The Tories and Toronto

Recently, I received two comments from a regular contributor here, Stephen Cheung, but did not publish them immediately.  As a pair, however, they are worth seeing if only as an indication of Tory analysis of the political and economic situation in Toronto.

In replies to this item, please don’t start attacking Stephen himself.  I personally have put up with a lot of bovine effluent here and on other blogs suggesting that I am personally responsible for most if not all of the transit planning screwups of modern history, and I find such comments (a) laughable and (b) inappropriate because attacking me avoids discussing the real issues.  I expect any who reply to this post to stick to the topic and treat both the writer and the organized labour movement with respect.

Here is the first item posted at 9:28 am on September 22 (Monday):

Obviously what is needed here is to better manage the budget for the TTC. If that means undertaking ideas that scare the union goons, then so be it. Toronto can no longer subsidize the ATU and all other public sector unions on its current budget. And creating revenue tools that have a negative impact on its residents are completely unfair. All because the city is unable to have the balls to do whatever is necessary to cut costs. If that means outsourcing workers to the opposition of the union, then so be it. If that means revising management of employees to reduce overtime or to reduce overtime altogether (again to the opposition of the union) then so be it. As a Torontonian, I am sick and tired of having to dig into my pocket because the city caves in to all union requests, no matter how egregious they may be.

Today came a longer and less volatile note at 10:54 am:

I know my previous comment was not published here so I will further attempt to clarify my position, now that Trev has highlighted several issues.

I am currently working as a volunteer of the Conservative party. I have met and debated with several Conservative party planners themselves, most notably on the issue of public transit. These planners have exhibited interest in investment in GTA transit, including providing stable funding for public transit operations (though they did not say how the funding will take place, mention was made of using existing gas tax revenues, now that the government is admittedly taking more in through this revenue stream). However, two things stop them from making any sincere promises to GTA transit.

The first is Torontonians’ general aversion to the Conservatives. We don’t understand it. The Federal Liberals have not done anything for public transit in the GTA in the last decade when they were in power, yet Toronto has been consistently painted Liberal red. McGuinty’s Liberals are not that much better. Until Torontonians are willing to help the Conservatives, the Conservatives can make no promises to help with GTA transit.

The second is the Conservatives concern of how the city of Toronto is run. Especially with David Miller at the helm. They are concerned that higher costs brought on by union-negotiated contracts are eating away at the infrastructure. Toronto has very little fiscal room to manoever and until they are able to get a handle on their finances, the Conservatives in Ottawa are unwilling to sign a blank cheque which they say will most likely be promptly be eaten up by union wage increases rather than go towards improvements that benefit the taxpayer.

Conservative or no Conservative government, the TTC already is in dire straits. It cannot keep operating on a wing and a prayer and things already need to be done to try to get a handle on finances. Taxes are not the right answer. A good portion of us (mine included) are not happy about the vehicle registration tax. I got smart and registered for two years as my birthday was last month. The taxpayer cannot be consistently dinged for the mismanagement currently going on in Toronto. And the Unions cannot consistently get what they want all the time.

First off, there is a very strange idea at work here that somehow the City of Toronto, thanks to its profligate mayor, is beset by out of control spending on unionized workers.  I will certainly agree that these workers are well-paid, but must also point out that this condition existed before David Miller became the mayor and was partly the work of that wild-eyed lefty, Mel Lastman.  Moreover, the situation does not stop at the boundary of the City of Toronto, but extends to the 905 beyond where some unionized wages are comparable to those found in Toronto.

Those who wish to debate the appropriateness of these wages are free to do so, but you actually undermine your own argument with the right-wing spin implying that removing Miller would resolve the situation.

The comments about the Tories’ view of funding Toronto is troubling because it confirms that they really don’t want to give us any money, but more importantly it shows how screwed up their logic is.

When we ask Ottawa for funding, it is for capital projects such as the Metrolinx plan.  Capital projects may well be built by union labour, but that’s how the construction industry works.  Queen’s Park, Metrolinx, even the TTC don’t set out to vastly inflate construction costs, and in any event, we have been building transit infrastructure in the GTA for decades under governments of every stripe.  Whether David Miller overpays his CUPE workers has absolutely nothing to do with Ottawa funding capital programs, and this “logic” is simply an excuse to badmouth the city and avoid paying a share of our costs.

The Tories don’t like Liberal Red Toronto.  Sigh.  The last time a Tory ran Queen’s Park, he nearly destroyed the city, and his finance minister is still in power in Ottawa.  We remember what the Harris government did to us, and I wish nothing but ill on the Conservative Party as my thanks.  The sad part is that the Tories were not like that once upon a time, but that wing of the party was expunged.

Ottawa may not have noticed, but the business community in Toronto seems to think Miller is doing a good job.  They may gripe about specifics, but they don’t show up at every Council meeting demanding the Mayor’s resignation.

If this represents the sophistication of thought behind the federal Tory party in dealing with the largest city in Canada, we are in deep trouble.

24 thoughts on “The Tories and Toronto

  1. I don’t wish to attack Stephen, but I would like to point out what I see as a problem in the Tory way of thinking, if indeed he is expressing it carefully.

    Our government includes the opposition. We elect parliamentarians, and while some may sit on one side of the House and some may sit on the other, and while some have a duty to “loyally oppose” what the government proposes, all parliamentarians are supposed to work for ALL Canadians everywhere, including and especially those who don’t vote for you. Remember the big hullaballo about Liberal MP Tom Wappel, who turned down a request for help by an ageing veteran because said veteran was on record as having supported the Canadian Alliance? Tom Wappel was wrong then and I frankly think he should have been thrown out of parliament as a result, but any variant of that thinking is equally wrong.

    Torontonians vote as they will. If they’re voting in a way you don’t like, the proper response is to engage these voters and appeal to the issues that _they_ care about, not to hold back favours as punishment.

    With the sort of attitude described above, it should become obvious why Torontonians and voters in other large urban centres haven’t warmed to the Conservative Party. As far as they’re concerned, the Conservatives haven’t warmed to them. And in this democratic system, it’s the Conservatives’ obligation, not the voters, to change, if they want voter habits to change.

