Why I’m Voting For George

On September 25, 2009, David Miller announced that he would not seek a third term in office leaving many, including me, in a state of shock and mourning for the incomplete work of his Mayoralty.

TTC Chair Adam Giambrone picked up the torch, but his campaign flickered out a few months later thanks to a personal scandal.  At issue was not his love life, but how he handled the revelations.  His apparent treatment of his public partner as an election prop raised serious questions about integrity and trust.  The final blow was his incomplete withdrawal speech where page two, the vital end of the statement, had to be read by his aide Kevin Beaulieu.

Enter Joe Pantalone, Deputy Mayor and 30-year Council veteran, as the man who would carry on the Miller legacy.  More about Joe later.

Miller’s departure opened the race to many hopefuls who wouldn’t run against “his blondness”, but were happy to contest an election against others.  Fairly quickly, the frontrunners emerged.

Sarah Thomson, who now supports George Smitherman, gained early attention because she talked about road tolls, but she never rose above the level of a fringe candidate.  Only her unique position as a young, female would-be mayor gained her a place at an already crowded table.

Rocco Rossi was, for a time, an interesting addition to the mix.  I was introduced to Rossi through a mutual friend, and met with him at his then-new campaign office for an extended chat about transit, and the city in general.  We don’t agree on some policies, notably the relative importance of subway building, but Rocco is a decent man, intelligent and committed to what he is doing.  At debates, he has easily been the most articulate person on the stage, and for a time I at least respected his campaign.

That respect evaporated as Rossi slid further to the right, trying to bite off a chunk of Rob Ford’s support, and the final blow was a proposed highway tunnel from Eglinton to downtown to “complete” the Spadina Expressway.  This is folly on two counts.  The first is the complexity and disruption of such a project and the difficulty of fitting access to the highway into the existing city.  More importantly, the scheme misses the basic fact that the vast majority of people travelling to downtown are already on transit, and there is no place to put more traffic downtown even if it could get there.  People complain about congestion and commuting times, but these are overwhelmingly problems of the suburbs with an overcrowded highway network where there is no transit alternative.

Rossi’s tunnel, and the shift of his campaign into attention-getting mode leaving reason behind, demolished the very foundation, such as it was, of Rossi’s position as a thoughtful, intelligent candidate.  The polls concurred, and Rossi retired from the field.

This left Joe Pantalone, George Smitherman and Rob Ford in the final stretch.

I have known Joe for a long time.  Anyone who has been around City Hall working on advocacy in any role for the past decades could not help but meet and come to like Joe, and he has always been supportive of improving the life of Toronto, and of transit in particular.  Joe had one big, black mark against him, however.  His long-standing support for the Front Street Extension simply did not square with a pro-transit platform, and his view of what was good for his ward could seem at odds with what was good for the greater city.

Transit planning for the developing west waterfront from the railway lands out through Exhibition Place and beyond has been fragmented for years, and transit always took a back seat.  Indeed, the main streetcar access at the CNE was relegated to the north end of the site, between the Horse Palace and the Gardiner Expressway, to make room for the National Trade Centre (now known as the Direct Energy Centre).

Transit to Ontario Place, a major attraction now attempting to find relevance in a competitive entertainment market, has never been good, and travellers often faced long walks across a hostile environment littered with whatever show was in progress in Exhibition Place just to reach the lake.

There has never been a real vision of what transit could do for Exhibition Place, the very organization Pantalone holds up as his pride and joy.

In embracing Transit City, Pantalone showed he would continue along the path Miller started, but “continuing” is not enough in someone who would lead the city.  Transit City has its faults as I and readers here have discussed at great length, and it’s not a perfect plan.  “Leadership” requires the acknowledgment that what has gone before may be good, but that the city can be even better.  In failing to address what transit might become, Pantalone by implication accepts the shortcomings of what it is today.

That said, I would love to vote for Joe because the people who would form his core team do have the vision of what the city can be, do care about Toronto, its transit system and so much more.  But the polls have been clear for weeks that Joe is not going to win, and his standing has dropped as the “anyone but Ford” campaign forces people to think about the future of Toronto.

