as the journalist who had broken this story wide open.

Levy stepped things up (if you will) the following day with a followup story, “Stepgate Shows City Hall Reality Check Needed,” where she detailed a SECOND example of parks and rec claiming a “properly built” set of stairs in a second Toronto park would approach a six-figure total. Levy closes this story on spending gone mad with a poignant reminder that one politician tried to warn us about the rampant overspending and union-supplicating going on over at City Hall…

But Stepgate proves one thing: Tory’s predecessor Rob Ford was 100 percent right about The Gravy Train—even though his opponents went out of their way to discredit him, repeatedly.

Indeed, one can imagine Rob Ford would have been in complete support of leaving this set of stairs up, bylaws and insurance claims be damned, but the current mayor, John Tory, made the mistake of listening to the so-called “experts” at parks and rec with all their talk of AODA standards, safety, building codes, and liability laws and agreed that the danged rules have to be followed, withholding his support of Astl’s makeshift carpentry job, a project that was already generating concerns in the Twittersphere:


Mayor Tory’s statement on the issue promises a reasonable solution is forthcoming, one that will not cost the City an outrageous fortune. Levy can take comfort that a safer set of stairs is being built, one that would shield Astl from a potential lawsuit should there have been an injury related to his handiwork, but as the world awaits her next article on the subject, a recent tweet provides a preview of the conclusions she has drawn from this whole misbegotten story: