UPDATE – 2017-12-07: In light of confusion regarding the nature of this post, this post should not be construed as an endorsement. It is an analysis given the following constraints: there being only two major, viable candidates in the 2018 Mayors race. As of this update there are 145 days until nominations open and 232 days until nominations close, plenty of time for this analysis to be rendered moot be there being a viable, progressive candidate participating in the race.
ORIGINAL POST – 2017-11-03: The 2018 Toronto election is shaping up to be a very sleepy affair. The only two candidates who have publicly mused about running are Doug Ford and John Tory. Every person I have spoken to about the race agrees that there is no way that they would ever vote for Ford. But if you want to build Toronto and make it a better city than it is today voting for Ford is the better option.
I keep seeing and hearing from progressives and people who want to make Toronto a better place lamenting that the 2018 election is already lost.
Let’s set aside that there are 188 days – just more than six months – until nominations even open for the 2018 municipal election and that there are 369 days – just over a year – until election day.
First of all we should recall how John Tory won. In short: barely, and only with the assistance of a constituency that votes against candidates rather than for them. What has Tory accomplished? For all of Tory’s fast talking, he has nothing substantive to point to in the last three years. Going into 2018 we see Tory on a charm offensive to try to sell hot air and a laughably easy to pop “vision”.
Part of the rationale for amalgamating the six Metro cities into the new City of Toronto in 1998 was that it would realize cost savings and efficiencies. As noted in the Chief Administrative Officers report on the amalgamation process to Council in 1999 seventy three percent of the value of the operating budget at the time of amalgamation had already been harmonized through programs and services operated at the Metro level of government. It was only within the remaining twenty seven percent that efficiencies could be derived.
Nearly twenty years later and the dream of a fully harmonized City of Toronto still eludes us with councillors fighting tooth and nail to preserve historically derived services that are exclusive to only a few communities within the city. Besides the cost implications there is also the questions of equality and fairness by having the residents of the whole city pay for services enjoyed only by residents in parts of the city.
You might be surprised to learn that it is. It is a Privately Owned Public Space – POPS for short – which means that although it is private property and maintained by a private owner it is meant to be a space which is accessible and used by the public.
But more and more owners of these spaces are going to great lengths to discourage the public from using these spaces. Designs that incorporate walls along the street, constructing gates and fences, and displaying signs that gives the impression that the space is for private use only.
Jennifer Keesmaat’s love and passion for urbanism cannot be doubted. Through her speeches she demonstrated a breadth of knowledge and experience that few possess. That she has made herself into a hero to urbanists, progressives, and the media cannot be denied. But as the Chief City Planner, a civil servant, I am glad to see her go.
Keesmaat viewed herself and her role not as being a Director in the Toronto Civil Service but as a Commissioner in an American style strong mayor administration, along with the publicity and prestige that such a public office holds; think Janette Sadik-Khan. However, because of the way that she ran her office, real damage has been done to the trust and integrity of the planning department and to Toronto’s transit system.
“I think in an ideal world, a lot of these projects would have been advanced a long time ago,” said Jennifer Keesmaat, Toronto’s chief planner. “We’ve approved the growth. In many instances we’ve already built it, but the transit has been lagging … Suffice it to say, we need to catch up. We desperately need to catch up.”
She’s right. But stopping and going back to square one is an odd way of catching up, particularly when you’re already behind. That’s what’s happening this fall as Toronto City staff have outlined a two-steps back proposal to “reset” the long-awaited Waterfront LRT project.
A drain feature. “I cannot justify spending … $1.96 million for a ‘drain feature’ in the St. Lawrence Market redevelopment,” John Tory announced, never mind the actual cost that is up for debate is pegged at $1.64 million.
Toronto is a young city built on land with a rich heritage. Around the time that colonists started arriving the land on which Toronto is now built was home to the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. In 1786 land was purchased by the colonial government from the Mississaugas to establish a new settlement which would eventually be named York.
After the war of 1812 with the Americans, York grew quickly attracting workers and merchants. It grew too quickly though, faster than the infrastructure needed to support residents, and the town earned the nickname “Muddy York.” This lead to the incorporation of Toronto in 1834 and lead to its first democratically elected mayor, William Lyon Mackenzie.