This leaves me with a choice between Rob Ford and George Smitherman.  As regular readers here know, I come down rather hard on those who make ad hominem attacks in the comment threads.  Discuss issues, briskly and with conviction if you must, but stick to the issues, not the people.  In that context, I will not launch into an attack on Ford’s personal character and behaviour, but must observe that his combative style, his one-man-show, his repetitious sound-bites, “facts” that do not stand up to scrutiny, all these reveal a man profoundly unsuited to the Mayor’s office.

Ford’s approach is to polarize the city and its issues, to appeal to the “what’s in it for me” feeling in voters rather than speaking to “what’s in it for us”.  That “us” includes Rexdale, Malvern, Leaside, Parkdale, downtown and everywhere in between.  It includes the area beyond the 416 whose growth and policies drive and shape many of the problems faced by Toronto itself.

His transit plan is a simplistic joke that will spend every penny available, in theory, from Metrolinx on a small expansion of the subway (SRT replaced by a BD extension, Sheppard completed from STC to Don Mills, and from Yonge to Downsview), but will eliminate the Eglinton line which is a subway in all but name through the heart of the city.  Streetcars will disappear in the name of giving more road space to cars, even though congestion is rampant downtown on many streetcar-free streets.  Throughout the larger City, streetcars are nowhere to be found, but congestion is a fact of life.

Ford’s approach to leadership is to listen to what neighbourhoods want.  Sadly, neighbourhoods will not always agree, and an approach that might work in a community hall in Rexdale does not scale up to an entire city.  Even neighbourhoods may be divided, and listening to only one faction does not guarantee the best outcome, only a pool of potential supporters (and a few enemies) for the next election.

Leadership requires looking at the larger picture and even, at times, taking a stand that is not, at first, supported by a majority.  Make your case, win over support with demonstrable benefits, and lead Toronto to a better future.  That future does not include Rob Ford.

George Smitherman launched his campaign with a roomful of supporters and his first big policy announcement, a transportation plan.  I was not complimentary about that plan whose shortcomings did not fit with the hoopla surrounding its presentation.  Back in June, I wrote:

There are too many vague statements, too much glossing over of major issues, too many examples of bad advice from a policy team that should know better.  Smitherman is a leading candidate for Mayor, and I had hoped to see “Mayoral” quality platform material.  Candidate Smitherman has taken on the most important issue in current political debate, and produced a platform worthy of a junior Councillor with keen, but ill-advised staff.

In time I came to learn that this was largely George’s own plan, and that’s even more troubling because candidates and politicians who present their own plans have big problems accepting the need for change.

As I have talked about the dilemma of a lefty voting for Smitherman with various people, curious arguments emerge.

Some claim that with Ford, what you see is what you get, and that his worst characteristics would be tempered by Council.  He’s an “honest man”.  Bunk.  An honest man would actually engage in a dialogue about the future of our city rather than repeating worn-out nostrums as a canned response to any question.  Derailing a train is easy.  Building a line to the future is much harder.

Some claim that Smitherman would be even worse than Ford, that he can’t be trusted, and even dally with the idea that Ford would be good for the left in that it would force a coalition to throttle his platform at Council.  Sounds good, but this only works if the left can control Council, a dubious proposition given the numbers in the “mushy middle” who will suck up to whoever holds power.

I must return to the question of a vision for the City.  At times, George sounds like a trucker who is still working through his first coffee of the morning.  His “furious” nature is well known, and a reputation for high turnover of staff in his offices at Queen’s Park is legendary.  That’s a recipe for short term effectiveness, but long term loss of continuity and alienation of support.  Being Mayor requires that long view and the embrace of opinions that may not be completely supportive.  It’s fine to be Ringmaster, but if the audience and the actors have all left the tent, the show will not go on.

That’s the “furious” side of Smitherman, one that must be tamed if he is to be a successful Mayor.  But there’s more to George than this.