    Like

  2. I was going to help out the tories in doing some volunteer work, but once I talked with Mr. Crompton who is running in my riding, and backed out. Now I am just going to sit back and see what happens in the election.

    The reason I backed out? Well he was talking a great deal of something called the Scarborough Expressway, with help from Transit Toronto I did my research and, well the GO Train at current rush hours levels moves more people per hour then what that would move with three lanes per direction.

    So that’s their solution? No need for TTC workers making $26 an hour? No Go Trains? What about VIA, and the freight lines?

    I earned my high school diploma as an adult at CALC, and I have no post secondary education of any kind with the exception of learning a few languages but, that’s nothing.

    What kind of plan is that? It’s ass backwards, I believe the only reason they gave funds for the Spadina subway extension is because it’s going to Vaughan.

    You remember the Jane Pitfield, platform for mayor? The giant contradiction?

    If this continues I may have to change the party I represent, because it feels that to be a Tory, you gotta be dumb as a stump.

    Like

  3. Hello Steve,

    This is not unusual, its called POLITIKING. This game has been going on since the inception of our beautiful country.

    I disagree with bad mouthing the Tories. They have given more money for public transit then any other federal government in 30 years or more. They made the gas tax permanent, they cut the GST.

    We are in challenging times now, our manufactoring sector is vanishing in this city, Taxes are high. Yes Mike Harris did some damage to Toronto but there were many positives that came out of that. TORONTO HYDRO Became a City asset worth at today’s dollars, 5 Billion. The city also ended up with amount owing from Toronto Hydro, 1.3 billion and counting. TTC and it’s assets, 10 billion or more.

    I am sick and tired about hearing about the negatives all the time. How about all the properties expropriated by Bill DAVIS for the Spadina Expressway, well over 200 million. 1 example is the $60 dollar vehicle tax for my sticker to balance MILLER’S budget, not to repave our crumbling roads, which Buses and bikes use too.

    The city should start auditing every dollar spent, bring in Sheila Fraser and let me tell you, we can do all those improvements without raising our taxes. I don’t mind paying a flat rate toll during rush hours say $2 a car, $3 for trucks, on the Gardiner, DVP. This would raise some money to repair our roads and transit improvements at a 50-50 rate.

    There was a task force set up By Miller and they discovered that the city is sitting on lot’s of money that they have no clue how to tap into.

    The federal government is for our country. People forget that the good of the country must not be comprimised by the needs and begging of one city. I am Canadian, not Torontonian. Stephen is right, we need someone with Balls, to change things. MILLER should clean up his own act before begging and begging, it’s becoming tiresome.

    Harper grew up In Toronto, he cares, so by holding back money because he doesn’t trust Miller, is his right. The country comes first, not our city workers and our pathetic councillors waste and waste. There are solutions within so tap into them Toronto.

    Steve: The money that the “Conservatives” gave to Toronto came only because they were forced into it by the opposition to get approval for their budget.

    Toronto Hydro has always been a City asset and the Tories have absolutely nothing to do with it. Recently, the City spun off the telecom subsidiary Hydro had created, one of the recommendations of the task force that reviewed City finances. That review was also rather favourable in its comments about the City’s ability to control its spending.

    I am glad to hear that you are willing to pay a toll on the DVP. Such proposals have ignited huge complaints when they surfaced and the same David Miller was villified for even hinting tolls could be possible.

    Bill Davis stopped the Spadina Expressway, a decision that ultimately allowed for the transformation of downtown Toronto into a thriving residential area. His approach to “conservatism” was not informed by the petty, power-hungry, we-know-what’s-good-for-you attitude of the Reform/Conservative gang now in power. Please don’t use Davis, a premier long out of power, as an example of the benificence of the Conservative party to Toronto.

    David Miller is not begging. Toronto and the GTA ship a fortune to Ottawa every year through our taxes, and we would like some of that money back.

    Like

  4. Once again we have “populism of the right” which is not really based on facts.

    First wages: We have seen in the last week the issues with the VIVA drivers who work for a privatised French company. I am not aware of the subsidy per passenger (or passenger/mile) on VIVA, but I would gladly (blindly) bet that it is lower on the TTC. We see a company that pays within a few cents of the TTC wage for drivers, but tries to be more “efficient” by denying any sick days and requiring doctors confirmation for any time off. Not only are these inhuman working conditions out of synch with Canadian society, but they also are not favourable to the safety or health of the riding public. Sick Operators should be at home recovering, not driving with suboptimal efficiency or spreading their germs to the public. Sick days – and sick pay – is nothing less than what any one of us expects from our employer. If the only efficiency of privatisation is denying basic human rights it is a sad efficiency.

    Once again, the implicit suggestion is that if the federal government was to make any investment in Toronto, this would be at the expense of “other” Canadians who should not “subsidise” our “profligate” ways. The reality is that any additional transfers to Toronto – for a lot (uncountable number) of additional dollars would only be returning to us some of our own money that is currently spent elsewhere in Canada. Toronto does not need nor has ever requested, a “handout”. What we need is to receive a level of funding from our higher level of governments that is funded entirely by our own contributions to the tax system. I actually tend to agree with the Jeffrey Simpson premise that Cities (in Ontario) are a responsibility of the Ontario Government and that direct Federal funding of Cities is inappropriate. However, all of us in Ontario are transferring our wealth – through Federal taxes – to other regions of the country while we have inferior services and infrastructure. The Federal Government should be transferring more of “our own” money back to Ontario. The Ontario Government in turn should be transferring to Toronto more of our own money – whether paid to the Federal Government initially or to Ontario.

