Who Will Reunite Toronto?

Mayor Rob Ford’s term began with a blowhard’s populist address at the inaugural City Council meeting.  An invited guest, Don Cherry, played to his sports jock patron with references to “left-wing pinkos” and “kooks”.  Clearly from Day 1 bellicose ignorance was to be the hallmark of the Ford administration.

Many of us thought, oh well, it’s just Rob Ford being Rob, although his brother Councillor Doug Ford quickly emerged as even more hot-headed, badly-informed fool.  If only he were just one more Councillor, out in the cold as Rob once was, it wouldn’t matter.  Still, there was hope that Council as a whole would prevail.

That was too much to ask.

The Ford style is to embrace your friends and destroy your enemies, preferably with open contempt.  It is not enough to win, but you must leave your opponents face down in the mud, demoralized, with the sure knowledge that the same or worse will follow in any rematch.

The “pinko kooks” found themselves outside the doors of City Hall, but so did many others, any who dared to disagree with the political aims of the Ford Brothers and their supporters.

Many Councillors must share blame for this.  Moderates who might be expected to take a stance mediating between the factions gave the new Mayor the benefit of the doubt.  Some eventually tired of his follies and embraced a truly independent moderate stance, while others sought favour at court and threw in their lots with the administration.  The vitriol of the Fords began to infect the language of many others who felt emboldened.  Insulting someone is easy when you’ve got two big brothers standing behind you.

To many, the words “pinko kooks” meant “downtown”, the “latte sipping elites” whose influence under former Mayor David Miller would not just be destroyed, but vilified at any opportunity.  Miller enjoyed broad support until the garbage shutdown provided the issue to turn the city against him and all of his policies.  He was portrayed as a downtowner, an enemy of right-thinking people all through “Ford Nation”.  The politics are far more complicated than that, but sound bites rule elections.

Three years in, after an on-again, off-again, on-again flirtation among transit technologies, we come to the Scarborough Subway debate that goes back to Ford’s campaign promise to build subways, not LRT.  True to his word, he killed Transit City on the day he took office, even though he had no authority to do so, and Council meekly stood aside.

Ford’s influence waned for a time, and a faction led by Councillor Karen Stintz engineered a coup to wrest the transit file back to Council’s control re-affirming support for the LRT network.  A year later, the same Councillors claimed that subways were the answer, and one could be built in Scarborough for only a small amount more than the LRT.  Some of that claim was creative accounting, but it set the stage for what would follow.

The recent by-election in Scarborough saw the subway issue turned into blatant pandering, a litmus test of how dedicated a candidate or party might be to Scarborough’s sense of being downtrodden, ignored, short-changed in the municipal parternership.  Scarborough’s mortal enemy, voters were told, lies downtown with those folks who already have their subways.  They want to foist second-class rattle-trap streetcars on the burbs, just like the Scarborough RT, the great-grand-daddy of rattle-traps, was so many years ago.

That’s hogwash, but it shaped the election.  By implication, someone who was pro-subway would be pro lots more to make Scarborough great.

Now we are back to a subway plan with the endorsement of Council by a 24-20 vote.  I could pick a few Councillors whose support might have helped keep the LRT plans alive, but it would have been a close vote either way.  Whoever lost, they would claim that “but for a few” their scheme would have prevailed.  Refighting that vote, if it happens at all, is a battle for another day under a new administration.

Possibly there will be less favourable projections of the subway’s cost that forces a rethink of this project and others in the transit network.  I am not counting on that outcome, and indeed, any decision to shift away from a subway and back to LRT must be based on more than the swing of a few votes on Council.  This cannot be a battle where two armies spend years fighting over a few hundred yards with the front lines never really moving.

The real tragedy in the subway debate was the outright hatred spewed by some members of Council for “downtown”, a block seen as working to undermine the suburban dreams of a Scarborough that would rise to its true place in the GTA.  If a Councillor wants to pitch a subway as an “investment in the future”, that at least is a positive outlook whether it fits with the likely outcome or not.

There is a good argument that “the future” won’t arrive if we do not prepare the ground with municipal investment.  After all, isn’t that what we are doing on the waterfront, that most “downtown” of projects.  There, ironically, all we want is an LRT line but nobody will front the money, less than a fifth the cost of the Scarborough Subway, to build it.

Land use planning is a tricky business.  Sometimes it is a function of who owns property and where, who stands to benefit from a swampland-into-goldmine transformation that generous zoning and heavy public infrastructure investments can bring.  Sometimes it is a statement of civic pride, the idea that former suburbs that were farmland in living memory can become centres in their own right.  They have been waiting a long time.

We need only look to North York Centre, Etobicoke’s Six Points or to Scarborough Town Centre where development, if any, is far less than original hopes.  Meanwhile, “downtown” thrives not because of an evil plot, but because that’s where developers found a market.  Indeed, much of the thriving was under conservative pro-development regimes.  The suburban centres, once the focus of regional planning, may come into their own, but not necessarily in the form expected — symbiotic office and residential clusters with local rather than regional travel demand.

I sat in Council Chamber listening to the debate, and as a “downtowner” heard myself and hundreds of thousands of my fellow citizens derided for being fat and happy and feeding off the contributions of suburban taxpayers who weren’t getting their fair share of the spoils.  The debate included disinformation and outright lies, but the worst was that these were directed at “downtown” as a class, not at advocates of a specific position on the issues.

There were moments when I could happily have sold Scarborough to Durham just to get rid of their politicians, but that would only perpetuate the rift.  There are good people in Scarborough both as voters and as politicians, but on this issue the argument turned very nasty indeed.  Was it really necessary to resort to such tactics?  To invent a polarized city with downtowners hating suburbanites?  That’s not what Toronto is really about, but will this be the 2014 election campaign theme?

Is tearing apart the city for real or invented inequities to be the badge of every politician?  Are a few subway lines the issue which should pit neighbourhoods against each other?  Whatever happened to social issues and services, severe problems all over Toronto, not just in Scarborough or Rexdale or Downsview or downtown?  Will the politicians so eager to promise subways in the future do anything about the quality of bus service today?

The Ford brothers are all about divisions, about heavy-handed, take-no-prisoners politics where winning is all that matters and whatever happens along the way, happens.  I don’t want my city to be collateral damage in the Ford wars.