He talks about Toronto in all its parts.  Downtown and the suburbs are not “us” and “them”, but part of a whole.  Many different communities and interests are part of the city, and each contributes in its way.  A Mayor’s job is to bring those communities together so that the city is better for all of them.

Is George my choice for Mayor?  Well, I must be honest and say that the woman I would rather see on the ticket is Shelley Carroll, the outgoing Budget Chief, but she ruled herself out of the race.  Too many Liberals were already soaking up support from the provincial and federal parties.   Smitherman would do well to give Carroll a prominent role in his administration.  This would preserve a link to the Miller years and a deep knowledge of the City’s financial situation, but through someone who is not seen as a downtown, NDP-based lefty.

We must put the divisiveness of the election campaign behind us to face the much harder problems and goals of Toronto.  We must find how we, together, will make a better city without simply destroying everything in a blind war on “waste” and a vindictive desire to erase the name “Miller” and all it represents.

My hope is that Smitherman will grow into the Mayoralty, that he will seek out good people who care about Toronto to form his inner circle, that he will embrace intelligence, talent and dedication from across the political spectrum on Council.

That’s why I’m voting for George.

104 thoughts on “Why I’m Voting For George

  1. Okay, I give.

    What’s with the remarks against “Overpaid Garbagemen” anyway?

    Yes, the strike of 2009 was a messy one, as well as the strike before that.

    I can agree that Toronto’s garbagemen appear to make a lot of money compared to other people. But I’m wondering from this comment (and previous ones about the Subway Car Contract and the Beaches Contract) if you seem to be in favour of destroying livelihoods to save tax dollars. A friend of mine pointed out that lugging garbage around is no simple feat, requiring handling of a lot of potentially dangerous or heavy materials. And before you go on the attack, I’m not a socialist, but you do seem to take a hard line on things. Perhaps you should go into politics too.

    Steve: Just for clarity, the remark about garbagemen is Stephen Cheung’s, not mine.


  2. James Bow

    “A year from now, when the first year of this council is almost complete, would you be willing to revisit your predictions here and assess whether or not your support for Rob Ford was a wise thing, or something that was affected by some very rose-coloured glasses?”

    In short? Yes. But let’s be clear here, we support different things here and have different ideas on how the new city council should work. As we are talking about the future of public transit, then that’s what we should concentrate on. Even in this area too, we have different viewpoints on how the public transit file should be handled. Take Transit City, for instance. I believe that we should concentrate on the Eglinton, Jane, and Don Mills lines first. I don’t want Sheppard East to be built until the Subway is at least extended to Victoria Park (preliminary plans have it going to Consumers Road, why not Victoria Park, which is a block away?)

    But we both agree that the streetcar network should remain untouched. And should Ford go through with his promise to do so (which he won’t based on an article in the Toronto Star), not only will I eat my humble pie, I will also attempt to chuck it at Ford’s face. And hope it sticks.

    RE: Eric’s inquiry about Garbagemen

    I have zero respect for Garbagemen after they received a massive pay increase in the 2002 strike. I believe I have mentioned over and over how the average garbagemen, who has no education whatsover, gets paid as much as one who works in IT, who had to pay through the nose for an education so he could have a career, like myself. Some in society are still holding on to beliefs that if one gets a job he is secure for life. Those days are long gone, and in order to survive in today’s world, you need to constantly update your ideas and skills. Garbagemen do not, and they continually rack up pay increases that only I can dream of. I have not had a pay increase in the last 2 years, and frankly neither of my friends. Sure you could say that I could look for a new job, but everyone knows that the job market as of late has been rather crappy. And yet the Garbagemen continue to get continuous increases for work that anyone could potentially do without any skill whatsover.

    As such, I look forward to the day that all outside workers are contracted out. When this does happen, they will not receive any sympathy for me. Rather then complain about their livelihoods, they should do something about it, go back to school or something, and learn valuable skills that would be useful in *gasp* creating a career. Or they can work for a private firm for less money. Those guys need to get real or get out. Today’s society puts an emphasis on skills and not on worker commitment; it is increasingly rare to see someone stay in a position for more than 5-7 years.