    The reason that Toronto has “very little room to manoeuver” is because of the shameful treatment by the Harris (We Hate Toronto) and McGinty (We Actually Like the Status Quo) Governments. It has nothing at all to do with wage settlements which have not been out of line with inflation and the expectations that we all have in our own jobs. No amount of rhetoric can actually support the theory that Mr. Miller (who I support) has been wasteful with taxpayer’s money in support of his “Union Buddies”. TTC (and Garbage and all City) workers are entitled to fair wage settlements and they have not garnered anything more than that in the Miller years. The real imbalance remains the unfair level of tax transfers to Ontario by the Federal Government, the unfair level of tax transfers to Toronto by the Provincial Government and the hideous (using up Toronto’s tax headroom) Education Tax – a holdover from the Harris years that status quo McGinty has done nothing to change.

    I do refrain from personal attacks, and I sign my posts. However, I will suggest that Stephen Cheung and his puzzled Reform Party (no they are not Torys) friends have a view of Toronto that is more coloured by their ideology than the facts on the ground.

    Like

  5. “Until Torontonians are willing to help the Conservatives, the Conservatives can make no promises to help with GTA transit.”

    Actually, in a democracy where the government is motivated to do the “right thing” it is not supposed to require support of the governing party to dine at the pork barrel. Government is supposed to do the best for all its constituents, however they voted, based on what is right for society and its citizens.

    Like

  6. Thanks for your response, Steve. It’s good to know that there are places where one can have civilized debates. There are a few positions that I would like to clarify:

    “First off, there is a very strange idea at work here that somehow the City of Toronto, thanks to its profligate mayor, is beset by out of control spending on unionized workers. I will certainly agree that these workers are well-paid, but must also point out that this condition existed before David Miller became the mayor and was partly the work of that wild-eyed lefty, Mel Lastman. Moreover, the situation does not stop at the boundary of the City of Toronto, but extends to the 905 beyond where some unionized wages are comparable to those found in Toronto. Those who wish to debate the appropriateness of these wages are free to do so, but you actually undermine your own argument with the right-wing spin implying that removing Miller would resolve the situation.”

    I am well aware of Mel Lastman’s “deal with the union devil” in which he caved like a house of cards to avoid embarrassing the city during the Pope’s visit, some years back. That deal was perhaps the worst deal that any taxpayer in Toronto had to foot. But the problem with Miller is not that he has caused this problem, but more that he has allowed the problem to persist rather than get down and dirty and try to fix it. Unfortunately Miller’s efforts have cost us more in terms of higher taxes and new fees, the vehicle registration and land transfer tax come into mind.

    And I seem to be reading reports that Transit workers in York Region are making 20% less than their counterparts at the TTC. Unfortunately, the yahoo who nearly caused the VIVA strike earlier this week is the same moron who stopped the city for a full day, Bob Kinnear. I don’t have data about the other city workers, but sources tell me that the difference is almost the same compared to the transit workers. Only police officers make a wage comparable to Toronto (which is why Toronto Police is currently facing a manpower shortage).

    “When we ask Ottawa for funding, it is for capital projects such as the Metrolinx plan. Capital projects may well be built by union labour, but that’s how the construction industry works. Queen’s Park, Metrolinx, even the TTC don’t set out to vastly inflate construction costs, and in any event, we have been building transit infrastructure in the GTA for decades under governments of every stripe. Whether David Miller overpays his CUPE workers has absolutely nothing to do with Ottawa funding capital programs, and this “logic” is simply an excuse to badmouth the city and avoid paying a share of our costs.”

    The discussions that I have been involved in for funding do not involve Capital projects, these are proposals amongst conservative candidates to allocate funding for transit operations, in order to pay for service improvements and to keep fares low. Capital projects are a different matter. Likely the funding for transit operations will likely come from legislation regarding the Gas Tax currently being levied, although we are still trying to find answers on how exactly this will be accomplished.

    “The Tories don’t like Liberal Red Toronto. Sigh. The last time a Tory ran Queen’s Park, he nearly destroyed the city, and his finance minister is still in power in Ottawa. We remember what the Harris government did to us, and I wish nothing but ill on the Conservative Party as my thanks. The sad part is that the Tories were not like that once upon a time, but that wing of the party was expunged.”

    I too agree that the Mike Harris Conservatives were not kind to Toronto. But you fail to acknowledge the intent of the party during that period: to stand up against the unions and other advocacy organizations during a time when Rae and the NDP deficited us to submission. His motives were good, his execution was far from it. Having said that, the Conservative party is nowhere near the Harris bogeyman years. Far from it. Even so, we too are afraid of Flaherty and what he may do to Toronto, to the point that we are secretly wishing for his defeat so that we can get on with helping the city. This is why we need to elect more Conservatives here in Toronto: Flaherty and the rest of the party is more likely to be receptive to Conservative MPs asking for help to Toronto, their political lives depend on it. We may not be as partisan as you think, but Flaherty (in my humble opinion) still is. I do agree with Flaherty’s remark about Ontario’s taxes being too high, it’s not about the high taxes that concern me, but that we are not seeing a return on our “investments”, rather more municipal and provincial waste.

    As for the Liberal party, as I mentioned earlier, in the years they were in power, they did not raise one finger to help Toronto, saying that it was a Provincial issue. Some good it did to us considering the person at the helm at that time was, wait for it: Mike Harris. If the Liberals are somehow elected to run parliament, I expect Metrolinx and Transit City to disappear into smoke, like all other plans for the city when Chretien was in office. The only project that MIGHT survive is the Sorbara subway extension and we all know how useless that project is.

    “Ottawa may not have noticed, but the business community in Toronto seems to think Miller is doing a good job. They may gripe about specifics, but they don’t show up at every Council meeting demanding the Mayor’s resignation.”

    I can line up BIAs and business leaders who think the exact opposite. Again we’re not saying that Miller is the cause of the problem, he just has not been effective in dealing with it.

    You can gripe about the Conservatives all you want. But reality is this: if Toronto is not on the bandwagon when the Conservatives obtain a majority (I’m fairly sure they will), they will find themselves left out of the cold. You can’t fight for funding for Toronto if you don’t have a voice in Harper’s government. The squeaky wheel will get the grease, but Harper won’t be able to hear it if it is on the other side of the floor. And the Liberals are less likely to help even if they themselves get a majority, history has proven it. This is reality, and how politics works. If Toronto is still painted Liberal red when the dust settles, prepare for another 5 years of inaction as the city goes through its current and future pains.

