Friday: hope and complaint at the weekend
Now that there is more evidence that the Conservatives may be peaking (see CTV News Poll Report), oh merciful heavens, one can contemplate the weekend with some equanimity but not too much because – life being what it is – problems abound. And that is just the fun part.
Perhaps the Federal budget will arrive with more money for housing and new money for transit but in the meantime the City of Toronto still has not taken a necessary strategic leap. One that is required no matter the dispensation it may have from the Province of Ontario, in the form of the much anticipated new City of Toronto Act (coming in Fall 2005?) and the pennies from the juiced up (thank you Mr. Layton and Mr. Martin) gas taxes from the Feds, and the expected announcement today that (at long last) the Federal and Ontario governments will announce a $600 million affordable housing program, and the hoped for Child Care accord that the Toronto Star reports will be announced once the Federal Budget is passed (Stephen Harper are you really thinking of wining votes in the Greater Toronto Area??) .
All this good news and maybe good stuff coming and it’s almost the weekend and why are we cranky? Out of many reasons here a few:
Let’s see Toronto’s transit fares went up and service, despite rumours of a ridership growth strategy, continues to flatline. When will our esteemed Mayor realize that we need road tolls that are dedicated to transit? And a policy readjustment that realizes that transit is not a commuter service but a 24/7 necessity to get people in and around the City and their neighbourhoods.
The waterfront redevelopment process led by the under funded and under empowered Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation (TWRC) is producing marginal facts on the ground and its consultation process seems to have ground to a halt, one hears nothing but complaints about the last instance of Portlands consultation. (This last is particularly sad coming on the heels of the well thought out and well delivered West Don Lands and East Bayfront Precinct Planning consultations.) But of course the main problem is the continuing lack of attention, leadership and COORDINATION from the 3 levels (that is probably at least 1 too many) of government involved.
And while we await the reigniting of housing funding, many of Toronto’s Federally regulated (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation – CMHC) co-operative housing apartments (Co-ops) are facing the prospect of not being able to continue to support their low income members [see http://www.fixtheglitchfast.ca/]. While there has been good news on this front the issue is still verging on a crisis for some Co-ops.
And our City Council will debate a motion in May to severely restrict a basic grassroots means of freedom of expression: postering.* Yes some call it visual pollution and complain of mess, as evidenced by a recent column in the May issue of downtown paper The Bulletin which rants on about the evil that is postering. Amazingly a significant number of City Councillors seem to share this anti-democratic leaning, forgetting that democracy is inherently messy and that access to the media, even the local media, is something that many cannot easily afford.
And that strategic leap the City of Toronto needs to take, such as grasping the nettle of road tolls and making it a beautiful idea, seems to be stillborn. Why are our civic leaders not more focussed on what we can and ought to do (hello deadbeats like Giorgio Mammoliti and Rob Ford)!
For instance why are we not planning and implementing programs to ensure that we can build a kilometre of subway tunnel and three kilometres of streetcar/light rail surface track every year.
Why are we not empowering City staff to move forward on affordable housing creation even using the very small amounts of money available right now?
And what about synchronizing bureaucratic efforts on the waterfront?!
Mayor Miller is arguably still the right person for the job but more could be done with the bully pulpit he has and many more of our Councillors could profitably focus on big picture thinking rather than NIMBY-placating Ward-healing.
As it is the onset of the weekend we can stop here for now. There will soon be time enough to name more of the guilty, praise the virtuous, focus on things that work, and things that ought to be.
* The Toronto Public Space Committee is leading the charge against the forces of darkness on the postering issue.