Where is the will to talk about a united vision of anything more than tax breaks that favour well-off landowners far more than poorer tenants?  Where is the will to unite Toronto in a common purpose beyond hating those who live south of St. Clair?

I want leaders who can win my support with strong, positive arguments, not thugs and demagogues.

I want politicians who can lead all of the city, not just the cherry-picked wards where an isolationist, me-first attitude can lead to election victory.

Where are they?

68 thoughts on “Who Will Reunite Toronto?

  1. Agreed. I’m tired of this rhetoric and screaming for subways and screw downtown.

    Uh. What about the rest of the city? It breaks my heart to see this crap get spewed all over like the bile it is.

    If none of the potential candidates start talking about uniting the city next election then we truly are doomed and will never become world class.


  2. To be completely frank, I don’t think unity will ever return. It’s not just Ford that has caused this strife. From the early days of the gay marriage debate and even before then, a rift has been growing between the old city and the suburbs.

    There are severe education and culture divides between the old city and the rest of the metro area. These values that you place forward: rational, fact-based and number-based decision-making are not acceptable to many in the suburbs because to them, none of this thinking has provided any tangible outcomes. To many, the ideas of sound planning, community-building, etc. are complicated ways to say “waste of money” – they want to know what will make toilet paper cheaper at Wal-Mart and what they can do to drive to these stores and purchase sale items more quickly. Many of these individuals are in the immigrant and racialised populations that progressives embrace, but we’ll never admit to that in a constructive way.

    In addition, politicians and media institutions have enacted democracy in all the wrong ways. We can barely get people out to vote, but you can get everyone to put in their needless 2c on transit planning. You cannot get individuals to together to find solutions for our infra challenges, but you can get them out to scream about proposed solutions. There is a strong Americanisation of the culture and with that comes the slogans of no taxation without representation, freedom of speech, liberty and all those euphemisms for being loud and uninformed.

    I don’t see it ever changing, I only see it getting more severe.

    Steve: I prefer to see the glass as half-full. There is a lot of low-level neighbourhood organizing in the 416 suburbs, and eventually this is going to evolve into political demands to be taken really seriously on issues such as housing, policing, community services and transit. I hope to live long enough to see the classic “old suburban pols” replaced.


  3. I remember the good ol’ days when it was the 416 vs the 905. Ironically, as a child of the 90s, it seemed that “Metro Toronto” was more unified as a city than the amalgamated City of Toronto is under Ford.


  4. The “Hate the downtown elites” mantra is just a variation on Mike Harris’s 416 vs 905 war. I think we can safely presume that the provincial Tories and maybe the Feds were involved in the last municipal election with Tim Hudak [“Son” of Mike Harris] providing much of the help. They will try again.

    We Torontonians [and I’m a suburbanite] have any number of reasons for wanting to get rid of the Ford brothers but surely those reasons must include fighting the attempts by the Hudak Conservatives to recapture Toronto and drag us back to the Harris Years. A defeat for Ford would be a major defeat for Hudak.


  5. One of my fondest memories is of a family (mom, dad, and a girl perhaps 6 years old) cycling in the early evening on the new Jarvis bike lane. I live on Jarvis and ride a bike year ’round. Nowadays, I just feel angry when I see cars racing along it, some of whom deliberately drive close to the shoulder preventing me from cycling in the little room there is. That family is long gone. So are most cyclists on Jarvis. All to save 2 minutes of driving time for some selfish louts who don’t even live in the neighbourhood.

    We’re told it’s an artery, not a city street. You see some cyclists riding the sidewalk, putting pedestrians at risk. The Jarvis bike lanes to me are a microcosm of an adminstration that doesn’t care. It’s mean. The Sherbourne bike lanes are a joke: overcrowded and unenforced. Every time I ride on them, there’s a motor vehicle parked somewhere. 12 one memorable Saturday at noon between King Street Street and Shuter – like one big parking lot. Plans for bike lanes on Bloor Street, where they would be really useful, are stonewalled. It’s the antithesis of my belief that a city should be for everyone.


  6. This proves the amalgamation is a failure. Plain and simple. We were better off when we had a city and several boroughs with Metro handling the big stuff. I live in original Etobicoke and back then you could phone and get things done ASAP. Now, you can’t even get a reply let alone get any results.


  7. If fact based plans and reality based planning are off the table, and if our elected leaders suddenly eject both in exchange for suburban votes, I highly doubt city hall is worth the fancy new chairs they sit on.

    We had a brilliant transit plan ready to go and the bellicose, ignorant, opportunistic and (I’m sorry to say) downright stupid allowed it to be torn away from the citizens of this city. The organization that was supposed to lend some semblance of control and sanity, Metrolinx, has proven itself it be an utterly useless waste of time and money. What is the point of its existence, currently?

    I moved here from Ottawa in 99 and frankly, I’ve seen little change in Toronto except for the dreadful repetition of unimaginative glass box condo towers and a vast influx of people attempting to use crumbling, overcrowded and neglected transit infrastructure and blighted waterfront.

    We can’t even call it spunky grunginess like NYC experienced in the late 70s/early 80s. People have almost even given up being angry and engaged with the political process in this city. All I see is eye rolls, shrugs, and sighs. Toronto is drowning in a deep viscous pit of MALAISE. It’s almost ironic that the rest of the country constantly spits on Toronto, but the people who are hardest on Toronto are Torontonians. They don’t expect anything anymore other than to watch ideas appear, get stripped down, changed 10 times, killed, brought back to life, have the budget torn away, die again… over and over. There’s no forward momentum on anything. People are burnt out on mediocrity and inability for the city to become something. I know I am.


  8. Your argument would be well served by a thorough analysis of post-NAFTA socio-economic transformations of the inner suburbs and the political dynamics that emerge from having a megacity.

    Although I sympathize with your argument, the fundamental dynamics that will determine the future do not favor your position.

    Steve: Certainly, the loss of manufacturing in the inner suburbs has been a blow, and one that was not foreseen by planners when the suburbs first grew in the 50s. However, a related issue was the desire to have lower taxes, something the outer suburbs could provide as long as they lived off of the fat of development charges on new housing. Now things are changing in many cities with jobs and populations moving back downtown leaving the inner suburbs with a built form and a plan that no longer works.

    That said, I believe that it is possible for Toronto to have a Mayor and Council who can think of the larger good rather than creating and exploiting divisions among parts of the city.


  9. My Toronto includes all of this city.

    All of it.