    Like

  7. The Conservatives should consider proper investment in Toronto because it’s the right thing to do… and because Toronto tax payers send billions of dollars to the federal government every year and deserve to see something for THEIR money.

    Like

  8. The admission by Stephen Cheung that the Conservatives won’t do anything for Toronto until we start voting for Conservatives reminds me of the way Quebec politics used to be: if your riding didn’t return a Union Nationale candidate, you could forget about the province doing anything for your riding. It is electoral blackmail. The Conservatives may be able to demand respect in Alberta, but in Ontario they need to earn it.

    The Conservatives’ first order of business when they became “Canada’s new government” was to cancel the national daycare program–in other words, canceling pots of new daycare spaces–and to replace the program with a tiny monthly handout to parents of children under the age of six. And, of course, this handout was subject to income-tax clawbacks.

    The Conservatives, instead of giving money to transit authorities to buy more vehicles to improve service and attract new riders, have given a tax credit to holders of monthly and weekly transit passes. In other words, by encouraging more riding by tax credit instead by improved service, the Conservatives want more people to pack into the same number of transit vehicles (because you need to sell bushels of passes to buy a bus at $1.8 million or so) and thereby discourage people from using transit.

    I could go on to their censorship of movies, declining support for the arts, and lack of interest in fighting crime (if you won’t properly fund the criminal justice system, you can’t put the crooks away). But I won’t.

    As you wrote, Steve, “it shows how screwed up their logic is.” How did Harper get a post-grad degree in economics?

    Like

  9. Stephen Cheung thinks calling Bob Kinnear a moron is a contribution to civilized debate? At least Bob Kinnear doesn’t think that the best way to keep Jim Flaherty from devastating Toronto is to give him a majority.

    If the Conservatives want to attack Toronto and Ontario, and carry out an economic policy that requires that Ontario’s economy must be weakened, they can’t expect us to make nice. Even a moron can see that.

    Like

  10. It’s hard not to attack Stephen’s views. They are biased to the point of being silly.

    “Me. Me, Me!” This is the basic message I get from so called Conservatives. It is always about me, the other person be dammned!

    How can a society function under this attitude?

    Steve: What disappoints me even more is the disconnect between how the Conservative Party views the country and what is actually going on.

    Cuts to the arts are “justified” by saying that “ordinary people don’t care”. Tell that to all of the “ordinary people” who work in the arts, an industry that has been repeatedly studied and demonstrated its economic benefit to the country. The contempt in recent Harper comments for those who work in and support the arts tells me that I don’t count in Stephen Harper’s Canada. On election day, I intend to return the compliment.

    Failure to finance municipal spending, a common request from Mayors Canada-wide, is dismissed because David Miller is supposed to be wasting all our tax money on unions. Does Harper have the same attitude to the mayors of Montreal? Vancouver? This isn’t a Miller gripe, it’s a national gripe from a collection of leaders who were all directly elected by far more people than anyone sitting in Ottawa.

    If the Tories want to finance cities, fine. Come up with a formula by population or area or number of tall buildings or whatever, and allocate money across the country. If Toronto wants to “waste” it on high-priced union jobs and we don’t have as good transit as some mythical city where the private sector magically provides superb transit at no cost, that’s our decision. The micromanagement of spending from transfer programs is really quite ridiculous, but typical of what passes for government policy in Ottawa.

    Better yet, just get out of the way and don’t block attempts by provinces or cities to levy local sales taxes taking advantage of the headroom those otherwise useless GST cuts created.

    Like

  11. But reality is this: if Toronto is not on the bandwagon when the Conservatives obtain a majority (I’m fairly sure they will), they will find themselves left out of the cold.

    Wow. If that doesn’t show what the problem is with the ReformaTories, I don’t know what does.

    Like

  12. The problem I have with Stephen Cheung’s views is that I don’t particularly believe that union wages are out of control. Until he convinces me of that, most of the rest of his arguments, which are based on that premise, are moot.

    There also seems to be a visceral level of hate towards Mayor Miller. I’ve seen it in comments on various city-related blogs. Again, I don’t hate Mr. Miller; in fact I don’t see him and the city going far enough quickly enough. (For example, there’s a lot of lip service about promoting bicycling, but the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee seems to come down on the side of the automotive status quo most times.) If I don’t share this visceral hatred, and I don’t see that anyone else will do a better job, then why should I buy Stephen’s arguments?

    I happen to think that the Conservative Party’s “Tough on Crime” stance is a whole bunch of pandering. I don’t like their (more like Mr. Harper’s) apparent authoritarian approach to anyone who might cross him.

    As a result, there is no way I would vote Conservative in this election, or any election any time soon.

    I’ll note that in my far-gone youth, I was a Young PC and I still have some posters of Bill Davis kicking around.

    By the way, the fact the Conservatives seem to want to blame unions and Mayor Miller for all of Toronto’s problems, and seem to believe that this blame is Objective Reality and we should all participate in it, is just another reason why I wouldn’t vote for them. Alas, the Conservative candidate in Etobicoke-Lakeshore has not appeared on my doorstep so I can tell him what I think of his party.

    Like

  13. Lengthy response considering the feedback, but I will start….

    “Our government includes the opposition. We elect parliamentarians, and while some may sit on one side of the House and some may sit on the other, and while some have a duty to “loyally oppose” what the government proposes, all parliamentarians are supposed to work for ALL Canadians everywhere, including and especially those who don’t vote for you. Remember the big hullaballo about Liberal MP Tom Wappel, who turned down a request for help by an ageing veteran because said veteran was on record as having supported the Canadian Alliance? Tom Wappel was wrong then and I frankly think he should have been thrown out of parliament as a result, but any variant of that thinking is equally wrong.”

    That is supposed to be true by principle. Even I find disdain with the current levels of partisan politics. However, I go back to my earlier quote about the squeaky wheel getting the grease. Partisan politics is indeed here, and Toronto is in the thick of it. If you want to ignore the Conservative party, do so at your peril. When Transit City, Metrolinx, and other GTA transit projects get pushed aside for others championed by Conservative MPs from other parts of the country, don’t come running and blaming us, blame yourself. We only tried to help.

