Wednesday, November 16, 2005

State-funded drive-bys on the rise in Toronto

Bob Tarantino at Let It Bleed has unwittingly written the introduction to the London Fog manifesto, if there were one (cited here and here):

Back when there was still a thing called "political science" [sic], and when I was taking it in various levels of schooling, my teachers/professors would invariably express wonderment at the fact that the intensity of the electorate's interest in a level of government was inversely related to the actual impact that said level of government had on their lives. In short, people tend to know/care about what the federal government is doing, but ask most people who their city councillor is, and you'll have flummoxed them. Yet our local governments are by far more important to our daily lives than the policy wonkery infecting the mandarins in Ottawa. But (relatively speaking) no one pays attention to municipal elections. Or to, say, school board elections or the myriad other positions which make the wheels of our society squeak along. And when no one is paying attention, that means one thing: opportunity.
Well, then he goes on to talk of a conservative political strategy, but we're not inclined to quibble as Bob is a decent sensible libertarian-leaning sort of conservative — substitute your own political descriptor, unless you're a socialist of course:
[…] I'm not sure that the conservative option is being offered in most local elections. You want a grassroots conservative movement in Canada? Take over the grassroots. Win the library boards, win the school boards, win the borough, the city, the regional agglomeration, whatever. If there is a "[l]ack of institutional infrastructure/support for conservatism", perhaps that's because we've ceded the field of contest to the other side. If we're "ghettoized and not part of the cultural mainstream", part of that might have to do with the fact that we don't get our ideas out there, we don't get our policies implemented, and we're instead relying on a media and government which we know is blindly hostile to us to do that job.
Yup — and there's no point letting the communists at AltLondon have all the fun and fame of local political internet punditry.

Kate at the Last Amazon does remind us, however, that there are things to be grateful for, living in London — such as not having to imagine what the David Miller-led Chavistas in Toronto city council will get up to under new legislation being promised by Dalton McGuinty's Liberals (from the Toronto Star):
New taxes on tobacco, bar drinks — even tickets to entertainment events — will be available to Toronto councillors trying to balance future city budgets […]. The new taxing powers would be part of a new City of Toronto Act being hammered out by Queen's Park and the city. If approved, the transfer of powers would give Toronto the ability to raise millions in new revenue annually, and provide council with much greater powers to regulate development. It would also give councillors a much stronger hand in determining the look and feel of the city.

The changes are proposed in a confidential report — Building a 21st Century City, written by top staff at Queen's Park and City Hall — that will be released this week. "We are recommending a dramatic departure from the status quo," the report says. "We are recommending ground-breaking change." The new powers will benefit both levels of government and the people they serve, it adds.

Empowering its capital city will […] position Ontario to successfully compete in a globalized economy and provide a quality of life for its residents that is second to none," the report promises.
Uh oh… with vague but insistently positive language like that, politicians and bureaucrats are never up to any good. Decentralization of decision-making cannot be reduced to small enough political units, of course — ideally exclusive to the jurisdiction of individuals — but the McGuinty Liberals and the Miller municipal NDPers are conspiring to give Toronto powers to make the worst decisions on the worst issues:
The scope of the powers proposed to be granted to city hall are not only vast but wide ranging:
• Passing bylaws on just about anything that lets the city run better. Right now, if the city isn't specifically given the power to do something by the province, it can't.

• Regulation of store hours. The city could, for example, decide to let stores stay open on statutory holidays, like Christmas.

• The power to promote development in underused areas by forgiving property taxes or other city fees.

• The ability to hold developers to architectural and urban design standards to improve the look and feel of the city.

• Preventing conversion of rental housing to condominiums to protect affordable housing and set minimum densities for new buildings to encourage intensification.

• Establishing a business owned by the city to meet a defined goal. The city could, for example, start a business to provide cheap Internet access to poor neighbourhoods to improve life there but couldn't open a factory to make designer clothes.

• Powers to implement taxes and fees, which could include taxes on parking, sidewalk snow plowing, additional car registration fees and road tolls.

"Ha ha! Building a 21st Century City! That's a good one!


B Wylie Ajax, Ont. said...

Billions have been stolen..
To line the pockets of many..
Liberals consider this money..
Their's to bribe and sway..

When the conservatives are elected..
We'll finally have our say..
Audits, then criminal charges..
Against the Liberal way...

Bring on the election, the sooner we get rid of the thieves in Ottawa the better.

Mitch said...

This reminds me of a point that a friend of mine, a long time political campaign manager/consultant has made: the time has come to re-orient political parties from a Fed/Provincial organization to a county/municipality basis - where each county fields candidates on a municipal, provincial, and federal level. This would start bringing party affiliation to municipal politics. This would also, cause a lot of councillors not getting support when they have an "L" or an "NDP" after their name, plus force a degree of intellectual consistancy for local elections.

Pietr said...

All except one of the quoted proposals are minor liberalisations designed to sweeten the poison pill at the centre.

The major point of this drive is the one exception, namely the ability to dictate style and content to developers.

This will DESTROY Toronto, which is their aim.

MapMaster said...

Well said, Sorehead. Toronto will become a planned community that nobody will want to live in nor be able to afford, despite the emphasis on affordable housing.

Running under party banners at the municipal level may or may not produce the benefits that you claim, Mitch. Party affiliations may be useful tools for the electorate to consider the ideological inclinations of candidates — however, even in London it is quite easy for anyone who follows the news to assign councillors into party categories if so desired. So, party affiliations are useful tools only for those voters who aren't inclined to give more than summary thought to their preference — I don't see the point in encouraging them. Even if, though, the ends justify the means — and I'm not saying the means you suggest are undesireable — consider the coalitions that subsitute for parties in Vancouver, COPE and the NPA — COPE is recognizable to all as the fanatic fringe of the NDP, yet it controls Vancouver city council. And certainly in Toronto it was no secret that David Miller is an NDPer. However, it may yield positive results in London — NDP-type thinking on council is certainly disproportionate to the general electorate. Certainly for a party like the Conservatives, it may be in their best interests to establish a presence at local levels.

Mitch said...

Point taken Mapmaster - you hit the nail on the head that conservatives need to develop a municipal presence - for the reasons mentioned above about the impact of municipal governments on our lives, and as a 'farm team' to develop talent for provincial and federal campaigns.

My rule of thumb on municipal elections was a nugget of wisdom from my father. "Never vote for the incumbent," was his rule. "It takes them one term to figure out where the cookie jar is, and in the second, they'll have their hands right in it. So better to kick them out before they have the opportunity."

In other words - I would rather have a clean and incompetent council that doesn't get anything done than a corrupt and efficient one that gets things done.

MapMaster said...

Ha ha! I think I'd rather like your father.

Just out of curiosity — did Kwame Kilpatrick get elected in Detroit under a party banner?