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.