Posts Tagged ‘politics’
In the Toronto Star, Ben Spurr in “Jury’s still out on subway’s impact on immigrants” notes that the subway expansion, contrary to Tory’s claims, will not open up Toronto to Scarborough’s many immigrant poor.
In an effort to win over hearts and minds for the controversial Scarborough subway extension, Mayor John Tory has suggested that a major benefit of the project would be its ability to deliver transit to underserved immigrant communities.
But the city’s own analysis shows the $3.2-billion, one-stop subway would directly serve only a small number of residents in disadvantaged neigbourhoods that have high populations of newcomers.
[. . .]
Tory wrote that the subway would “promote social equity,” and charged that “many of the subway’s loudest critics do not live or work in Scarborough, where more than half the population is born outside of Canada. When they say this is too much to spend on a subway, the inference seems to be that it’s too much to spend on this part of the city.”
[. . .]
City planners determined the Scarborough subway “would directly serve very few” disadvantaged residents, which they defined as people living in Neighbourhood Improvement Areas — designated areas that are economically marginalized and often have high immigrant populations.
The proposed one-stop subway extension running along McCowan Ave. would bring only 1,700 additional residents of NIAs within walking distance of a transit station, the report found.
Christopher Bird’s fisking of Tory’s op-ed at Torontoist, “John Tory is Lying About the Scarborough Subway”, is thorough.
John Tory’s greatest power as a politician is his veneer of respectability and reasonableness. No matter how irresponsible a position Tory takes, he is masterful at presenting himself as someone who has considered all positions and chosen the most moderate and reasoned course. Because Tory is a politician, people can often forget that this is strictly a veneer, a mantle he adopts to cloak policies that are unreasonable, ill-advised, or just plain stupid.
The latest terrible idea Tory has chosen to advance during his mayorship is the Scarborough subway. Unfortunately, the Scarborough subway is so evidently a bad idea that widespread opposition has risen to it, because it is an enormous waste of money on a bad transit strategy that the general public actually doesn’t want as much as they want the Downtown Relief Line. As the months have progressed and people do not magically agree that his terrible policy initiative is actually really good, Tory progressively gets more and more upset. The latest iteration of this is a truly mendacious column in today’s Toronto Star, which probably could have done with a once-over from the paper’s fact checkers before it hit print—because it is full of shit.
“Throughout my time in office, I have tried to be completely honest with the people of Toronto so I will make this admission: the extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway is an issue with which I’ve struggled.
“We are a city that likes to draw lines and take sides, especially when it comes to transit, and it’s easy to characterize people as either ‘for the subway’ or ‘against.’”
Well, yes. It is easy to characterize people as being for the subway or against it, because it’s a binary option. Either we build a subway or we don’t. Being for or against the subway is not the same as being for or against transit generally, which is what Tory is dishonestly suggesting here.
Also note that Tory here is also setting up one of his favored rhetorical ploys: to present everybody else as divisive and himself as a neutral problem solver. The issue with that is that this is a divisive issue, and Tory has chosen a side. He is not above this particular fray.
TVO’s Steve Paikin, meanwhile, in “Why John Tory’s sticking by the shaky Scarborough subway plan”, looks at the reasons why Tory may press ahead regardless.
However, Mayor Tory in his heart of hearts must also wish the hard data surrounding the proposed one-stop subway now on the books were a lot firmer. I’m sure ̶ without even asking him ̶ that he wishes the ridership projections for the subway were higher; that the population per square kilometre around the subway stop were denser; and above all else, that the cost of this project (which just jumped a billion dollars earlier this month) weren’t so egregiously high. More favourable facts on the ground, which would have made this project so much more justifiable, would be such a lifeline for this mayor. Alas, those more favourable facts just aren’t there.
However, other political realities are:
For better or for worse, the prevailing political winds at all three levels of government have agreed that Scarborough must have a subway ̶ that an LRT is somehow seen as second-class, and Scarborough, after being the butt of jokes for too long and being under-resourced with public services, can’t be seen to be receiving second-class treatment any longer.
Anybody hoping to be re-elected as mayor of Toronto in two years will need to cover his suburban flank against Doug Ford, who although currently out of politics is already increasingly appearing in the media and giving every indication he’s going to challenge Tory to a mayoral rematch in 2018. He was on Newstalk1010 the same morning Tory’s op-ed appeared, blaming the mayor for the return of “the gravy train,” a slogan so compelling, it propelled his late brother Rob to mayoral victory in 2010.
At the risk of indulging in too much psychobabble, Tory knows he is a child of privilege, went to the best schools, has had some great jobs, and lived a wonderful life. It is perfectly consistent with his sense of fair play or even noblesse oblige to ensure that Scarborough, with its large numbers of new and lower income Canadians, gets a subway, even if it’s only a one-stop model.
I don’t doubt for a second that Tory has struggled hard with this issue, as he confessed in his Star op-ed. He must know the cost estimate of this project is awfully tough to justify. And given the Toronto Transit Commission’s track record on previous projects, does anyone seriously believe this thing won’t eventually cost billions more? Who knows? It’s going to take years to build. Critics will say think of all the other more useful transit projects we could have funded with that money. And they’d be right.