    Steve: One historical point worth noting: that huge increase in 2002 was granted by Mel Lastman who basically caved to the unions to buy labour peace. This was not Miller’s doing, a point often omitted by his critics. Miller became Mayor at the end of 2003.


  3. I’m glad to hear Ford is uttering some “revisionist BS” about streetcars. He’s moderated his tone considerably since the election. That’s a good thing. I heard him on the radio today suggest that he wouldn’t cancel the big streetcar purchase or Transit City if the penalties for doing so would be prohibitive. He basically said that his choices will be partially dictated by the Province and the stipulations they attach to any money.

    And I’m also heartened to hear that his brother, who won his old council seat, sounds quite intelligent and reasonable. By many accounts, he is the brains behind the outfit.

    So I’m quite positive about the future for the city. Transit is admittedly more of a question mark and much will depend on who he appoints to chair the TTC.

    I’m no Ford supporter, but like Stephen Cheung suggests, I think we needed to overhaul city hall from top to bottom. There are WAY too many city employees. Ford’s attrition plan was probably his smartest proposal.

    Anyway, I wish Ford the best of luck.


  4. It’s hard to say whether strategic voting would have made much difference, given the overwhelming number of votes Ford received, though it might have been closer. In the end after much mulling I voted for “Pants”.

    I did hear the voter turnout was much higher than in the past – and idea what the actual percentage was? And was the higher turnout of those who intended to vote for Ford? In any case, given that he received 47% of the vote, he will definitely feel he has a strong mandate, though I can’t help but wonder if most of that 47% is from the inner suburbs (Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough) with a smattering from the “old city”. It would certainly be interesting to see, ward by ward, where Ford drew his support. I’m guessing my ward (35) strongly supported him – they overwhelming reject the incumbent (Heaps) in favour of his previous rival (Berardinetti) whose platform strongly mirrored Ford’s stance on taxes and interesting on transit and cycling (even going so far as to promise removal of the Birchmount and Pharmacy bike lanes). I fear both transit and cycling will suffer under Ford, but he might prove me wrong.


    Steve: The turnout was 52.6% according to the City’s website.


  5. The Star is claiming that Karen Stinz might be a top contender for TTC Chair. Any idea on how’s she’s fared on transit issues in the past, and whether she’d be a capable chair?

    Steve: I had read that before. Hard to say how current the info is, but if true, it is disappointing. Stintz has trotted out some basic untruths about LRT vs subways in her campaign, notably that subways don’t have to be rebuilt every 30 years. Tell that to all the crews who have replaced track, to the folks at Bombardier who are replacing subway cars acquired from 25 to 35 years ago, to the crew repairing the North Yonge tunnel opened in 1972, to the escalator mechanics replacing escalators in stations. Streetcar track construction these days is intensive as we have been replacing, or in some cases creating, the roadbed right down to the foundation. Future repairs won’t require as extensive work because, as with subway tunnels, we have built the foundations to last.


  6. “Steve: One historical point worth noting: that huge increase in 2002 was granted by Mel Lastman who basically caved to the unions to buy labour peace. This was not Miller’s doing, a point often omitted by his critics. Miller became Mayor at the end of 2003.”

    Granted. But it should be pointed out that these critics believe Miller did nothing to rein in the contracts, nor did he heed calls to contract these workers out. Of course it is indeed a right-wing opinion, but it works as ammunition against him. Combine this with the 2009 strike which again, the union got what it wanted, and you have howls for Miller’s head on a platter.

    As for Karen Stintz for TTC chair, she appears to have a lot of inexperience with this file and thus I believe she is unsuited for the job. We need someone who can be in the front lines to understand how the TTC works. Ms Stintz, from what I was told, drives.

    I nominate Steve Munro!!!!