    Having spent a good chunk of 5 years listening to people from all over this city for a previous job, I can categorically indicate that there are FAR more similarities then differences between people in the inner suburbs and people in the downtown.

    The biggest commonality is a circle of care, however that is defined – be it a family, friends, workplace or institution – this is paramount to people.

    Enjoying life is a primary desire.

    Living safely is a primary desire.

    There are differences in how those things are defined. But, the motivation to live and the desires, the stuff on the scale of needs, is the same.

    I love this city.

    From Mimico to Malvern. From Rexdale to the beaches below the bluffs in the South East. Like many of us, I have, in one way shape or form, probably walked all of Yonge within this city.

    It is beautiful. It is vibrant, it is much stronger then its politicians make it out to be and it is a good place to live. When I bother to listen to people, when I bother to hear what they want, to hear what they are succeeding at, to hear what they want for their families, friends, neighbours, I see far more in common across this city then others do.

    And yet, I despair. It is in our nature to want what is perfect. Our city is a mess. It was built too late to take advantage of the pre war approach to city building much of the world took. When it matured, it was undercut by car lovers and followers of Robert Moses who demanded transit support their highway visions (here I’m thinking of the Allen subway route over the Dufferin one). And large swaths matured later then others, with huge chunks of Scarborough being corn fields until relatively recently. The coherence of the city as a whole was avoided (and will be by pols for another 30 years) in deference to neighbourhood groups more worried about maintaining property values and keeping taxes low then building a services to suit a group of people no longer small enough to help out through just the property tax base. And, the Canadian version of the Westminster parliamentary system has been bastardized here to put party above all, whereas in Westminster, it puts local community above all and in the US, it puts local rep money hand outs above all.

    I see this last 8 years as a tremendous waste both on the transit file and on the fiscal file; I also see this the last hurrah of the 90’s era local pols, both in the inner suburbs and in the core. We will soon see a group of politicians who never were involved in local politics pre-amalgamation and do not have the same loyalties. Out of all that will come change.

    As for who will lead, who will bind us, I would argue that, rightly or not, the last 2 mayors have had large success, electorally, at coalescing people behind an idea. Miller was about change and professionalism – Ford was about change and letting in people who, for various reasons, thought they were out.

    There is still a great hunger in this city for authentic leadership, that tries to do the right thing without putting down others who disagree. The comment boards are not a good indicator of how Torontonians think.

    I hope we have an opportunity next year to discover who that leader is.

    I suspect we will.


  10. From a Scarborough resident I completely agree that it’s all nonsense. I think the name calling and simpleton slogans have to go. It truly is a shame.

    Saying that… It is politics and going this way for a reason. It’s here to stay until residents accept that Scarborough needs more thought than just being thrown a stand alone transit project. The more separation in the City the more we we likely build nothing. Even if Ford is defeated next election. Someone else with more tact will bring the same politics to the table the following election.

    You’ve listen to us complain about bad politics for 40 years. Guess it’s our turn to listen to you guys.

    Steve: I’m not sure who “our” and “you guys” might be, but what is important is to avoid exclusionary politics — the idea that what “I” want takes precedence over everything else, and that “I” am entitled to use any means, any language, any abusive political style necessary to achieve “my” goals.


  11. The fact that the Scarborough extension won’t be finished for ten years, and that no DRL or other line is likely to be built before then, means that transit development in Toronto is essentially paralysed. There is no political movement to mobilise the city, to increase taxes and fares to pay for the necessary investment. People want taxes kept low or reduced, and their driving made easier. And given present trends, a lengthy Ford-Hudak-Harper combination looks likely for the future.

    In this political matrix, I think we need to think “out of the box”. I think we need to bear in mind the rapid advances of technology, especially electric vehicles, and beyond that, autonomous vehicles and automated remote traffic control. These technologies would eliminate pollution (or at least move it out of cities), and greatly increase the capacity of roadways, reducing or eliminating traffic jams and slowdowns.

    I am impressed by the fact that in Toronto has hundreds of billions going into condo building, and so little into transit investment (the Scarborough subway extension appears to have tapped out Toronto’s resources). It would appear that the capitalist system and private individuals do not want to invest in public transit, but are happy to mobilise immense funds to build housing and to buy and pay to operate cars and telecommunication systems. What sort of transportation system, then, can tap into this capital pool?

    I am equally impressed by the ability of innovators such as Elon Musk and Google to not only dip into the capital pool, but also to do what they are doing relatively quickly without the bureaucratic encumbrances that have grown up around us (ten years for Scarborough … gimme a break!). And I think it is rather natural for people to want to own their own things, to be able to go wherever they want whenever they want, as quickly as possible and as cheaply as possible (at least marginally). Thus I think that capital could be mobilised by breakthroughs in sustainable personal modes of transportation, while we seem to be starved for capital to build great public projects and for funds to operate them inexpensively.

    It may be time to re-think the mass transit paradigm.

    Steve: I’m afraid that I don’t share your optimism regarding transportation technology. We have been hearing for years how there was some new way that would eliminate the need for investment in conventional forms of transit, and it ain’t here yet. If I saw a major international city, a Tokyo or a Berlin or a New York, where there was even a hint that this was technically feasible and happening, I might believe the possibility, but it’s not.

    Scarboro’s subway has not tapped out Toronto’s resources, only pushed us somewhat closer to a self-imposed ceiling on the ratio of our debt to our tax income. There are many ways to fund more transit, and that issue is now before the provincial government. The problem is not lack of capital, it is a reluctance to act.


  12. “That said, I believe that it is possible for Toronto to have a Mayor and Council who can think of the larger good rather than creating and exploiting divisions among parts of the city.”

    I strongly agree with you. However this is only possible with a large strong middle class. Unfortunately the prospects for the middle class are not entirely optimistic, and without it municipal politics will continue to be very polarized.


  13. The Harris war on Toronto was very damaging. McGinty was not much better and has acted slowly to reverse some of the worst Harris excesses. Others, he has ignored. When David Miller (who I voted for and supported) first suggested the Vehicle Tax and the Land Transfer Tax I was opposed – not because I don’t want to pay taxes – but because I thought the province continued to shirk its duty to Toronto and instead offered the option of more taxes on the City to solve the City’s budget pressure. (John Tory in his mayoralty campaign said that Toronto pays 9 billion in taxes to higher levels of government that is spent elsewhere. I am not fundamentally opposed to redistribution, but it seemed only just that $500mm to a billion of that could be returned to us to keep us on the right track.) In any case, provincial support was not to be and these new taxes were put on the table. By the time of the second City Council vote I was a reluctant supporter.