    You can vote all you want for the Liberals or the NDP but I ask this question: what have they done as of late to benefit Toronto? Unlike those two parties, the Conservatives go by their word. And if we can insert “Toronto” into that “word”, Toronto will win out.

    “The reason I backed out? Well he was talking a great deal of something called the Scarborough Expressway, with help from Transit Toronto I did my research and, well the GO Train at current rush hours levels moves more people per hour then what that would move with three lanes per direction.”

    This is because the Conservatives listen to whoever is scratching their back. And if those voters want a Scarborough Expressway, the conservatives will listen to them. If Toronto voters don’t want a Scarborough expressway, the only way they can stop it is by electing a Conservative MP who can reflect the wishes of their constituents.

    “David Miller is not begging. Toronto and the GTA ship a fortune to Ottawa every year through our taxes, and we would like some of that money back.”

    What’s this I hear about the one cent of the GST campaign? And tell that to everyone else who thinks Toronto is “a city of fat cats”. Even I don’t like the perception but I agree that Toronto has a big spending problem.

    I’ll also point out the problem that Alberta also sends a ton of revenue to Ottawa as well. I’m pretty sure that they will be quite peeved when Toronto can “get some of that money back” when Alberta probably won’t see a nickel.

    “First wages: We have seen in the last week the issues with the VIVA drivers who work for a privatised French company. I am not aware of the subsidy per passenger (or passenger/mile) on VIVA, but I would gladly (blindly) bet that it is lower on the TTC. We see a company that pays within a few cents of the TTC wage for drivers, but tries to be more “efficient” by denying any sick days and requiring doctors confirmation for any time off. Not only are these inhuman working conditions out of synch with Canadian society, but they also are not favourable to the safety or health of the riding public. Sick Operators should be at home recovering, not driving with suboptimal efficiency or spreading their germs to the public. Sick days – and sick pay – is nothing less than what any one of us expects from our employer. If the only efficiency of privatisation is denying basic human rights it is a sad efficiency.”

    Funny, I seem to think that this is a privilege, not a right. Not once in my paid-by-hours days did I get sick leave granted by my employer. When you are paid by the hour, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. That is reality. Sick? Ask your employer to make that time up. Don’t like these facts? There are other jobs that are willing to offer that kind of sick benefit.

    “The Federal Government should be transferring more of “our own” money back to Ontario. The Ontario Government in turn should be transferring to Toronto more of our own money – whether paid to the Federal Government initially or to Ontario.”

    Therein lies the other part of the concern: Mr. McGuinty. When it comes to watching your finances, McGuinty is just as bad. Supposedly, legislation surrounding the gas tax is supposed to get around this “problem” by siphoning a portion of the revenue directly into cities. This is supposed to get around the McGuinty issue.

    “No amount of rhetoric can actually support the theory that Mr. Miller (who I support) has been wasteful with taxpayer’s money in support of his “Union Buddies”. TTC (and Garbage and all City) workers are entitled to fair wage settlements and they have not garnered anything more than that in the Miller years.”

    The settlement that the garbage workers received should have been null and void by Mr. Miller the moment he took office. But we all knew he wouldn’t do that. It is a scandal and a shame that garbagemen get up to a 50% increase and get paid as much as I do when I spent more money to obtain an education to be where I am today.

    “The real imbalance remains the unfair level of tax transfers to Ontario by the Federal Government, the unfair level of tax transfers to Toronto by the Provincial Government and the hideous (using up Toronto’s tax headroom) Education Tax – a holdover from the Harris years that status quo McGinty has done nothing to change.”

    The real imbalance remains the unfair level of taxes levied to business entities by Ontario (and by some extension, Toronto). If these taxes are reduced, investment, either by private or federal government, will follow.

    “I do refrain from personal attacks, and I sign my posts. However, I will suggest that Stephen Cheung and his puzzled Reform Party (no they are not Torys) friends have a view of Toronto that is more coloured by their ideology than the facts on the ground.”

    I’ve lived in Toronto for the last 10 years and I too have disdained the decay of the city that has taken place. However, rather than tighten the financial belt when times are tough, I have seen the city do the exact opposite. That is the pure source of the decay, not managing the books better even when times are tough. It is why so many union-run companies are in trouble these days, they do not understand when their employer is in financial trouble, they still expect a raise and exorbitant benefits. While I take offense to the Reform Label, it is your right to say so and I will say that we see the facts differently than you do. And the facts point to a spending problem at City Hall.

    “The Conservatives’ first order of business when they became “Canada’s new government” was to cancel the national daycare program–in other words, canceling pots of new daycare spaces–and to replace the program with a tiny monthly handout to parents of children under the age of six. And, of course, this handout was subject to income-tax clawbacks.”

    Tell that to those who actually opposed the Liberal program. The national daycare program was too big and too costly to implement on the backs of taxpayers. The Conservative program does not do that much better and I would have rather have seen all childcare expenses as tax-deductible, the same way RRSP contributions are.

    “The Conservatives, instead of giving money to transit authorities to buy more vehicles to improve service and attract new riders, have given a tax credit to holders of monthly and weekly transit passes. In other words, by encouraging more riding by tax credit instead by improved service, the Conservatives want more people to pack into the same number of transit vehicles (because you need to sell bushels of passes to buy a bus at $1.8 million or so) and thereby discourage people from using transit.”

    I actually agree with this benefit. It, combined with the TTC making monthly passes transferrable, has been instrumental in being an incentive for the commuting public to take transit. But I agree that the other part of the equation, service increases to handle the increased demand, also comes into play. The TTC is still able to buy buses and increase service under its RGS plan so I fail to see how your argument fails here.

    “and lack of interest in fighting crime (if you won’t properly fund the criminal justice system, you can’t put the crooks away). But I won’t.”

    Increased police presense and tougher laws do not mean “lack of interest in fighting crime”.

