Tory defends the indefensible.

Mayor John Tory and homeowner Dave Bennett. From CP24.
Mayor John Tory and homeowner Dave Bennett. From CP24.

An interesting little charade was taking place yesterday in Weston. The Mayor and Councillor Nunziata were here to extol the virtues of keeping property taxes low. Never mind that Toronto’s budget is facing a $516 million shortfall next year and that Council has a backlog of $33 billion in capital projects with possibly $11 billion still to be added for transportation. Never mind that in our city, the average detached home owner occupies a $1.66 million home.

To support the Mayor and Councillor’s viewpoint,  a press conference was arranged in front of Weston resident Dave Bennett’s lovely home where Dave was quoted as saying that his property tax bill is ‘one of the biggest bills he gets’. Tory chimed in to state that property taxes were good for things like services but shouldn’t go towards capital expenditures (presumably like his completely useless $3 billion one-stop subway in Scarborough that we’re already paying for via a 0.5% property tax levy).

This is the mayor, aided and abetted by our own councillor who would rather cut city services across the board by 2.6% than impose a meaningful property tax increase. When services are cut, it’s the poor who suffer the most. TTC cuts, library cuts, parks cuts, police cuts, social program cuts and public housing budget cuts affect the poor disproportionally. Also look for user fees to be increased in the new year. In the meantime, those of us who own a home, from the most humble of condos in Rexdale to palatial mansions in Rosedale are spared an above-inflation increase in the lowest property taxes in the Province. Coming soon, (and this apparently is a good thing) tolls will be imposed on drivers using the Don Valley and Gardiner routes into town but instead of boosting the TTC budget in anticipation of higher passenger loads, a 2.6% budget reduction will ensure that fares are higher, routes are cut and buses and subways are crowded and even more uncomfortable.

Interestingly, York South Weston’s Ward 11 residents paid only $35 million in property tax last year compared to Toronto Centre-Rosedale whose residents paid $151 million. Most of Weston’s residents would dearly love to be in the fortunate position of directly paying property taxes* and contributing to the City’s budget but unfortunately they can’t afford to buy a home. User fees and transit costs will rise and programs designed to help people better themselves and eventually move onto the property ladder are being gutted by this idiotic strategy.

All this so that John Tory can say he didn’t raise property taxes above inflation and be re-elected in 2018.

Here’s an article and video of yesterday’s event from CP24.

*A whole other article; renters indirectly pay triple the rate that homeowners pay.

Sullivan blasts Hussen

On the one-year anniversary of the 2015 federal election, former York South Weston MP spared no mercy for his successor, Liberal MP  Ahmed Hussen. In a Facebook post Sullivan laments that Hussen has failed to send out ‘a single piece of email out to those who used to be my constituents’.

He also has some kind words for his supporters who may yet be called upon in the next election.

Read the full posting below.

A year ago today, I was in the process of being fired from my job. I was swept out in a wave of adulation for Dubya Trudeau.
I loved my job, but if you can’t afford to lose, you shouldn’t be in politics.

I want to thank, once again all of those who tried to convince people to let me keep my job, and the man who first convinced me to try, Paul Ferreira.

It was a great job, one where every day you can help individuals, and at the same time have an impact on where the whole country is going. And I couldn’t have done it without Ornella, Paul, Faisal, Deb, Alex and a host of volunteers and interns.

The new guy has yet to send a single piece of mail out to those who used to be my constituents. No one knows where he or the Liberals stand on their many promises, most of which they have yet to even consider doing: Aboriginal Education, C-51 (Privacy), C-38 (Environment), Subsidies to Big Oil, Regugee deportations and their health care.

And we have learned where they really stand on arms sales to human rights abusers (they did it), Climate change targets (same as Harper), Pipelines and Natural Gas projects (in favour), putting Bovine Growth Hormones in our children’s milk (TPP in favour), and Improving and protecting our health care system (same as Harper).

But the adulation continues. Elections shouldn’t be won on who is the cutest, but…

UPX ridership triples–but it is still diesel

Ridership on the UP Express has tripled since Metrolinx cut fares, to more than 8,000 daily riders, according to Torontoist. The number of riders continues to grow, although at a slower rate.

The Clean Train Coalition, though, would like to remind you that the Metrolinx and the province have blown right through the start date for regional rail electrification:

“The environmental assessment process for electrification was supposed to start four months ago in July. It has not started, there has been no announcement explaining the delay, and there is no word from the government when it will start.”

Open the damned footbridge already!

The John Street Bridge from the Weston Road side.
The John Street Bridge from the Weston Road side.

Somehow, bureaucrats at Metrolinx and the City of Toronto have been having a little standoff over who exactly should do what in terms of maintenance and other responsibilities when the footbridge connecting the two isolated sections of John Street finally opens. They don’t give a damn that people are being inconvenienced after years of construction dirt and noise. God forbid they would do the decent thing and open it under a temporary understanding. No, these two unaccountable behemoths would rather the public be held hostage while they slap each other privately with their white gloves.

May I point out to the warring parties that the people who own the damned bridge are sick and tired of excuses for the lack of action. You couldn’t even agree to get the bridge to cross all the tracks! Get the damned thing open. Oh and by the way, politicians and other assorted hangers on, don’t you dare have a ribbon cutting to take the ‘credit’ for opening the bridge two years late! I promise to be there with a bullhorn if you do.