    That aside, Rob Ford is basically inviting everyone who has an issue with his platform to talk to him. That goes with my comments earlier that Rob Ford listens to people and he works by consensus. Nothing is lost, and again, the sky is not falling down. I certainly hope that Steve Munro can be a thorn on Ford’s side as he argues the case for better transit. Ford will listen to his critics. And if he does, he may very well be the best mayor that Toronto ever had.

    Steve: Rob Ford has never returned my emails. I suspect he only gets back to people he wants to talk to.


  7. The subject of contracting out garbage collection has come out in this blog.

    The Star recently stated that Ford could contract out as soon as the union contract expires.

    I’m skeptical it would be so simple. The garbage collectors are part of the outside workers’ union which includes many other workers including water works I believe. Would the other workers strike in support of their brothers on the garbage trucks? Could outside contractors find enough new workers if all the union workers stay on strike? Are there labour laws to restrict this practice? Would the city need to pay severance?

    Would someone have an opinion?

    Steve: It’s not quite as simple as it sounds. Just because the union contract expires does not mean that the city can outsource the next day. This is not the same as if they had a contract with company “A” that ran out and they switched to company “B”. The workers are employees of the city and have rights under labour laws to continued jobs. Severence, definitely, but it’s more complex because the garbage workers are part of a larger employee group. There is a process for layoffs based on seniority. You cannot just cherry pick the ones you want to get rid of.


  8. I forgot to mention, but does anyone find it disturbing that Mike Harris was at Ford’s victory party?

    Wonder where Ford is getting his ideas from.


  9. “Steve: Rob Ford has never returned my emails. I suspect he only gets back to people he wants to talk to.”

    For the record Adam Giambrone never returned mine and I felt the same way about it…

    Steve: But Adam never bragged about it in his campaign. Indeed, community relations was a weak point in his reputation on Council, and it hurt his would-be successor, Kevin Beaulieu.


  10. It is a myth to say the union got what it wanted in the 1999 strike. In the end the sick bank was “eliminated” in exactly the same way that this was accomplished in other municipalities including Mississauga and Etobicoke. John Lorinc, writing in the Globe (when it used to be a real newspaper) revealed that the final settlement was exactly the same as what the City Council voted for prior to the strike. Mr. Lorinc revealed that a right wing civil servant tried to get more and an intransigent union dug in its heels. When Mr. Miller eventually intervened it was to move towards the settlement that Council voted for. Politicians are not supposed to interfere with staff in the nuts and bolts (see David Gunn) but eventually the situation was just so silly that that Mr. Miller broke the rules and intervened.

    Hysterical right wingers proclaimed that the union “won”. Right wingers never let the facts get in the way of a good rant against favourite targets. Unfortunately the public fell for the hollow rhetoric and “change” is upon us.


  11. Rob Ford has no plans to rip up streetcars, his brother and campaign manager said Tuesday, an indication the mayor-elect may be softening on some of his most divisive campaign pledges.

    “That was (a rumour from) our competition,” said Doug Ford. “Yes, we want to look at more effective ways of running transit, but by no means are we going to get a crane and start yanking up streetcars and throwing them in the lake.”

    Amazing how far the left will go to discredit Rob Ford. Not only have they apparently hacked his campaign site to add the statement about removing streetcars, but on CBC News : Toronto – October 27, 2010 in the very first item they played what must be a forged clip, since it shows Rob Ford saying : “Eliminate ’em all within ten years. Get rid of all the streetcars; we don’t need ’em.”

    Amazing work. The clip looks so realistic I could easily believe it was real.

    Steve: What particularly annoys me is that streetcar policy was not one of the things Ford talked about incessantly in the campaign — cutting our taxes and eliminating waste were the two big talking points. Oh yes, and retirement parties and bunny suits. I do not think that if you asked the average Ford supporter if they voted for him because of the streetcar issue they would agree, but probably would support whatever Rob wants to do because he’s our guy.

    There’s a limit to how far one can claim a “mandate”. Oddly enough, Miller ran on a platform of suburban transit expansion that became Transit City. At least he had the courtesy to ask for Council support (which was unanimous).


