Sunday, August 31, 2014

John Tory's critics complain about TIF but fail to admit all urgent transit relief plans will cost taxpayers eventually

I'm getting a little tired of John Tory critics picking apart his "Smart Track" proposal as "risky" and "dangerous" simply because he hopes to finance it with tax-increment financing or TIF.   

Such a plan could fall well short of paying the city's $3 billion share of Tory's plan, forcing taxpayers to pay in other ways.   John Barber is the latest to offer his condemnation. 

Here's the truth: it doesn't matter if TIF will pay Toronto's entire share of Tory's Smart Track plan or any new rapid transit line plan.  If TIF fails in the future to do so, the money will have to come from elsewhere.  How was that ever not going to be the case?

From Olivia Chow's campaign (when Warren Kinsella was running the war room), we only heard attacks on Tory for somehow flip flopping on his proposal to make a Yonge Street relief line his top priority.  Tory's not flip flopping; he's simply fleshing out a plan that works.  Her campaign hasn't attacked Tory's financing plans (that I recall at least), because they aren't talking about their own financing much at all.

To build the kind of relief we need on our subway grid, we either need to electrify and re-purpose existing rail stock to create the relief sooner.   Or we build it elsewhere from scratch and take many more years to do it.

Tory at least showed he can think creatively by rightfully using existing rail lines to better integrate TTC with GO and produce the results we desperately need much faster and probably cheaper (as using existing surface lines instead of tunneling through the city is cheaper by definition.)  

The idea is sound and even inspired Chow to copy it for a good chunk of her own transit plan.

I like Chow's overall transit positions more.   I admit they will cost city taxpayers billions to fully implement.  Her plan to expand bus service by 10% will also cost even more.   She hasn't fully explained how she'll finance all these ideas either.  David Soknacki, whose transit plan is very similar to Chow's plan, at least has admitted his proposals will mean big tax increases and fare increases.

But to say Tory's plan is somehow "dangerous" for taxpayers while offering no equal criticism to Chow's plan or Soknacki's plan, is disingenuous and just plain wrong.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Rob Ford can't run a high school football team, and he most certainly can't run a city....

This is required reading for Ford Nation or those bizarre people who appear to be still considering voting for the turd in October, according to the turd pollster Forum Research.  

Here's an excerpt from the Daniel Dale story today: 

"Mayor Rob Ford made his high school football players “roll in goose scat,” threatened to beat up a teacher, showed up intoxicated to the final practice before the Metro Bowl, ignored requests to complete criminal background checks, stuck the school with a $5,000 tab for helmets he promised to pay for, and held an improper summer practice at which a player broke his collarbone, according to internal documents from the Catholic school board."

Yeah, sadly this disgusting behaviour doesn't shock us any more.  We're numb to Ford's excesses.  

After Ford has done so much lying, so much covering up, so much malfeasance, our collective reaction (at least those of us who are sensible and care about our city) should be to tune him out and scratch him off our list of possible recipients of our vote in October.   There should be no way he can win more support than 20-25%, which is about the percentage of dumb people who don't care about a mayor smoking crack on the job, I guess.  

That's why I don't want to believe today's Forum Poll which claims Ford is gaining and getting back in the game, only a few points behind frontrunner John Tory.   Really?   He lies incessantly for years about his record and his terrible behaviour, he's a confirmed bigot and has given us no evidence to believe otherwise, but now we'll consider voting for him still?  

I don't think so.   Forum is just acting like most of the pollsters out there these days: putting out bogus polls to get more attention for their brand.   They don't care how they compromise our democracy or distort how the race is going; Forum and others just want their poll to "get people talking" and get their company's name is as many media outlet stories as possible.  That's all. 

I'm waiting for the next Nanos poll.   

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

"Our Next Progressive Toronto City Councillor": Kate Holloway formally launches bid for city council seat in Ward 20 in Toronto

I'm very happy to be supporting my friend Kate Holloway (pictured) in her bid for a Toronto City Council seat this October.  

She's running in Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina, which was Adam Vaughan's former seat until he resigned to run federally.

