Perhaps I’m cynical but why are we annually guilt-tripped into participating in spring clean-ups? Yes, there’s garbage everywhere after a long winter but why should individual citizens feel responsible for the littering idiots and their corporate accomplices? After all, we are the (seemingly rare) ones who do put things in the trash.
This is not to disparage the wonderful people who spend time willingly to remove the foul detritus festering since November. I salute these rare and lovely citizens. Unfortunately, the question must be asked, does citizen participation contribute to the problem? Does the annual clean-up reduce the pressure to provide adequate park maintenance budgets and appropriate staffing? Does our free labour contribute to the further decline of our once pristine streets and magnificent park system?
I believe it does.
What makes up the litter in our parks and streets? A non-scientific survey indicates that coffee cups, water bottles, food containers, plastic bags and wrappers, beverage cans and cigarette butts are the main offenders. Despite this, few companies feel responsible for the garbage that proudly bears their logo – not to mention the cost of collection and disposal. That’s where governments are supposed to help. In Europe they’re working on banning single use plastics.
Toronto has no power to do that but Mayor Tory and council should apply more pressure on other levels of government. Council should also spend more on litter collection.
At today’s brief session of Toronto City Council, Frances Nunziata was the only nominee as Speaker and she was elected unanimously by her colleagues in a recorded vote. Similarly, Councillor Shelley Carroll was also the sole nominee and unanimous choice for Deputy Speaker.
Some random observations from today’s opening session:
Council opened with an acknowledgement that Treaty 13 granted settlement rights over the land that covers Toronto and lands to the north. The money paid for the quarter of a million acres or so? Ten shillings (nowadays 50p or 84 cents). Even taking inflation into account it’s less than $40.
Only four new councillors were elected in Toronto’s 25 wards.
Councillor Jim Karygiannis is a very tall man.
Mayor John Tory seemed to be nursing a bad back as he walked into the ceremony with some difficulty. In his opening day speech he mentioned:
We don’t need to be divisive to do our job – possibly a dig at the Premier.
Toronto is Ontario’s financial engine – a message for both the Premier and Prime Minister
We need to keep taxes low and spend money carefully – more austerity coming
Land transfer tax revenues are falling – more austerity coming
Toronto needs to be a more liveable city (whatever that means).
Everyone was on their best behaviour today with lots of hugs, handshakes and nice words. We’ll see how long that lasts with the new, smaller and more intimate Council.
While neither the local nor mayor’s race is decided, unless some dramatic changes occur before polling day on October 22nd, the following scenarios are likely.
As Adam has pointed out, Mainstreet Research issued a poll that reflects the voting intentions of 593 residents of Ward 5 (York South Weston) on the 24th and 25th September. Among decided and leaning voters, the support is as follows:
Mainstreet’s poll methodology seems exemplary; for example, a large number of calls were made to a variety of cell and land line phones and at various times of two survey days. The margin of error is 4.1% which still indicates a cast iron lead for Frances Nunziata over all other candidates.
The results must be demoralizing for candidates Lekan Olawoye and Chiara Padovani . The candidates with their dynamic young teams have worked hard to expand their bases in the respective halves of York South Weston. They have been outmuscled by the star power (i.e. name recognition) of the two incumbents, only one of whom will be councillor. While it is notoriously difficult to unseat an incumbent Toronto councillor, Olawoye and Padovani can look for hope from three sources:
There will be other elections – sometimes it takes a few tries before voters learn your name.
Your focus on certain issues during the campaign may have moved people’s (and possibly the winning candidate’s) opinions.
This is valuable feedback – try other tactics to raise your profile.
As for Frank Di Giorgio; to win he needs to build up his support in the 50+ age groups in YSW. If he loses, he won’t be the first big name to be defeated by Ms Nunziata.