    The first things the Buffoon did upon election was to repeal one of these taxes – costing us $60 million in services every year. The next thing he did was freeze taxes – effectively a tax cut – costing us several million more in services every year. These lost services are much more hurtful in the inner suburbs than they are in the “downtown”. It is really interesting in politics, to see how the perpetrator of the evil is able to offload the responsibility to a blameless section of the City. Pay proper taxes and we can have the services we need – especially in “priority neighbourhoods”. The mil rate for the whole City is uniform. If we pay proper taxes “downtown” residents will pay more because the other half of the property equation is the assessed value, which is much higher per sq. ft. downtown.

    Right wingers and populists do an exceptional job of persuading those that are hurt the most to participate in the politics of resentment and destruction. It makes me ill.

    Steve, thank you for this impassioned post and thank you for the opportunity to provide my own impassioned response. The funny thing about us lefties is that we actually gain little or nothing from our crusade for what is right. Yet, Ford, Hudak et al successfully persuade those who are hurt by their vengeful policies that we are acting in our own self interest. It is a crazy world.


  14. I suspect one reason Toronto was successful post-WWII was that there were urban planners who had some vision and developed some sensible policies. Of course, “the vision” changed periodically. In the 50’s the city was going to be crisscrossed by expressways. That was brought to a halt in the early 70’s when Bill Davis killed the Spadina Expressway and a new “David Crombie” vision took hold.

    Is Rob Ford today expressing some new vision of the city? Quite frankly, I think it is very hard to argue he has. The Ford Brothers have tried to trash one plan after another and substitute something else that seems to have been scratched together on the back of an envelope.

    Rob Ford’s latest push (and he has actually been quite consistent on this point) is “Subways Everywhere”. That’s a great idea, except at this point it is anyone’s guess as to where the money is going to come from for all this. Remember folks, Ford completely tossed out Transit City in favour of a subway along Eglinton (paid by the province) and a subway along Sheppard (paid by the city). The whole thing collapsed after a year when Ford simply could not come up with ANY plan to fund the Sheppard line.

    So now we are back to ‘Subways in Scarborough’ with some extra help from the Feds and a TAX INCREASE (something Ford is routinely against for virtually everything else).

    So where is the rest of the money coming from for subways elsewhere? It is probably not going to happen. Yet Ford has poisoned the debate about ‘Subways vs LRT’s’ by relentlessly comparing them to streetcars. So how much you wanna bet people elsewhere aren’t going to be happy with ‘just an LRT’, even if it means the subway line will be underutilized?

    So we have the former Transit City plan pretty much up in the air, beyond the basic lines that are being built.

    So much for professional transit planning, eh?


  15. I forgot to address your original question. “Who will re-unite Toronto”? I hope and believe that it will be Olivia. I am not totally aligned with Olivia because at times I think she is too populist. (Populism of the left is just as stupid as populism of the right.) However, Olivia has her heart in the right place and would certainly never pit one region of our City against another. An additional advantage is that she is well liked and polls well against the Buffoon. (Right wing Marcus Gee endorsed this name during our last election.) Olivia is popular downtown and in the inner suburbs. She could lead us all – except of course for the braying columnists at The Sun.

    Olivia’s stepson, Mike Layton has continued the fine tradition established by Joe Pantalone, of avoiding partisan rhetoric and name calling. Like Joe, Mike has persisted in standing up for what is right while avoiding the denigration of others opinions. Even Sue Ann Levy rated Mike’s contribution as above average. He may be a future Mayor if not attracted to politics at another level. (On a personal level, no other politician has responded to me with such detailed, thoughtful and “on the topic of my message” emails.)

    Steve: I am still unsure of Olivia who may be “keeping her powder dry” to avoid being drawn into the morass of Toronto politics too soon. What compromises will she make in her platform? Will she confront Ford’s programs and policies head on, or attempt to dodge around them? Does she have a transit plan beyond the NDP’s national transit strategy? What sort of people does she want running with her “on the colours”? What will Olivia’s version of Toronto look like? I am waiting to hear.

    Meanwhile we have an existing Council who have just handed Rob Ford an unexpected victory and poisoned the terms of debate. Can we pull back from this to a civilized discussion about Toronto’s future?


  16. Ford’s creation of artificial divisions and “us vs. them” within the City is the thing I find most reprehensible. It’s not something I’ve encountered in other cities, nor at other level of government. (You don’t see Liberal PMs swept to power saying “screw the West – it’s only Ontario and Quebec that matter”…).

    I’d like to see a mayoral candidate who is passionate about Toronto (all of it!), who obviously wants it to be great, and sets out a vision for why.


  17. The downtown-suburban divide mainly stems from a culture clash. I lived in both areas for quite some time. Downtowners are mostly snobs who think that living in a condo with skyrocketing maintenance fees is a sound financial idea because they can walk down a street packed with people. It’s vibrant! Yes, it’s vibrating money out of your bank account. You can find those same restaurants in the suburbs and you don’t need to be rammed into subways and streetcars like cattle to get to them.

    Unfortunately, for downtowners, their universe ends at Eglinton. According to downtown legend, if you go north of Eglinton you’ll fall off the edge of the Earth.

    The other downtown camp feels that living in a vastly overpriced rotting 100yo Victorian house and spending your weekends repairing it (at the expense of using that time to actually enjoy the city) is a good idea also.

    Even downtown gets boring and irritating after a while. Rowdy renters are always a nuisance, and it just isn’t the same anymore. Sams is gone, Honest Eds and Mirvish Village are going. Yonge St. isn’t the same. Queen W. lost all of its artistic vibe. St. Clair lost all of it’s italian charm and vibrancy.

    So tell me why downtown life is much better than the suburbs? The outer 416 is truly bad, but the 905 areas are wonderful spots to own an nice home and raise a family.

    Steve: So tell me again where this new subway is? Not downtown. Not in the leafy glens of the 905. But in the “truly bad” part of the 416. What were you saying about downtown snobs?


  18. M. Briganti said,

    “Downtowners are mostly snobs..”

    My experience is snobs find a way to be snobbish no matter where they live. The % of snobs stays the same across this city and province: always less then cynical people on the internet think and always more then there should be.

