Nunziata wants to license bikes

Where's your licence?

Fresh from Police Board budget discussions, Councillor Nunziata has wasted no time in raising the issue of licensing bicycles. According to the Sun, our councillor thinks licensing will help reduce ‘the number of fatalities we have on the streets’ (currently averaging around 2 annually).

This old chestnut has been raised in the past and is guaranteed to stir up a hornet’s nest of discussion, pitting car owners against cyclists. There’s a great punitive aspect to the idea, no doubt hatched when following a cyclist on a street which no longer has a bike lane. Trial balloons are a great distraction from real issues such as factory closures and police budgets, so why not?  It’s difficult to count the number of lives saved by cyclists’ improved health but that’s why some intelligent debate is needed.

Let’s look at another licensing debacle: domestic pets. Torontonians are required to license their cats and dogs, but most owners don’t bother. The money brought in from licensing just about pays for the bureaucracy needed to administer the program. Fees are $60 and $25 for dogs and $50 and $15 for cats (intact, neutered). Rob Ford even suggested doing away with licensing because of this lack of revenue. One wonders what the licensing fee would have to be to make bicycle licenses break even. The set-up costs for this program will be considerable, not to mention the army of bureaucrats needed. How many casual cyclists will cough up $25+ annually for the privilege? What about families and their children’s bikes? Will we turn more citizens into scofflaws? Will people become even more sedentary? You can bet that the last people to licence their bikes will be the ones who ride on the sidewalk and sail through stop signs.

It’s bad enough that bike lanes are being removed by the Ford administration. It is supremely ironic that the so called ‘home of the bicycle’ has a councillor who would like to put another nail in the coffin of cycling in Toronto.

Blair bamboozles Police Board

Watching Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair play the Police Services Board has been a lesson for Toronto Council as well as the citizens of Toronto. You don’t become Police Chief by being a nice guy. You do it through hard work and force of will. It doesn’t hurt that the Chief is a large man with an imposing presence.

Chief Blair was asked by Mayor Ford to reduce the police budget of $930 million by 10% ($93 Million). Chief Blair stonewalled and said it was impossible; a 1.5% increase was the best he could do and that a 10% cut would lead to over 900 layoffs. Board member Michael Thompson famously declared that Blair’s job was on the line and the Chief was asked by the Board to return to his calculator. They generously told him that he (alone of all city budgets) could spread the 10% cut over 2 years. Blair then pleaded his case directly to Rob Ford who wisely told him to deal with the Board.

Wednesday’s announcement of a huge arrest (timing is everything) made things easier for the chief and he offered to increase his budget by only 0.6%. The Board folded like a cheap suit although according to the Star, Councillors Thompson and Nunziata claim that the Chief has actually reduced his budget by 4.6% or $43 million. One can only hope that our councillor is simply putting on a brave face and that she’s not that easy to fool.

Either way, Police Services Board members were outsmarted by a superior tactician.