Today, Canada’s so-called National Newspaper weighed in against Mayor David Miller with an editorial short enough on fact it might be a policy paper for would-be mayoral candidates in 2010.
The Globe doesn’t like our Mayor, who has not only his Toronto role but the distinguished position of leading the C40 group of major cities internationally. Miller uses his international standing as a stage to critique Ottawa, but the Globe, with text that might have been cribbed from a Harper press release, paints Miller as at best unhelpful. Miller calls himself “an embarrassed Canadian”, and he’s not alone. International criticism of Canadian policy comes from many quarters, and the opposition is not co-ordinated at the corner of Queen and Bay.
Quoth the Globe:
While Toronto gets some things right, it is not the environmental angel Mr. Miller would like the world to believe. The city has ambitions for public transit, but fare hikes are more reliable than the announcements of new routes. The city’s energy retrofitting programs are worthy, but the tens of millions of dollars spent to date will not make a sustained, wide-ranging impact in conservation. There are vaunted efforts to expand renewable energy, but a single wind turbine twirls, lonely, near Lake Ontario.
In case the Globe’s editors, sitting down by the lake and an expressway, have not noticed, the single most ambitious transit project, Transit City, is a Toronto initiative, as are many other less glamourous but still important improvements to the transit system in the wake of Harris-era cutbacks. Three Transit City routes are funded, as is the conversion of the SRT to LRT and its extension as part of an overall Transit City Network. Transit service, though it has problems, has been improved both in capacity and in hours. There are lots of announcements, but possibly the Globe is too busy with puff pieces about the oil sands to bother reading them.
Queen’s Park has helped on the capital side with almost complete funding for the Transit City projects. Where they fall short is on the operating side of the budget where a consistent, guaranteed revenue stream is still not available to the TTC. The city itself has a chronic deficit inherited from years of Lastman tax freezes when modest increases would have kept the city in good shape. Queen’s Park refuses to take on many costs downloaded in the Harris era, but also refuses to give Toronto the most important tool it could have, a chunk of the sales tax revenue stream.
Ottawa has funded part of the Spadina subway extension and the Sheppard East LRT project, and has money in various smaller projects. Almost all of the federal money is a one-time grant, not a guaranteed revenue stream.
Yes, the TTC has just passed a fare hike, the first in two years, and one that is justified to pay for ongoing increases in the cost and amount of transit service. Recent complaints stem more from the size of the jump (a product of a two-year wait), and regular annual increases would likely have been more palatable. The Globe itself raises prices from time to time, and we are stuck with paying for it (at least if we want the hard copy). Try picketing at 444 Front West and see how much good it does you.
That single wind turbine down by the lake is lonely. It never was intended to be the final word, but simply a demonstration project. As the Globe should well know, tests are now underway to determine the wind characteristics off Scarborough Bluffs. Moreover, generation is primarily a provincial responsibility through Hydro. The city can and does encourage whatever changes are possible to reduce demand and to provide alternate energy sources where this is practical.
With spectacularly warped logic, the Globe argues:
Canadian cities often coast on the environmental harms being caused elsewhere. For instance, Toronto’s financial-services sector depends on oil, gas and mining concerns. Bay Street, and the larger Toronto economy, benefit from carbon emissions generated far away. Mr. Miller touts a 20-year record of greenhouse-gas emission reduction; an all-in calculation might yield a different result.
This implies an all-in view not just of energy usage but of economic prosperity. We all benefit from the oil sands, and everyone needs to accept their share of the blame for Alberta’s carbon footprint. That neat transfer of responsibility from the oil industry to Bay Street and the Mayor’s Office is a staggering leap especially considering that any attempt “the east” makes to critique Big Oil’s excesses, the more we are villified for interfering in “the west’s” manifest destiny. What the Globe neglects is the small fortune lavished on Big Oil by government subsidies and fast writedowns without which the oil sands may never have been developed. How much money have I invested in dirty oil through the tax system? How much will future Albertans pay to clean up the mess it is creating?
Finally, the Globe dismisses the Mayor with:
A federal government that already has its back up on the international stage will not buckle from the chirpings of a lame-duck mayor of a city where it has no parliamentary seats; if anything, its stance will harden.
If anyone at the Globe thinks that the election of Tories to federal seats in Toronto would change the attitude of the federal caucus, they are dreaming. Dismiss the Mayor as a lame-duck, they may, but the Globe cannot spin international opinion as if it’s all David Miller’s doing. Miller’s “antics”, as the Globe describes them, show us as a city, finally, telling Ottawa to pull its weight in the world, to give us something we can be proud of, a lasting contribution to our future, something more than a few weeks of bread and circuses.