    As for your desire to go back to what was, for Queen West to be what it was and Yonge Street to be what it was, I for one would find that stifling. I don’t want to live in a museum of my youth. I want to experience new music, new food, new stuff. And that is what is so great about Toronto – it is constantly changing. Wait a week and something new is happening – all over this city. Personally, I find embracing that change is far more healthy then attempting to hold it back.

    Which is why we need to build a transit network, rather then a series of projects. Projects are built to support probables, or maybes. They are based on static ideas of what will be. Networks deal with change a lot better and are adaptable to the whims of society.


  19. Steve wrote about:

    “The vitriol of the Fords…”

    Yes. For me it became personal on the very first day of his inauguration as Mayor. As a Canadian Army veteran, I was rather offended at being called things like “the pinkos out there that ride bicycles and everything” and a “left-wing kook.” From that Day 1, it has been downhill ever since with insults, blatant falsehoods, smears and slanders.

    What really infuriates me is the hypocrisy of those who live in glass houses throwing stones. Particularly the [alleged] crack-smoking, drunk-driving, wife-beating chief stone-thrower. He throws out the nastiest of false insults and his opponents are too gentlemanly to refer to the facts that:

    1. Rob Ford was convicted of drunk driving on May 14, 1999. He was sentenced to 50 hours community service, a $664.75 fine and banned from driving for one year. Source.

    2. On March 26, 2008, Rob Ford was charged by Toronto Police with the criminal offences of Assault and Uttering a Death Threat. His wife, Renata Ford, accused him of assaulting her and uttering these threats. Mr. Ford subsequently reconciled with his wife and the charges were withdrawn. I believe Renata Ford, particularly in view of the subsequent accusations of Sexual Assault, specifically sexual groping, made against Rob Ford by Sarah Thomson.

    Here is the video of Sarah Thomson making the groping accusation: “He grabbed my ass!”

    And here is the source for Rob Ford’s criminal charges of Assault and Uttering a Death Threat.

    3. The crack cocaine smoking video is notorious. Suffice it to say that I believe the witness testimony of the three independent, professional journalists who saw it. This is only one episode in a lengthy history of substance abuse, including Rob Ford’s eventual confession when asked if he had ever smoked marijuana: “I won’t deny that, I smoked a lot of it.” Which is, of course, a criminal offense.


    I am offended, deeply offended, by the naked hypocrisy of this two-faced, forked-tongue liar who throws out the worst of insults and false accusations while lying about, denying and covering up his own lengthy criminal history.


  20. Last weekend I had the privilege of running part of the St. Clair right of way in an LRT manner. The vehicle was PCC 4500 on a fan trip, and of course did not have to make any stops.

    Following a photo stop at Yonge station, GPS showed that we had a clear track all the way to St. Clair West station. After leaving Yonge St. the driver [went] flat out to Avenue Rd. Following a short stop for the light at Avenue Rd. we ran flat out to Spadina. We were passing everything else on the road at what I estimate would be a solid 65 km. It was quite a sight to see all of the transit signals ahead winking green as we approached. I just wish some other people could have been there.


  21. M. Briganti said:

    So tell me why downtown life is much better than the suburbs?

    It sounds like you’re conflating your personal opinion with reality. There’s nothing wrong with the suburbs. They are just different. I’m not really sure with whom you are arguing with or even what your point is. That transit service is inadequate downtown?


  22. We all need to drop the stereotyping that “downtowners are all this” and “Scarberians are all that”. That political play just causes division and distrust. For a while the political leaders courted the central core of Toronto, and ignored the fragmented suburban fringes. Ford’s campaign team saw that weakness and courted the suburban areas with an “anti-core” message. He had his election signs up in Scarborough at least a week before any of his opponents.

    Last night there were Rob Ford robo-calls to residents in Scarborough, effectively trashing Paul Ainslie for daring to vote against Rob’s plan. Ainslie appeared to be considering financial consequences for Torononians, rather than supporting the Ford Nation.

    If we are going to be one city with a unified transit network, we have to behave like one, and to give no credit to people who try to divide us against each other.


  23. The only good candidate for mayor would be one that is serious about building several new subway lines and expanding the GO system and has the nerve to implement large tax increases to pay for them. We have had Miller, who refused to consider any alternatives to LRT, even on Eglinton where we are building a long tunnel anyway, and willfully ignored the downtown relief line and willfully ignored the most cost effective option of all which is improving GO.

    Then we had Ford who is in favour of subways on Eglinton and Sheppard (fine, but you have to raise taxes to pay for them, and they will dump more people on the Yonge line if you don’t build the DRL), but thinks that downtown “has enough subways already” and who is also ignorant of GO expansion.

    I am not impressed by the track record of either of them. We need someone who will clean up the mess created by both Miller and Ford. This means making obvious changes to the plans like reversing the poor decision to put the Eglinton LRT in the middle [of the road at] Leslie Street, rather than putting it on the south side or underground and making the line fully grade separated west of Don Mills. But also it means funding a whole lot of other new subway and GO train lines.

    Steve: Miller did not “willfully ignore” the DRL or GO improvements. Transit City was intended to be a plan that could be built fairly quickly and would address problems of travel within the suburbs, not as an addition to the capacity into the core area. Some of it would already be in operation if not for interference by Queen’s Park and then Rob Ford. The DRL is in a class by itself and will cost more than all of Transit City put together with the possible exception of the tunneled portion of Eglinton. As for GO, that’s not a City responsibility, although Miller had his fights with Queen’s Park on priorities for regional transit. The province talks a good line, but has starved GO for funding for decades rather than seeing its potential to supplement the subway network.


  24. First, I am disappointed at my own councillor Ana Bailão voting for this. To give her the benefit of the doubt, I am hoping that she is banking on support for the DRL which would benefit her ward immensely.

    Second, for me the following quote is really telling.

    “Scarborough was a 30- or 40-year-old grievance that needed to be resolved and there was a very clear position from a mayor and council by majority vote.” — Glen Murray.

    What this says to me in the context of that article is that the Province is giving Scarborough the lollipops it asked for and there will be little else forthcoming in the future. Be careful what you wish for Scarborough. You just might get it.


  25. “First, I am disappointed at my own councillor Ana Bailão voting for this”.

    Yeah, and what about the report she cited that a Scarborough LRT would be at capacity by 2031? I suppose that number was cooked too?

