Friday, July 20, 2007

Lead Balloons to Replace Buses in Toronto

The City of Toronto has just proposed huge service cuts to the TTC. Now, I'm in favour of eliminating spending on services that are underused in favour of services that are more widely used or more critical.

That, however, is likely not the intent of this move.

It seems clear the city is attempting to force the province's hand - the biggest cut is the closing of the Sheppard subway line at the beginning of 2008, well after this October's election. Conveniently leaving the door open for somebody to come in and save the TTC.

The Ontario Liberals have offered to pat Toronto on the head which should do electoral wonders in the city.

The Ontario Progressive Conservatives, however, have offered a real solution to municipalities [PDF] (proposed before this "crisis") based on two extremely simple premises:
  • The province should pay for services in the provincial realm of responsibility.
  • The city should pay for services in the municipal realm of responsibility.
That means, that yes, the Ontario PC's will upload services previously downloaded to municipalities.

This will allow municipalities to fund the priority services they need. It means too that the city needs to ultimately get its house in order, with a real vision and with real budgetary priorities on the city's true needs.

That's a better plan, in my view.

10 comments:

northwestern_lad said...

Time out... Just saying that the province "should" pay for these services does not mean that the Tory Tories will upload them. Those are two totally different things.

John Tory is afraid of turning into Dalton McGuinty, so he's not making any solid promises, only vague statements that have the solidity of water on a warm summers day. The people have not forgotten that it was the PC's that downloaded all of these services, and they have yet to push the Liberals to upload them. It all sounds a bit rich to me.

Jim said...

Nobody is denying the PC's downloaded the services. If you're always going to say, "But, they did it first", then we shouldn't elect anybody. Neither the Liberals nor the NDP have been gems in office either.

That said, it's not me saying the Tories should upload them - I'm saying the Tory platform says they'll upload them.

Believe me, if they renege, I'll be the first off the bandwagon.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

I'd also cynically point out that saying that "The province should pay for services in the provincial realm of responsibility. The city should pay for services in the municipal realm of responsibility" falls apart a bit when you realize that it's the PROVINCE that gets to decide what's in the province's jurisdiction, and what's in the municipality's. That's how the downloading happened in the first place, when the Harris government simply said, "Here, now YOU'RE responsible for these services. Good Luck with that!".

northwestern_lad said...

Jim... point taken on the "who did what first" argument. No one is immune to that, but it needed to be pointed out.

As for the Tory platform, it does not say they will upload them. It says that the province should pay for it. There is a big difference between vague statements like should and making concrete promises. Like I said before, Tory doesn't want to be seen to be like McGuinty who broke so many promises (not that I can blame him for not wanting to look like that). The problem is that he is going too far the other way. Vague platitudes are not equivalent to concrete ideas.

Dan said...

Fixing funding formulas seems a great deal like a shell game. It's possible to move around who pays for what a great deal without actually changing the dollar-value of the burden placed on the city of Toronto. In other words I'd be firmly in the "I'll believe it when I see it" column when it come to any party trying to assure me that this will be fixed.

Jim said...

LKO - Zing. Fair enough point.

Jim said...

NWL,

This is the excerpt from the platform.

[L]ocal property taxes should be used principally for local needs, not to pay for provincial programs unfairly imposed on a community.

Then it goes on to the individual deliverables.

If that is not an admission of the problems surrounding downloading, I don't know what is.

Jim said...

Dan,

You know, at this point, I'll take "I'll believe it when I see it".

It means I can still convince you...

:)

northwestern_lad said...

Jim... an admission of the problem and offering a solution, or better yet, promising to act are two different things. I don't doubt that Mr. Tory believes there is a problem, but he hasn't promised to fix it. That's what the people want. It's not enough for Mr. Tory to feel the people's pain, he needs to actually do something about it. He has yet to promise that. But like I said before, I understand why that is, because he doesn't want to fall in the Dalton McGuinty trap. I don't like the vagueness, but I understand it.

James Bow said...

I agree that we need concrete details, especially considering that Toronto faces a huge deficit in 2008. I think you and I agree that Toronto is badly underserviced; we need more buses, more streetcars and more subways at every stop and station, and yet the fiscal reality is that the City of Toronto, like any municipality, cannot run a deficit. Between that and between the fact that the reserve funds are gone ($1 billion spent over 4 years in a desperate attempt to balance the books). So what can Tory do to avoid the cuts that are coming right on the first year of his possible premiership?

We need immediate uploads that will make up to $575 million worth of difference. So, let's have details?

I think the first leader that offers concrete details on uploading will win the next election. And I do know that if John Tory can match McGuinty's MoveOntario 2020 proposal, he will have my vote.