Final stop for Weston Station?

Frances Nunziata wants to pull Weston Station’s ticket. She is asking city staff to ask the AGCO to not transfer the alcohol license for the troublesome neighbourhood bar.

The current owner is asking to transfer the license to another person with “business ties with the current licensee”. Nunziata would like to block that because the bar “has been a constant source of complaints from the community and a ‘hot spot’ for crime”

Weston Station was dinged by the AGCO for not posting their license, for allowing drunkenness, and for allowing patrons to take alcohol out of the bar.

Nunziata says “It is time that the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario put an end to this.”

 

Let’s re-think cars on our streets.

The winning photo from the recent Toronto Complete Streets photo competition.
The winning entry from the recent Toronto Complete Streets photo competition.

Adam’s article on bike licensing has hit the nail on the head.

Right wing councillors such as Junior Holyday™ and our own Ms. Nunziata are keen to have lower taxes and lower government intervention but only when it suits their own personal agendas. When it comes to protecting the status of cars and therefore their own personal travel times, bureaucratic expansion and government regulation are deemed to be essential tools, hence the suggestion to license bicycles, the most efficient mode of transportation ever invented. The only rationale offered seems to be that there are reckless cyclists who break the rules. As Adam has pointed out, scofflaw cyclists pose very little threat, unlike scofflaw drivers who check their messages, mascara, shave or have a meal while imposing their presence, air and noise pollution through the city.

Motor vehicles are a hideous, expensive and dangerous blight on society and unfortunately, we have built our communities to the point where they are a necessary evil. Public transportation has been denied priority and is starved of funding so that it is slow, overcrowded and uncomfortable. Mayor John Tory’s idiotic request to the TTC for a 2.6% budget reduction speaks to the pervasive ‘cart before the horse’ mentality at City Hall.
If Councillors Holiday, Nunziata and other like-minded representatives were forced to use public transportation in order to attend to their duties at City Hall, can you imagine how quickly the TTC would improve?

Amazingly, Toronto is the only major city in the world without a year-round pedestrian-only street. Think about it; that doesn’t happen accidentally. Similarly, in our own neck of the woods, Weston has no dedicated bike lanes on any of its streets. It’s largely thanks to our representatives who seem to be mentally stuck in an episode of Happy Days.

As the winning photo from the Complete Streets competition illustrates, cars spoil the environment in our cities. Unfortunately the photo was not taken in Toronto. It was taken in Porto San Giorgio, Italy. The second place photograph was taken in Toronto and looks pathetic in comparison. The other Toronto photographs are embarrassing in comparison to what is being achieved in major cities around the world. We have nothing remotely like the Italian example on any street in Toronto.

Toronto's example is from a temporary art project on John Street downtown.
The runner-up photograph, taken in Toronto is of a temporary art project on John Street downtown.

Perhaps it’s time to acknowledge that cars have jumped the shark and that walking, bicycles and public transit are our future.

Bike licensing is dead

From the city's  Virtual Reference Library
From the city’s Virtual Reference Library

Politics has gone mad: crazy, populist ideas now regularly trample thoughtfulness and reason. You might be pleasantly surprised, therefore, to hear that city politicians did something smart: they killed a plan to license bikes.

Our own councillor, however, who has long supported licensing, continues—against all evidence—to champion this dumb idea.

Earlier this year, Stephen Holyday asked the city to look (again) at licensing bikes, although is has done so several times and even has a FAQ on the topic. In short, licenses lose money, kids ride, and licensing—despite all the knee-jerking—is quite unnecessary: cyclists can be ticketed just fine without a license. (I should know.)

In the course of the debate at the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, another really good point came up: a license is a regressive tax on the cheapest and best transportation:


And that, of course, is the real reason reactionaries want to license bikes: they want to discourage cycling.¹

Politicians can have long careers giving people things they like and passing laws against things they don’t—never minding the facts or principle. Bicyclists bug civilians. I know why: it’s because we’re better. We’re faster, fitter, richer, and happier. Clearly, then, our smugness should be banned.

And yes, we are unpredictable. We are dangerous. Can I tell you something? I ride without a helmet. I ride the wrong way. I ride fast, with headphones in, weaving and taking up lanes when I want to. I cut cars off. I turn left from the left turn lane. I give bad drivers the finger. And I’ve been doing it for decades. Do you know how many people I’ve hurt?

One.

Myself.

The truth is this: cars are dangerous to other people. Bikes are not. Bikes are kind to other people. We need more bikes, not fewer. We need to encourage them, not license them, not tax them.

Let’s hope this is the last time we hear of any dumb licensing scheme.²


¹The rest of this post is edited from a comment I left on Facebook; I said it well then when I wasn’t tired and overworked.

²And don’t even start: if I hear one more time that cyclists should “pay their fair share”, I’m going to key a Caddy. That is such bullshit.

Drivers should pay for pollution. They should pay for foreign wars, climate change, resource depletion, coastal spills, urban sprawl, visual blight, noise, ruined neighbourhoods, starless skies and interrupted street hockey too.

You know what I need to make it downtown on my bike? 45 minutes, a handful of chips, and a dirt path.

Pay my share? Oh, gladly.