  12. Michael the reason right wingers believe that the union won is clearly articulated with facts in this article by Howard Levitt a Labour Relations attorney. The city elected not to use all of the legal tools available (injunctions and replacement workers) and in doing so clearly favoured the unions over the broader public.


  13. There is a difference between capitulating to the union and not taking the extreme right wing position that the union must be “crushed”. A withdrawal of services is legal in Ontario and very few companies try and carry on with replacement workers – often known as scabs. Very few companies try and crush their unions. Most, like our Mayor, try to negotiate in good faith to reach a resolution acceptable to both parties.

    There is a pretty strong correlation between the bitterness of any strike; the level of malodorous tactics implemented by either side, and the effectiveness of labour peace and productivity after the strike is settled. Mr. Lastman did not hire scabs when he was Mayor.

    I don’t know who Howard Levitt is, but I was not all surprised to see his criticisms were featured in the National Post. The Star has a well deserved reputation for presenting the news with a point of view that some see as liberal and others see as extreme left wing. In any case, the Star’s distortion pales in comparison to The National Post which, in a news distortion contest, would leave The Star in its dust.

    Canada Post tried vainly to smash CUPW for many, many years and never succeeded. What Canada Post did effectively do was waste millions of dollars on salaries to ineffective replacement workers who were not able to effectively distribute any mail. Only when the strike was settled, did Canadians receive their mail services again, and then in a poisonous management/labour environment.


  14. I live in the United States, but have visited Toronto on many occasions. I have always been and continue to be impressed by your fine city’s superior transit system (I’m distressed by but not overly surprised at reading here of arrogant, rude and dismissive behaviour on the part of TTC staff toward their riding public – destructive behaviour which must be addressed and remedied). I rate Toronto’s citizenry and planners highly for having preserved and maintained their streetcar system when just about everyone else in North America was ditching theirs.

    I am therefore terribly disheartened to think that, now, at this late date, when Toronto’s foresightedness years ago in retaining its streetcar network is today so widely regarded as environmentally-friendly and socially responsible, that Toronto’s citizens themselves may now very well be the ones who voted to destroy it – in a fit of justifiable anger over other legitimate concerns, and who understandably overwhelmingly voted for Rob Ford to be their next mayor.

    When Mayor-elect Ford visits Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to persuade him to redirect Transit City Funding to building new subways instead, I fear it will be McGuinty who goes down in history as the one who drove the final nail into the coffin of Transit City – by proving unable to resist your new mayor’s entreaties in the face of his own growing unpopularity and upcoming re-election. If McGuinty caves to Ford’s request re: Transit City funding, is that the end of the matter, or are there any avenues of recourse at the Federal or Provincial level for those who wish to keep Transit City’s funding and contracts in place?

    I fervently pray that your provincial Premier, Dalton McGuinty, has the character, personal integrity and courage to stand his ground before Mayor-elect Ford and firmly state that the hard-earned and -won effort to plan for and implement Transit City WILL be carried out as agreed.

    Steve: If McGuinty caves, he might as well tear up any transit plans. If McGuinty loses the provincial election in fall 2011, those plans will be doomed anyhow.


  15. What is worst about the present situation regarding the future of public transit in the Toronto region – is that the best-laid plans cannot be implemented because they can be undone at a whim – EVEN AFTER THEY’VE BEEN APPROVED AND FUNDED, CONTRACTS LET AND CONSTRUCTION BEGUN! – as we are so likely to see happen with regard to Transit City. If Transit City goes down, what forward-thinking citizen or planner in their right mind is going to have the slightest desire to work hard for ANY progressive action?

    Right now I feel very, very sorry for those persons who put in so many countless hours and invested such large sums planning for Transit City (which, if well implemented, could become one of North America’s leading showcases for how to reshape our communities in response to an oil-depleted and increasingly polluted world). They must be feeling an awful sense of futility and let-down as they view the dismal prospects confronting their efforts.