    If downtowners want to convince Ford that downtown needs a new subway first, maybe they should take the approach that if we build a new subway downtown, we can get rid of these streetcars on King and Queen. A little reverse psychology helps sometimes.

    Steve: I am suspicious of the fact that new demand figures appeared for the Scarborough corridor conveniently in time to support the subway argument. “New land use and employment projections” they say. Hmmm. Also, the Chief Planner said that the new riders were coming mainly from the 905 and the demand model assigned their trips to the subway. A great example of how models can be cooked probably by not also including better service on the GO corridors.

    As for King and Queen, the streetcar service on them would not be replaced by the DRL. I’m not going to waste my time citing stop locations and travel patterns, but this line of argument is completely bogus.


  26. First off, I’m a little surprised that Mr. Munro’s impassioned plea for unity in the city of Toronto is being met by some commenters with the very sort of hyper-partisan vitriol that Munro is petitioning against. It is very tempting to try and reply to these comments without getting dragged further into the mud. But I have noted that some Scarborough residents have stated that they “want in” on Toronto transit, meaning subways and not LRTs — the “we want in” phrase is highly reminiscent of the slogan “The West wants in” heard from people in Alberta in the early days of Harper’s coming in to power, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

    Second, for all his poor leadership skills and general disinterest in the rules, Rob Ford has done an amazing job of turning residents of Toronto against each other for personal gain, and in particular muddying the terms of the transit debate to the point of rendering them useless. Even now I go to community meetings (such as the recent open houses for the Eglinton Crosstown) and I hear seemingly intelligent people equate LRTs with streetcars and state baldly that subways need to be built “for the future of the city” but then argue against even the mid-density surface development that surely would go with construction of new transit. Ford’s failings are many, but his biggest threat is the damage he can still do to entrench the left-right and urban-suburban battlegrounds and make city politics completely unmanageable. The sooner we as a city are rid of him, the better.

    Third, I think it’s pretty obvious that for the next few years, new transit in Toronto is going to be developed not for the good of the people or to help residents better navigate the city, but to appease the voting blocks who yell loudest. The Scarborough subway extension is going to do nothing to alleviate the commute times downtown (and a good many of those commuters are coming from Scarborough). The east end does deserve more transit options, but waiting eight years for a subway extension without alternate routes like LRTs or a second line (the DRL, or “Scarborough Relief Line” if you prefer) hardly seems like a victory. I only hope that Metrolinx manages to get construction of the Sheppard and Finch West LRTs before the SUBWAYSUBWAYSUBWAY zombies get their mitts on the plans and foul up Toronto transit even further.

    Finally, we need to write our local councilors and get involved. Look out for the candidates running in 2014, and remember who stood by their word and who cravenly chased votes and flip-flopped with every change in the direction of the wind. Complacency is no longer an option. And whatever happens, try not to take things too personally.


  27. I wonder if some of the consequences for building the Scarborough subway will be as follows:

    Reduced bus service frequency as well as subway frequency east of Kennedy in order to control operating costs. As a result this may force more people to move closer to the city-centre as well the subway nodes but essentially isolated the inner suburbs who rely on bus service.

    If that’s the case the time savings for Scarborians are nullified by the extra wait times not to mention the crowded buses for when they finally arrive.


  28. ErickK says:

    Be careful what you wish for Scarborough. You just might get it.

    As apposed to what? The LRT lie? I think the majority prefer the subway lie. We really have little expectations out here. We just allow builders to develop into “proposed” transit areas & then watch these sub par developments rot as the transit dreams fade away.

    We really don’t have a choice in the matter. And the way I look at it. If they just put a subway to the middle of Scarborough it’s much better than what we have & we can be somewhat content to let politics continues to use us as a transportation pawn for the next 40 years.

    Steve: No, what happens is that the areas where transit should have been become totally car oriented like much of the rest of suburbia. All transportation plans include lies, but the subway is a whopper.


  29. Steve:

    No, what happens is that the areas where transit should be have been become totally car oriented like much of the rest of suburbia. All transportation plans include lies, but the subway is a whopper.

    It’s car oriented because there is no other options. But it shouldn’t be. Scarborough is a confused City because & has been left hanging over and over again by cancelled transit plans that would have incorporated it into the City. Transit City is a band-aid coughed up from those that have better transit and want more. I’m not against LRT but not when its used to segregate Scarborough.

    Good developers now stay away from Scarborough because they know that investing in planned transit locations is complete BS. As far as development goes the City has left Scarborough a mess and has far to often accepted sub par developments that does nothing for future growth or Scarborough’s image.

    If you are comparing Scarborough to the 905 suburbs that is ridiculous. At least 905 can have proper representation to make their decisions instead of having having Councillors from the rest of Toronto who have better transit make the decision for them.

    Steve: LRT lines were planned throughout the city, not to “segregate” Scarborough. That word distorts the intention of the plan, and you should talk to the plan as it was intended, not as filtered through the “poor Scarborough” outlook. Just as a reminder, the full Transit City plan included Eglinton (to the Airport, not just to Mount Dennis), Finch West, Jane, Sheppard East, Don Mills, “Scarborough Malvern” which was the Eglinton East / Morningside line, and Waterfront West. That doesn’t sound like segregation to me.

    Most of what is now Scarborough was designed and built before amalgamation, and even since then, much of the local planning is handled by Scarborough Council, not by the City. You would do well to hold your own Councillors to account for what they have built before blaming the nasty City, and you should remember that City Council is overwhelmingly dominated by members from suburban wards. “Downtown” could not foist something on you without the support of your suburban compatriots.


  30. I appreciate your point but the division in this city / province / country has nothing to do with Ford. He is an effect not the cause. Our political system divides people, the focus on rights rather than responsibilities, the never ending creep of government rules regulations and bans. The total dependence of all levels of government on massive amounts of cheap credit. All of this creates a citizenry that pits neighbor against neighbor. You smoke? Let me ban it. You’re rich? Let me take it. You want a car? “F” you you’ll take transit and you will like it. I don’t think a single politician can change this dynamic any longer.

    Steve: But they can try. To abandon that goal is as good as voting for the forces of darkness.


  31. In the coming mayoral elections Ford will not have absolute majority, but he still retains a substantial voting base. If the mayoral elections were conducted in two rounds, he would lose in the second round.

