Thursday, March 12, 2015

Mayor Tory's 100-Day Adventure

100 days seems to be the standard time period for initial assessments of politicians, and there have been several such assessments of Toronto Mayor John Tory in recent days. Most of those I have read have been cautiously positive and optimistic, but I have a suspicion that much of this optimism is actually just relief at not having to comment on Rob (or even Doug) Ford. After the debacle of the Ford years, the bar is set very low, and people are willing to put up with a lot (or a little) for just a whiff or normality.
But what has Tory really achieved?
Well, in almost his very first act in power, he threw $2 million of taxpayers' money at expediting the repair work on the Gardener Expressway, which seems to have garnered almost unanimous praise. But this just seems to me to be a $2 million sop to placate the car lobby, money that would be better utilized in investment in  much-needed transit.
Speaking of which... Tory has been making lots of noises, but very little concrete action, about his ballyhooed SmartTrack project, which I still find riddled with unexplained holes. So, just as Rob Ford, at the start of his mayoralty, made an executive decision which put back transit in Toronto by at least 4 years, and threw all transit discussions into interminable disarray, is Tory's SmartTrack going to do just the same? It is already having the effect of slowing down the Downtown Relief Line project (which EVERYONE agrees is needed), and don't even get me started on the money earmarked for a paltry extension of the subway line in Scarborough instead of a much more extensive, and much better value, rapid light transit system...
Much was also made of his perspicacity and ingenuity in "balancing the budget" this year. Except what he actually did was borrow out of the city's own funds - when his original plan of borrowing from the province did not pan out - which in my books (sic!) means that the budget was not balanced at all.
And now, instead of increasing property taxes above the rate of inflation (which of course has bad optics and would be contrary to his campaign promises), he is instead significantly increasing water and garbage collection fees, the old fees-instead-of-taxes gambit. So, instead of a progressive taxation on the property-owning classes who can best afford it, we have flat-rate fees inflicted on all and sundry, thereby imposing the worst of the burden on poorer, larger families rather than on retired bankers in Rosedale.
I don't mean to rain relentlessly on Tory's 100-day parade, and it is admittedly refreshing not to have to be wringing my hands over Rob Ford's shenanigans. Indeed, I'm sure that someone else could couch these very same matters in quite different terms (that's what politics is all about, isn't it?). But, when looked at from this point of view, things maybe don't look quite so rosy, do they?

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