    “Stephen Cheung thinks calling Bob Kinnear a moron is a contribution to civilized debate? At least Bob Kinnear doesn’t think that the best way to keep Jim Flaherty from devastating Toronto is to give him a majority.

    If the Conservatives want to attack Toronto and Ontario, and carry out an economic policy that requires that Ontario’s economy must be weakened, they can’t expect us to make nice. Even a moron can see that.”

    Bob Kinnear is one person who I would like to see fixated like a deer in headlights. Until he reimburses me from the hardships of the accident that I suffered during that strike in April and supplies with a handwritten apology, he will always bear the brunt of my wrath.

    And I’ll clarify again: Ontario’s economy needs to be strengthened, but this should be done through cuts in taxes not spending more to keep the unionized people happy.

    ““Me. Me, Me!” This is the basic message I get from so called Conservatives. It is always about me, the other person be dammned!”

    So let me ask you? Why are the Conservatives ahead of the Liberals in the polls if you are so afraid of them?

    Steve: Because we have a fragmented opposition including the Green Party, fiscal conservatives wrapped up in a green flag, who are the best ally Stephen Harper could want. The truly cynical among us might even suspect that the Green party was invented by a Tory skunkworks just to split the left wing vote.

    The Liberals have a hopeless leader (thanks to Gerrard Kennedy whose machinations at the convention gave us Dion), and there are people who would never vote for the NDP even if their platform exactly matched their every desire.

    Harper may have 38 percent nationwide in the polls, but that means there are 62 percent who don’t think very much of him. If we had proportional representation (and got rid of the rotten system of underpopulated rural ridings), Harper wouldn’t have a chance.

    Like

  14. I’ll leave the union debates to others, but I can’t pass this statement by:

    But reality is this: if Toronto is not on the bandwagon when the Conservatives obtain a majority (I’m fairly sure they will), they will find themselves left out of the cold.

    Governments in North America and Western Europe left this attitude behind decades ago. I’m amazed that it would be espoused in public by the representative of a major national party in this day and age.

    Rather than trying to blackmail Torontonians into voting Conservative, Mr. Cheung might try asking himself why it is that the three largest metropolitan areas in the country have largely turned their backs on his party.

    Like

  15. Stephen Cheung wrote: This is why we need to elect more Conservatives here in Toronto: Flaherty and the rest of the party is more likely to be receptive to Conservative MPs asking for help to Toronto, their political lives depend on it.

    So, you’re saying that if we elect a slate of Tory MPs from Toronto, to a government where the prime minister makes all decisions, and where MPs and ministers are not even allowed to speak in public unless their words are scripted by the PMO, these MPs will magically be able to 1) have and express views on municipal funding that differ from that of Harper, and 2) exert any decision-making influence whatsoever? How can you possibly expect anyone to believe that?

    Like

  16. I am not going to base my vote in the federal election on municipal issues. In fact any party that talks about giving GST and other funds to municipalities will likely be counted against them when I make my decision. Here’s why:

    The reason that municipalities’ finances are screwed up across the nation is primarily due downloading and amalgamations of municipalities by provinces. It happened right across the country.

    Provinces by law set the structure and rules under which municipalities run. They mandate the services cities and towns provide. They give and take taxing powers away from municipalities. They can redirect a point of their sales tax to municipalities if they want to. The only level of government that is in a position to really stabilize municipalities is the provincial level of government.

    I don’t want the GST or my federal income tax going back up because Dalton McGuinty refuses to take ownership of a structural problem that was created by his and to a greater degree the previous PC provincial government. I don’t mind the feds providing monies for large-scale infrastructure like a new subway or the like, but that’s it. Capital costs like fixing municipal roads are not and should not be provided for by the feds (ie federal gas tax). Provincially mandated programs account for 31% of the city’s 2008 operating budget. I really believe that each level of government should tax its citizens based on its own needs. Cities and towns are totally beholden to the province. It’s up to the province to fix the fiscal imbalance.

    Like

  17. “The problem I have with Stephen Cheung’s views is that I don’t particularly believe that union wages are out of control. Until he convinces me of that, most of the rest of his arguments, which are based on that premise, are moot.”

    The Garbagemen’s strike is one shining example. And another issue is union members in positions which pay up to 30% more than the average. Why is that? Why is the city so resistant to contracting out city services like Garbage disposal, landscaping, building caretakers, and street cleaning? There are plenty of savings that the city would obtain by doing these things and freeing up more money to fund its necessary infrastructure projects.

    “Rather than trying to blackmail Torontonians into voting Conservative, Mr. Cheung might try asking himself why it is that the three largest metropolitan areas in the country have largely turned their backs on his party.”

    Far from it. I am sick and tired of successive Liberal governments, federal and provincial, promising things and doing nothing. And we let them get away with it for more than a decade!! This Liberal Ignorance has to be stopped. The Conservatives meanwhile, are in position to be able to do things, especially when they get their majority. But when everyone else in other parts of the country is jockeying to have their pet projects done, others get left behind. I am just doing my part to ensure that problem does not happen.

    One other clarification from my previous post: “The TTC is still able to buy buses and increase service under its RGS plan so I fail to see how your argument fails here.” should be “so you can see how your argument fails here.”

    Like

  18. Steve: I am letting this comment through, but with a caveat. As I stated at the outset, I don’t want this to turn into a “bash Stephen Cheung” thread, but rather a discussion of issues. I think that the real question underlying this is the projection of the working conditions of someone who happens to support the Tories onto society as a whole. Just because some proportion of the population doesn’t get some benefit does not invalidate that benefit across the board.

    I have edited this comment a bit.

    Stephen said

    “funny, I seem to think that this is a privilege, not a right. Not once in my paid-by-hours days did I get sick leave granted by my employer. When you are paid by the hour, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. That is reality. Sick? Ask your employer to make that time up. Don’t like these facts? There are other jobs that are willing to offer that kind of sick benefit.”

    Comments like this, is the reason why I can never vote Conservative. I am going to be blunt, and state […] most Reform Party Conservatives are selfish. Plain, and simple. “I got mine, go get yours, what’s in it for me?”