    With the existing single-round system, the outcome depends on the opposition candidates. If a single, credible center-left candidate enters the race, then Ford can be defeated. If the opposition vote is split between two or three strong challengers, then Ford will win again.

    However, even if Ford wins again, he will not easily achieve majority in the Council votes on a number of matters. The new pack of councilors will not be impressed by his victory as much as they were in the beginning of his first term, and rather will vote according to their own agenda.

    In particular, I doubt that he will be able to “buy off” the councilors into cancelling the Finch and Sheppard LRT. It’s not that the councilors cannot be bought off, but rather that the war chest has no goodies to give them. The unique set of conditions that led to the funding success of the Scarborough subway, cannot be replicated in the Sheppard corridor at this time.

    Steve: Yes, the availability of a pot of provincial money, and the one-time “Scarborough deserves” rhetoric certainly paved the way for an easy shift to subway from LRT. On other corridors it won’t be so simple because the demand isn’t there, and there is no [former] city-wide constituency calling out to avenge past hurts.

    Part of the dynamic also will be what happens provincially both in budget proposals to fund transit (new revenue tools for the “Next Wave” projects) and in the party balance in the Legislature.


  32. I think the majority prefer to get something done.

    The lie of the subway is that of unicorn emissions and fairy dust being able to build and pay for the operating of transit built by strong men and women and fueled by a double double from Timmies.

    The lie of the LRT is that of happy happy commuters flocking to the technology and embracing it like they do Youtube, Tumbler and Ice Caps from Tim Hortons.

    As a fiscal conservative, I know which lie I would prefer to believe.


  33. “Good developers now stay away from Scarborough because they know that investing in planned transit locations is complete BS.”

    The fix for this is to build Transit City. I’m not aware of any locations developers would have invested in planned transit locations which wouldn’t get good service as a result of the construction of Transit City. Name the location(s) if I’m wrong.

    By contrast, the currently-active subway concept removes service from several existing stops and adds service to only a single location that was not planned to be served by Transit City (even the reduced version that was active earlier this year).

    Steve: At a Planner’s Round Table last week, a representative from the development industry stated quite simply that the cost of building condos in Scarborough is not competitive with the price of existing housing stock. The message was that the City can do all the favourable zoning it wants, but this won’t make Scarborough a place worth developing because the product won’t sell at the prices and profit margins developers want to see. This has nothing to do with evil downtowners versus Scarborough, but with the mechanics of the free market.

    One might argue that if we built a network of subways through Scarborough, the land would be more attractive for development, but then we would run into the more basic questions: how much development can the market absorb and where do people want to live?


  34. So the real evil is all those people who will pay more to live Downtown. Pretty diffuse for an evil mastermind. Does that make it a conspiracy?

    I also wanted to mention that the Comments RSS feed has been empty the last couple of days, at least that is what I’m getting in my browser.

    Steve: I will check on the RSS feed. This usually means that there is some garbage in a comment somewhere that the RSS reader chokes on, and it seems to be sensitive to the software one uses.

    This has now been fixed.


  35. Very astute analysis in your post!

    The key issue in all of this is that Rob Ford thinks that LRT lines will steal the middle lanes from car traffic. If he had read the documents about the LRT projects he would have seen that both Finch and Sheppard will be widened to accommodate the LRT lines. In the original Transit City documents it said that 90% of those routes will not lose car lanes. I was at a meeting with both Karen Stintz and Josh Matlow and they both knew there would be basically no loss of car lanes.

    I wonder if the rest of council and the MPPs know this.

    However, if they know this, how come they don’t correct the mayor either privately or publicly?

    Keep in mind as well that on Sheppard and Finch currently cars wanting to make a right turn have to wait for sometimes two or three buses to load/unload passengers which wouldn’t happen anymore with LRT. Actually, if the streets changed to LRT include Smart Traffic lights, the capacity for automobile traffic might increase.

    For transit, Rob Ford is setting the agenda and both council and the provinces are following it and basically dancing to his tune. They should be doing what’s best for the city, not what’s best to get them elected. I can’t believe billion dollar decisions are being made based on false information. This amounts to impulse shopping with taxpayers’ money.

    I actually live at Birchmount and Sheppard so I wonder if we would have had an LRT here now if Rob Ford hadn’t been elected. If you look at what has actually been built in 3 years for public transit in Toronto: basically nothing. The mayor and council overall deserve a letter grade of F for transit over this term.

    I’m not part of any political party or involved in politics and frankly this whole fiasco over the last 3-4 years has destroyed my confidence in the system. Billion dollar decisions based on truthiness.

    If someone wants to become the next mayor, their best strategy would be to exploit the current mayor’s lack of knowledge about these issues and show the public that their money isn’t being spent wisely. A good example of how to do this was during the council debate in July when councillor Josh Matlow asked the mayor some basic questions about LRT and the mayor obviously didn’t know what it was and quickly retreated to slogans. A mayoralty candidate could also say they support LRT as long as the capacity for automobile traffic on those routes stays the same since it is a cost-effective way to move people in areas where there is more demand than buses can handle but not enough for subways.

    Steve: I would never make a good politician because my approach would be something like this: A “Rob Ford Lies Sheet” with all of his claims and the correct info. The concept that the Mayor will say anything but the truth to defend his position needs to be drummed into every voter. This of course would be called an unfair campaign, that by an administration for whom “fair play” is utterly unknown.


  36. “I would never make a good politician because my approach would be something like this: A “Rob Ford Lies Sheet” with all of his claims and the correct info. The concept that the Mayor will say anything but the truth to defend his position needs to be drummed into every voter.”

    While visiting Parliament Hill, an MP said something like, “this is a bunch of hogwash. The Honourable member is just leading us down a garden path.” Curious to see how this would be translated, I quickly donned the headphones at my seat for the channel of the simultaneous French translation – “Je ne suis pas d’accord.” Less colourful, but accurate.

    Steve, imagine you had your own channel at City Hall to counteract the false statements and empty rhetoric.

    Steve: If you follow the Twitter feeds of the row of City Hall observers collectively referred to as the “Scoobies”, there is a running commentary on the debates. I contribute from time to time, but when I’m not there, they are a good way to keep up with what’s going on. They are followed by many pols and the mainstream media.