    There is something terribly, terribly wrong with this picture, and until that wrong is identified and corrected, I fear that for the foreseeable future no one in their right mind is going to be willing to work to advance progressive (and admittedly costly) public works projects along the lines of Transit City.


  16. Transit City (which, if well implemented, could become one of North America’s leading showcases for how to reshape our communities in response to an oil-depleted and increasingly polluted world).

    It wouldn’t have been well-implemented though, because Miller and Giambrone didn’t listen to the people in the communities their ideology was supposed to provide benefit to. Many problems were identified, and many people spoke up about them (I encourage people to read the LURA reports), but the problems identified by the locals were never addressed, brushed off by people who don’t live close to, never mind along, these proposed lines.

    Steve: Yes, the TTC just bulled ahead with its plans. At public meetings we were told things could be fixed “later”, but “later” usually meant “get lost”. Transit City can be better than the original version, if only someone has the will to (a) champion the LRT cause and (b) read the riot act to the design staff.


  17. Thank you, Karl and Steve, for enlightening me, your outlander from South of the Border.

    I am stupefied to learn from you how arrogantly and self-centeredly your so-called “public” officials and agencies – yea, even your beloved TTC – have acted by trampling on and cavalierly dismissing the concerns voiced by the very people they and their public works are supposed to benefit.

    What is the matter with your leaders and planners? Have they not a clue how self-destructive and self-defeating they are by alienating instead of listening to and taking seriously the concerns expressed by the very people they are paid to serve? No wonder so many voters flocked to Rob Ford’s camp!

    The more I learn from afar about this whole sorry affair, the more depressed and discouraged I become. It appears that politics are just about as bad in Canada as here in the United States where, as I write on this election night, my fellow Americans are voting in droves to bid farewell to any progressive legislation our president wants to enact, and undo what little (Healthcare reform and the Stimulus Recovery Act, to name two) Barack Obama has thus-far managed to get through the United States Congress and sign into law. We are witnessing a tsunami-like inrush of conservative, “do-nothing”, “say-‘NO’-to-everything” Republicans and Tea Partiers.

    We, the United States and Canada, appear to be on the brink of losing our status of – and stature as – great nations. The signs of terminal decline are everywhere.

    I want to add one very positive comment, which is for you, Steve Munro – and that is to express my great appreciation for your hosting and leading this most interesting and informative transit-related-but-not-limited-to discussion group. The people whose comments I have been reading on your pages impress me equally for being every bit as thoughtful, informed and intelligent as you are – together, you and your readers comprise a great and very lively discussion group. I will continue to follow with considerable interest (and probably not a little disgust!) the developments as you and your readers/contributors chronicle them.


  18. “There is a difference between capitulating to the union and not taking the extreme right wing position that the union must be “crushed”. A withdrawal of services is legal in Ontario and very few companies try and carry on with replacement workers – often known as scabs. Very few companies try and crush their unions. Most, like our Mayor, try to negotiate in good faith to reach a resolution acceptable to both parties.”

    One person’s good faith is another person’s cop out. My opinion of course, and rather typical of someone who has complete contempt for the union mentality. As of now, the ATU 113 has not reimbursed me for the costs arising from the car accident I was involved in (not my fault, taxi driver ran a red) after trying to reach my then-fiance who got stranded downtown due to the sudden TTC strike.

    I must laugh at Bob Kinnear’s comments about transit strikes and how the TTC only went on strike on average a half-day a year, in response to comments about removing the TTC’s right to strike. I also bristle at comments that the essential services designation only applies to life-or-death situations and should not apply to the TTC. Here’s some food for thought: how would a nurse be able to participate in a life-or-death situation at a hospital when the TTC, the only method of transportation available to her, is on strike? Sure there is the issue that binding arbitration usually ends up in the Union’s favour, and I do believe that we need to restructure the arbitration process as to not give the farm to the Union. The time for union dominance in city politics must come to an end.