    Steve: The irony here is that actually, this is a case of “I don’t have mine, and you shouldn’t either.”

    Why shouldn’t hourly employees be granted basic sick leave? Why is it wrong for employees to get a decent wage, and benefits, that both you, and I get. I am sure you get paid sick days, and some sort of benefits. Why should hourly employees be denied this right?

    Steve: Some things like vacation pay are covered by the Labour Standards Act, but it has lots of exceptions and loopholes. Contract/hourly staff are generally treated as independent “businesses” responsible for funding their own benefits. This allows employers to dodge the benefits cost for which they would otherwise be liable. I don’t agree with this situation, but nobody, including the Liberal government at Queen’s Park, is doing anything about it. Does that make it right for some to be excluded, no. Does that validate a Tory position, no.

    Unions exist because people with [these] attitudes towards employees exist. Without Unions, I’ll bet an electrical journeyman would be paid $8.50/hr, and no vacation.

    Like

  19. Well, I asked myself what the NDP and the Liberals did for Toronto lately and my answer is: not much.

    Then I asked myself what the Conservatives have done for Toronto lately and my answer is: even worse. Mike Harris and his crony crew, and enough said – the only benefit from making that mistake that I can think of is that hopefully we’ve learned not to do that again.

    Like

  20. “Comments like this, is the reason why I can never vote Conservative. I am going to be blunt, and state […] most Reform Party Conservatives are selfish. Plain, and simple. “I got mine, go get yours, what’s in it for me?” ”

    I could say the same thing about unions and all left leaning parties, selfish, plain and simple.

    “Why shouldn’t hourly employees be granted basic sick leave? Why is it wrong for employees to get a decent wage, and benefits, that both you, and I get. I am sure you get paid sick days, and some sort of benefits. Why should hourly employees be denied this right?”

    Allow me to clarify: Sick days I mean singular sick days. Not extended absenses due to sickness that could be qualified as short-term or long-term disability in which an company’s insurance benefit would then kick in (if it was provided to their employees).

    This all depends on the company itself. Every company is different, the one I worked at for several years did have such insurance benefits. But the drawback was the lack of sick days on the terms of employment. I knew it, everyone else knew it. But we still worked there anyway as the pay was still good (some say it paid significantly more than similar jobs with sick pay). One year, I had fallen ill due to food poisoning, which kept me off the job for two days. Later I had fallen ill again due to a mild case of the flu which kept me off for three. But did I complain about the lack of sick days? No. I arranged for extra shifts to make up for time lost.

    I don’t bemoan the lack of sick days I was entitled to under my job. But Sick days are a privilege that is up to the employer. If you want to complain about the lack of sick days at your job, go find another one. There are plenty of positions available in which provide the benefits everyone is looking for.

    “Unions exist because people with [these] attitudes towards employees exist. Without Unions, I’ll bet an electrical journeyman would be paid $8.50/hr, and no vacation.”

    This is exactly the type of statement I tire of when it comes to unions. I see it everywhere. Truth be told, we are far removed from the days of underpaid and overworked workers. We are in an age where employers need to treat their employees with respect if they want to keep them gainfully employed. No employees means no revenue for a company, plain and simple. This is why so many companies are doing everything they can to avoid having their workers unionize by giving them good salaries and perks. The power that an individual employee has in this day and age has lessened the need for unions. However, we seem to be entering a schism in which people think that they have a right to be permanently employed, no matter how bad they may do at a job.

    Steve: I think that there is a point where the individual circumstances of one person and their choices about how they want to be compensated get in the way of the larger discussion. I am frankly tired of hearing about sick days.

    I know enough cases of good, loyal staff being screwed out of overtime and benefits, up to and including “grace and favour” pensions that depended on length of service, and cases where “loyalty” was abused by demands for unpaid overtime on no notice with substantial impact on the personal lives of those involved. Emergencies are one thing, but when it happens all the time, that’s exploitation.

    As for unions, they are not the only greedy folks around. Various parts of the private sector are very good at feeding from the public trough either through all sorts of economic development incentives or through backstops to prevent the “market” from taking its toll through losses and bankruptcies. For every allegedly overpaid union, we can find a company that wouldn’t exist without government largesse.

    I will be closing this thread for further comments once I finish editing the current crop.

    Like

  21. The fact that the TTC is having difficulty hiring new workers is evidence that they are not overpaid.

    When one looks at the overall budget of capital and operating costs, the transit vehicle operators have a small slice. For example (pulling numbers out of thin air – Steve can doubtless supply better ones):

    Cost of subway tunnel: 10 billion dollars
    Cost of subway station: 210 million dollars
    Cost of subway train: 150 million dollars

    Savings by cutting train driver’s wages by $2 per hour: insignificant.

    Steve: The numbers are off by quite a bit, but the analogy is sound. As I mentioned in a post on the Metronauts blog, the cost per passenger of just servicing the capital debt on that line’s construction is about $5 per ride. To this we must add the excessive operating costs of having so much infrastructure — tunnels, stations, ventillation, escalators, elevators, and more — that vastly exceeds the capacity needed in that corridor. It was a political decision, aided and abetted by TTC management for whom big projects meant big budgets.

    To be fair, the situation is different for surface routes where the ratio of operator wages to infrastructure costs (including vehicles) is higher, and for all labour-related costs there is the union versus non-union argument. At the end of the day, however, governments seem to prefer spending billions on construction rather it has a good “business case” behind it or not, and this profligacy is not the exclusive role of the left wing.

    Like

  22. By most normal metrics, Toronto – and Ontario as a whole – was being destroyed by the predecessor government to Mike Harris. Under Harris, employed grew and people started to buy homes and build condos again. The Rae years in Ontario made the current economic waves in the US seem like a tempest in the teapot.

    Under Rae:

    – employment in Toronto fell 10%
    – housing starts in the province fell 70%
    – $21 billion worth of muclear reactors were wasted away due to poor management

    (Despite the economic destruction, there is a segment of the popultation whose main complaint is that Rae made them take a few days off! People were losing jobs, houses and having to leave the province – while others are complaining about losing a few bucks! This has always made me seethe – talk about the true ‘me me me’ message!)