  37. Steve:

    At a Planner’s Round Table last week, a representative from the development industry stated quite simply that the cost of building condos in Scarborough is not competitive with the price of existing housing stock. The message was that the City can do all the favourable zoning it wants, but this won’t make Scarborough a place worth developing because the product won’t sell at the prices and profit margins developers want to see. This has nothing to do with evil downtowners versus Scarborough, but with the mechanics of the free market.

    One might argue that if we built a network of subways through Scarborough, the land would be more attractive for development, but then we would run into the more basic questions: how much development can the market absorb and where do people want to live?

    Steve you are correct. It has nothing has to do with “elite downtowners” as you say. That’s a Ford slogan used to blame a bigger problem on one group to divide people & not solve the real issue.

    It has a lot to do with the fact not enough attention is paid to planning Scarborough neighborhoods properly so there is future viability. Unlike cities which have councils demanding a high standard of development & future planning such as Markham, Mississauga, Burlington, Oakville. Scarborough has to listen to constituencies complain if they happen to plan anything decent.

    Metro Toronto would not be the boom town it is without subways.

    Etobicoke was similar to Scarborough and then a subway came to the core and … Boom town.
    North York got is stubway…. and look at it now. Boom town

    Seems pretty clear the Toronto Councillors outside of Scarborough who are also responsible for its growth could care less if it is integrated with the rest of the City.

    Scarborough has more natural attractions than any other part of Toronto & GTA for that matter & should be promoted properly but is not because of horrible planning/politics. The Bluffs, The guild, the Zoo, the Rouge, Port Union, Thompson Park, the Culture. There is no reason this should be a Boom town.

    The narrow minded Media also doesn’t help Scarborough’s image. But I have to wonder if that’s partially political as well.

    Steve: Etobicoke and North York are not “boom towns” in anywhere near the manner of districts in the core. Although the Six Points (Kipling Station) was supposed to be the centre of the universe, nothing happened there for decades after the extension opened. All of the development, such as there is, was at Islington. I don’t think you can call development elsewhere (say on Lake Shore) a function of the subway. If anything, this is more a combination of location plus the QEW.

    As for North York, yes there is that cluster of high rises around the subway, but the area really only came into its own as residential, not as an office centre. Even along Sheppard, many high rises are sited far from the subway stations and their attraction comes more from the nearby 401/DVP highways. (At the same round table, there was a slide showing the location of development relative to subway stations and the 500m circle representing maximum attractive walking distances. Most of the buildings were at the outer edge of the circles.) Over along the Spadina corridor, there is little development even though the line opened in 1978.

    In both cases, the development now in place is the work of local politicians, not the folks downtown. To put things quite bluntly, I believe that the effect of subways is vastly overrated not because of what they might do, but because of what they are allowed to do in affecting local development.


  38. The only way Rob Ford can be voted out is if a good enough candidate runs in the next election. From what I can gather, none of the other candidates in the last election were very good so that helped Ford a lot. I find it extremely sad that a city the size of Toronto couldn’t field a anybody decent enough to keep a goon like Ford from being elected.

    Steve: Ford ran on a “clean up the mess” style of campaign not unlike, in a generic sense, the one that brought David Miller to office. The garbage strike was a huge gift to Ford, and it set voters against the Miller regime and anyone who might follow. Adam Giambrone’s campaign self-destructed early on thanks to a lack of personal probity. George Smitherman had the dual problems of being an arrogant ex-Queen’s Park minister who thought he knew everything, plus the anti-gay vote. Joe Pantalone carried the flag for the NDP, but he was never going to set the world on fire. Had there been a strong moderate-right candidate, Ford’s vote might have split enough that it would be anybody’s game, but that’s not what actually happened.

    This time out, Ford is trying to play on the us-vs-them theme, a way of hating what Miller stood for without his actually being on the ballot. How credible this will be will depend on who runs against Ford, whether they articulate a positive vision for the city, a credible financial plan, and a style that calls out Ford’s lies and bullying for what they are.


  39. Thank you, Steve, for your most thoughtful and in-depth observations and analysis of what’s ailing Toronto and the greater region surrounding it.

    Your region’s impasse over being able to resolve differences in an adult way and arrive at workable compromises for the common good of all simply echoes the same thing that is going on now in the US over the budget and debt limit. Everyone is at loggerheads with everyone else, and no one seems willing to listen to the other side and sit down and thrash out a compromise. The US political malaise has, sadly, crossed our borders and taken hold on your side.

    One indeed wonders if Mayor Rob Ford and his brother are the causes or the result of this quandary. In any case, as far as I’m concerned, I can’t wait to see them sidelined to political irrelevancy, which is the fate they so richly deserve after these nearly four disastrous years of his divisive and largely destructive mayoralty.


  40. Steve:

    Etobicoke and North York are not “boom towns” in anywhere near the manner of districts in the core. Although the Six Points (Kipling Station) was supposed to be the centre of the universe, nothing happened there for decades after the extension opened. All of the development, such as there is, was at Islington. I don’t think you can call development elsewhere (say on Lake Shore) a function of the subway. If anything, this is more a combination of location plus the QEW.

    As for North York, [snip .. you can read the rest of this where I first made the comment]

    Are the condos in North York & Etobicoke Luxury Condos? Sure are. Why? Because they have the best form of transportation and developers see that. Scarborough does not have office towers or state of the art condos. Must be the soil that’s different. Surely couldn’t be a subway?

    Ever reply you mention folks downtown? I have explained over and again its a political problem from all other areas of Toronto that excludes Scarborough. Not just downtown.

    I think you vastly underrate the way in which a Subway line changes the landscape of a City. There was nothing luxury about Etobicoke and North York until tears after their subway was built.

    Steve: Did it ever occur to you that southern Etobicoke has the Humber Bay, and that’s a hell of a lot more attractive to luxury condos than the subway which is four km to the north. People who buy luxury don’t care if a subway station is nearby. If Scarborough wanted to turn the Kingston Road into high-rise heaven and encourage redevelopment along the Bluffs, nothing was stopping it. But it didn’t happen, and wasn’t even starting long before anyone thought of a subway (which in any event would have gone nowhere near Kingston Road).

    Scarborough has never been as attractive a location for development as some other parts of the 416 suburbs, and it has nothing to do with the subway. If you pin the future of Scarborough on a subway that nobody will see for ten years, then Scarborough is in worse shape than I thought.

    And, by the way, a lot of the developments in Etobicoke and North York are far from what I would call “luxury” condos.


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