Of the four major candidates, Mainstreet’s latest poll shows stodgy incumbent, John Tory snoozing his way to victory in spite of his flawed and lacklustre mayoralty. Toronto poverty, crime and congestion levels continue to rise under his watch while he concentrates on his three main objectives; austerity, low property taxes and re-election. The mayor is so confident, he recently took a pass on a transit debate, instead choosing a cocktail fundraiser with Toronto’s moneyed and business elite. His abysmal SmartTrack plan was probably the reason for wanting to avoid scrutiny on that difficult topic.
Former Toronto Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat’s campaign has failed to gain traction as her policies differ only marginally from those of the incumbent. Her insider knowledge of where the bodies are buried at City Hall has been kept under wraps so far. In policy areas where Ms. Keesmaat does differ from John Tory, she is unable to effectively state why her position is better.
Local candidate Saron Gebresellassi has acquitted herself forcefully in debates and offers some starkly new ideas to address issues such as poverty in a big city like ours. She needs to keep pushing the two mainstream candidates off their comfort zones.
Sarah Climenhaga is another candidate with West Toronto connections and one who has lived a fascinating life full of valuable experiences. Like the other candidates, this is her first shot at the Mayor’s job.
Sadly, becoming mayor costs a lot of money. Mayor Tory spent almost $3 million to get elected in 2014. This is beyond the reach of most candidates; even the well-connected Ms. Keesmaat. It looks like we’ll be stuck with John Tory for another four years.
Last of all; most people usually don’t vote in civic elections here in YSW. The people who do tend to be in the older age groups. The folks at American media production company Nail Communications produced this mock ad geared to the mid-terms in the U.S. but speaks volumes about the demographics of voting in both countries.
The results of our completely unscientific election poll are in, and, though they are very unreliable, they remain interesting.
Chiara Padovani leads by a large margin in the race for councillor, trouncing incumbent Frances Nunziata by more than 2.5 votes to 1. Your correspondent thinks that this margin of victory is proof that the survey is unscientific—but it does show a huge amount of support for the challenger.
John Tory, surprisingly to my mind, has much support, beating Jennifer Keesmat handily in our straw polls. I would have thought that Padovani supporters also supported Keesmat, but this isn’t entirely so; almost half of them supported Tory. (Nunziata’s supporters were much more likely to support him.)
Westonian Saron Gebresellassi, who was, until Keesmat entered the race, one of very few serious candidates for the mayoralty, looks likely to lose. She received only 10% of your votes.
Whether it is because people vote for candidates they know, or because of the ever-changing boundaries, I couldn’t say, but Frank Di Giorgio and Lekan Olayowe pulled only 3% each. Both Di Giorgio and Olayowe had been candidates in Ward 12 before the on-again, off-again amalgamation.
Unfortunately, both Mr Tory and Ms Nunziata recently voted against a storm management strategy that would have reduced runoff water so their sympathy rings a little hollow. This problem has been with us for years and fixing it will require a modicum of political courage that has been lacking to date.
This week’s letter comes from reader, ‘Red Alert’ responding to this article and is somewhat representative of a mindset that inhabits the comment section of the Sun and National Post. The usual mantra of ‘hardworking taxpayers’ is mixed in with the prospect of us becoming like Venezuela.
‘Red’ opens his letter by mocking the article’s suggestion that Frances Nunziata and Frank DiGiorgio are right leaning. Then he gets to the meat of his argument, the waste of taxpayer money on unnecessary ‘socialist’ programs.