    In terms, of the current federal government’s record on transit – it’s better that any predecessor. As someone pointed out, this is the 1st time the feds are paying for subway infrastructure. I think the host here is overly partisan in his assessment.

    In terms of operating budget growing at the expense of possible city building, this is entirely factual. Methinks the host ‘doth protest too much’.

    Steve: The fall in jobs had far more to do with the continent-wide recession of the early 1990s than with Bob Rae’s policies, just as Stephen Harper has benefitted from, until recently, the relatively buoyant climate. The job growth is more the product of economic cycles already in progress when Harper came to power than the result of his policies. Harris was in a similar situation of reaping the post-recession improvements of the late 1990s.

    If you want my real attitude to funding from Ottawa, I feel we should walk away from it. This runs counter to the one-cent solution crowd, but only in that I think it’s not Ottawa we should look to. If we want a one-cent sales tax, have Queen’s Park pass the enabling legislation. There is nothing preventing every province from doing this. Including Ottawa in the equation creates an unmanageable three-way relationship that produces lots of bureaucracy, but few results.

    If Ontario wants more money from Ottawa, go after shared cost programs like Health Care where Ottawa shamelessly dumped most of the cost on the provinces.

    By the way, while I am on the subject of Health Care, dare I mention all those greedy doctors, Big Pharma, and the medical industry in general as a plague upon our fiscal situation. I don’t hear anyone calling for arbitrary cuts in compensation in that field, one that is hardly a hotbed of flaming left-wing activism.

    Like

  23. I think everyone seems to be missing the point on a couple of issues here.

    Firstly, every government, regardless of political stripe, gets to be the government because they bashed someone silly to appease someone else. For the Liberals, it’s usually Alberta. For the Conservatives, it’s usually Toronto. Everyone bemoans it, I don’t know of anyone who likes it, but sadly, it works. The point was made by Steve that 38% liking the Conservatives equals 62% who don’t, or something to that effect, but in our wonderful system, that gave Mr. Rae a majority in 1990, and Mr. Chretien a second majority in 1997.

    Secondly, I can’t remember a party that was elected on a pro-Toronto, pro-big city policy. This is due to the fact that I don’t remember a party ever running on one, or at least doing so with great energy. Why? They’d lose. Why? The majority of people who elect governments live in suburbs or smaller towns, who have shunned bigger cities for any number of reasons. What have we heard the past four provincial elections or so? Who can win 905? The party that wins 905 will form government. Essentially now, Toronto is to the Liberals what rural ridings are to the Conservatives. They cancel out. No one needs to fight for Toronto. We agree they should, but no one needs to.

    Everyone who follows transit knows that Mr. Harris created the problem, Mr. McGuinty got elected on vowing to fix it, and hasn’t. I share the frustration of some that while Mr. Harris is vilified, Mr. McGuinty largely gets a free pass. I know, however, that if I was in Kawartha Lakes, for instance, this would be reversed.

    What is most distressing in all of this, however, is that a lot of us around here are showing our political colours, and refuse to give Messrs. Harper, McGuinty, and Miller crap for letting this wonderful city go to hell. To blame them for it getting to this point is silly, but the neglect they’ve all shown is just too disgusting for words.

    Like

  24. The Mcguinty government kept bashing Harris when they were in opposition about downloading to cities but they haven’t done one thing to change it. Why doesn’t MILLER ask for 1 cent of the PST?. The provinces are responsible for cities under the British north America act and our present charter so if anybody who should help this city first it’s MCGUINTY.

    Our federal taxes cover health care, military, intelligence, policing our borders, Immigration, Importing/exporting rules etc… These things cost a lot of money so they are the priorities for the Tories and should have been for our past government who depleted our military to NON-ExISTENCE, while russian and chinese submarines roam freely in our ARCTIC.

    Do you think that a bus or LRT vehicle should be bought first before supplying our soldiers with proper gear, I don’t. I think we should take Adam Vaughn’s expresso machine over to afganistan and give it to the soldiers. They deserve expresso more than Adam VAUGHN. You can all say how war is bad, blah blah blah but remember, over 30 Canadians died at world trade center. That’s one reason we are in afganistan and our NATO commitments. We do not live in a shell, we as Canadians must spread our good will and hospitality all over the world.

    MCGUINTY and MILLER should shit or get off the pot, pardon the pun Steve, but some people forget why we have a federal government and why we send more money to Ottawa then we receive. An F-18, a tank and all that other stuff is quite expensive. We need these things to remain sovereign.

    I never said Harris was good in my earlier post but his intentions was to cut the “fat” from our spending that turned into a fiasco. We need to broaden our minds and solve the problem from within so MCGUINTY should oblige all our cities and supply us with not 1 cents but 2 cents of the PST to all cities and towns and let me tell you, that would be a good start to the road to recovery within this city.

    THE PROVINCE IS OBLIGATED to sustain our cities, otherwise we need to get CITY STATE status for TO and then we can have more flexibility than our city of Toronto act. If we were a city state we wouldn’t be in this mess. The province is holding us back, not the TORIES.

    Steve: I have left this comment intact simply for its flavour, and as I said earlier in this thread, will be closing off further debate here.

    My reason for starting this was to talk about how out of touch the Tories are with the cities and with Toronto in general, not to mention their arrogance of saying “if you don’t vote for us, screw you too”. There is a serious problem in Canada (and also in the USA) where large blocks of the population, and by extension those who “represent” them, with simplistic solutions to every problem.

    Being in Afghanistan has nothing to do with buying buses. The feds happily dumped over half a billion on the York/VCC subway extension, and I’m not sure that would pass your test for spending priorities. That’s a specious argument.

    As for Adam Vaughan’s espresso machine, well, just drop in any day to any cabinet minister’s office and see how much stuff is sitting around to feed and water the poor, overworked souls.

    This thread is now closed.

    Like

Comments are closed.