    Finally, some bit of good news, I went on the TTC again with my pregnant wife last weekend (I know, I swore to never take the TTC again after a long string of bad experiences), and quelle surprise, the staff were actually NICE for once. One operator actually strongarmed a beligerent teenager into giving up a seat for my wife to sit on. Another actually asked me for a destination we were looking for. Makes me wonder if Rob Ford’s election has scared them straight for once. Always works when you have a no-nonsense boss breathing down your shoulder. This is how it should be and I hope it continues.


  19. Karl Junkin said:
    “It wouldn’t have been well-implemented though, because Miller and Giambrone didn’t listen to the people in the communities their ideology was supposed to provide benefit to. Many problems were identified, and many people spoke up about them (I encourage people to read the LURA reports), but the problems identified by the locals were never addressed, brushed off by people who don’t live close to, never mind along, these proposed lines.”

    Now I know this is thinking outside the box and maybe dreaming in technicolor but
    maybe we can get Ford to fix this. I know there would be a lot of steps to get to that point but if he could be convinced not to abandon Transit City maybe his “get tough” energy and determination to fix what’s wrong and give the people what they want could be brought to bear on at least some of these problems.

    Maybe if we don’t fight him, we can get him to do some good.


  20. Stephen Cheung said: “Makes me wonder if Rob Ford’s election has scared them straight for once. ”

    Interesting theory. How many other readers have noticed a change in behaviour in TTC employees since the election?

    Not me.


  21. A couple of weeks before the election, I got on the 501 and the driver warmly greeted me and complimented me on my smile. I suppose that was because he was afraid of what would happen to him if Ford won. And the drivers who’ve been pleasant and polite to me in the past ten years, well, they were probably aware that Ford was in council and they’d better watch out.

    Actually, come to think of it, I’m younger than Rob Ford, so quite possibly all the pleasant interactions I’ve had with TTC operators in the past 25+ years have been the result of those operators knowing that Rob Ford was out there, just getting ready to run for office. I hate to think what Toronto was like in the 1960s, before Mr. Ford arrived to straighten us out.


  22. “In embracing Transit City, Pantalone showed he would continue along the path Miller started, but “continuing” is not enough in someone who would lead the city. Transit City has its faults as I and readers here have discussed at great length, and it’s not a perfect plan. “Leadership” requires the acknowledgment that what has gone before may be good, but that the city can be even better. In failing to address what transit might become, Pantalone by implication accepts the shortcomings of what it is today.”

    I’m skeptical that a mayoral candidate would be aware of the flaws you and other posters on your blog talk about. For example, would a mayoral candidate be aware, let alone willing to discuss the following issues:

    -The downstream left-turn scheme proposed for numerous locations along Eglinton?
    -Whether the final 3 km of the south end of the Don Mills LRT should be underground or on surface?
    -The idea of Centre-poles in general versus other wiring systems?
    -The proposal for a surface alignment to force the destruction of several houses between Weston and Jane?

    All of these issues are either very technical or too local-oriented for a politician to be discussing with the entire city during an election. I would expect a candidate to be talking to the affected neighbourhoods individually, however.

    In retrospect, Pantalone was endorsing the idea of surface transit in Toronto, rather than endorsing all of the proposed but flawed design details.

    Steve: All four of those examples are symptomatic of a bigger problem — the “we know best” attitude of planners whose recommendations are never challenged by the pols even though the result is an antagonistic relationship between the TTC and affected neighbourhoods. In some cases (lower Don Mills being a good example), the TTC persisted with trying to find a way to jam a right-of-way into 4-lane local streets when this was clearly impossible without grievous effects on the streets, businesses and homes involved. We didn’t even get to discuss alternatives and cost-benefits of various options. Meanwhile, the TTC also continues to treat the DRL as something we will never ever build, and always downplays it in favour of their many schemes for capacity increases on Yonge. This kind of skewed planning and public “consultation” is precisely the sort of thing politicians need to grab hold of. Sadly, the Ford crew is more likely to use these issues as a general way to bash LRT than to address the way its design has been foisted on Toronto by our “experts”.


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