Right leaning? Who wrote this nonsense. They are all socialists talking platitudes, promising SOCIALIST welfare programs and services on the backs of hardworking taxpayers in order to get elected by enslaving you. The City should not be in the business of managing Provincial or Municipal social programs or infrastructure. The city should not be in the housing business, retirement/long term care home business, children’s services business , social welfare business. They only know how to run businesses into the ground. If you want your property taxes to remain low and lowered, demand the city follow it’s original mandate of providing basic services that everyone uses, like police, fire, sewer & water, roads, emergency services, etc. and spending within it’s means and operating any services at a zero sum gain and not a loss. The TTC operates at a colossal loss, it’s mind blowing; More than half of the gross TTC budget is made up of revenue the TTC takes in from fares. Discounting that revenue, the city will spend $576.8 million to SUBSIDIZE with your taxes, conventional service this year ( to pay for the loss) and a staggering $143.4 million to subsidize Wheel-Trans, that often sits idling, moving one person at a time to go shopping or other errands. What a life, hey? What a joke! Spending billions of dollars the city doesn’t have on services offered at a loss demonstrates politicians gone mad to keep their jobs and stay in power. It’s a page taken out of SOCIALIST Venezuela, currently going bankrupt and in the mist of hyperinflation which brings poverty and misery. Do you want this for Torontoians? Wake up before it’s too late for you.
Let’s take a few of these points and expand them. ‘Red’ thinks that the city should not spend money on:
Transit including Wheel-Trans
Retirement/long term care homes
Children’s services business
I’m assuming, ‘Red’, that you drive everywhere, never take transit or visit a park. It sounds like you have been lucky enough in life to never need any social services, either personally or for a family member. I’m assuming that you don’t plan on getting old or needing a long term care home. Presumably you would have been ok with letting the AIDS and SARS outbreaks run their course and don’t use the library.
Red, did you know that if Toronto’s property taxes were increased by 24%, that would bring them up to the average level in the GTA? That must make you feel good.
Here’s a couple of pie charts outlining what the city does and where the money comes from. A lot of the stuff the city does is because no other level of government will. For example, community housing used to be a provincial responsibility until Premier Mike Harris arbitrarily downloaded it to municipalities in 1998 (while stiffing them for adequate funds).
Every country in the world subsidizes transit. There is no shortage of scholarly articles to show that subsidizing transit not only makes life better for people, it lowers pollution and keeps cars off the road. If it’s any comfort, Red, Toronto at about $1 has the lowest per fare subsidy level of any city in North America yet despite that, one of the most threadbare subway systems in the free world. Ka-ching; more money for hard working taxpayers like you.
Try and imagine what would happen if subsidies ended and single fares rose to the cost recovery level of $5. People would go back to their cars causing gridlock. Less travelled bus routes would be cancelled and bus and subway schedules would be trimmed leading to further loss of ridership forcing even higher fares.
As for Wheel-Trans, you seem to resent that it’s used for shopping or personal errands. Well duh; if you were unlucky enough to be disabled what would you use Wheel-Trans for? How do you suggest disabled people buy food or get to appointments?
Incidentally, if you truly believe that Frances Nunziata and Frank DiGiorgio are ‘socialists’ in the way you understand the term, I’ll have to vigorously defend them. The Toronto taxpayer, labouring under the lightest tax load in the GTA has no greater friend than these two. Just look at Wards 11 and 12 and you can tell that a great deal of effort has gone into saving taxpayers money over their combined six decades in office. Poverty is everywhere, litter is everywhere, basements are flooding, buses are crowded, many storefronts are shabby and often unoccupied, public housing is run down and they’ve kept our streets free of business-killing, traffic-pinching bike lanes used by unlicensed hipster freeloaders.
I think you owe them an apology.
Lastly, ‘Red’, next time you want to use the term socialism, you should understand that it refers to a system where the people own and / or control the means of production and distribution. I think we’re still light years away from that. Maybe if we had socialism, there would be less need to tip the scales in the other direction.
High flying local lawyer, 31-year old Saron Gebresellassi is running for mayor of Toronto. She came from Eritrea to Canada as an infant in 1989 and according to an article in The Lawyer’s Daily, her impressive list of accomplishments ranges from fluency in six languages to classical piano and flute playing. She graduated debt free from three universities thanks to winning several private scholarships. While she’s unlikely to defeat the incumbent, she will no doubt raise the profile of York South-Weston and introduce some important issues into the campaign.