Kate is a sensational, hard-working person and community leader, as well as an environmentalist entrepreneur.  She has founded, managed and directed several environmental organizations, including the Toronto Women's Environmental Alliance and Carbonzero and has worked extensively in energy management and municipal infrastructure.  Level-headed, fair and compassionate, she'd be a great asset to the people of Ward 20 at Toronto city hall, as well as to all Torontonians.  You can read her full bio here on her website. 

I met Kate when I helped organize 'Liberals For MMP' in 2007, the grassroots Liberal group dedicated to promoting electoral reform in that year's provincial referendum in Ontario.  I also volunteered on her campaign to become the Liberal MPP for Trinity-Spadina that year, in which, despite very little time, Kate managed to win 14,180 votes in the riding and cut then-NDP incumbent Rosario Marchese's margin of victory by about 2,000 votes.

Her engaging and warm personality, her very strong leadership skills and her progressive values which nicely complement those of Trinity-Spadina voters, make her an ideal fit for the Ward 20 community.

Kate today held a press event at her campaign office at 222 Spadina Avenue in Toronto (Concourse Level) to sign her "Pledge" to the voters of her community.  I was very pleased to be there for it (video to follow later.)  Here's an excerpt from the press release:

“Our community and neighbourhood are at a crucial juncture, and on October 27 I’m the only candidate who can finish the fight that Adam Vaughan started,” said Holloway.  “I’m running to be our next progressive city councillor, I’m running to put residents first, and I’m running to win.”

Kate’s Pledge has seven clearly-focused parts that underscore her commitment to Ward 20 residents:

1.  Fight for our values
2.  Build transit now
3.  Smarter growth
4.  Less construction disruption
5.  New public spaces & more Kid Space
6.  Bike lanes
7.  A community you’ll be prouder of

“My Pledge has seven parts, and it’s crucially important that we accomplish them together to put residents first,” Holloway said.  “It’s my commitment to fully focus on our community’s core issues, and devote my complete attention to our neighbourhoods and our city, because there’s nowhere I’d rather be.”

A progressive entrepreneur, journalist, and political activist, Holloway’s roots run very deep in the Trinity-Spadina community.

“With trust, hope, and hard work, on October 27 we’re going to elect me to be our next progressive city councillor in order to put our residents first,” said Holloway.  “So let other candidates make promises – I’m the only one signing a Pledge.”

To find out more or to help out or donate to this great candidate, please check out Kate's website here. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Still struggling between John Tory and Olivia Chow in T.O.'s mayoral race

With this fairly quiet and not-hot-enough summer drawing to a close, the Toronto mayoral race is just about to switch into high gear.  Polls offer a hint of clarity as many lately have shown John Tory pulling ahead, Olivia Chow falling back and Rob Ford stagnating, including the reliable Nanos.

We'll see if that trend continues.  Without a doubt, Tory's got game and is performing well in this race, sounding reasonable, talking about things on the minds of most Torontonians like easing gridlock.  To date, his Smart Track proposal is his strongest play, despite the many attacks it's received from opponents.  There is much to debate about it, but at its core it best represents Tory's refreshing ability to think creatively about how to solve our transit crisis in this city by using existing rail lines and pushing for greater integration with the GO network.  

Much of Tory's plan depends on substantial action and funding from other levels of government, but so do all the transit plans being promoted in this race (except of course for Rob Ford's non-plan which calls for subways, subways, subways paid for by fictional efficiencies.)

I still don't like the Scarborough subway extension plan which would add three stops instead of seven, serve fewer people, take twice as long to build and cost $1 billion more than the existing Scarborough light rail plan.  Tory supports the stubway, as do Rob Ford and Karen Stintz. 

Olivia Chow's transit plan is better for Toronto, in my opinion.  She wants to build the better LRT in Scarborough, and continue with the LRT lines for Sheppard East and Finch.  She unveiled more details today, also promising to integrate electrified GO lines into her subway relief plan, while still proceeding with an actual new subway from Pape station south and west to Union Station.   It's Transit City Plus Smart Track, in many ways.  Imitation is the highest form of flattery, John Tory could say.  

We'll see if this better transit plan helps Chow re-capture some momentum.  She'll have to relentlessly promote it at every stop as transit seems to be the biggest issue in this race.  

Still, Chow's speaking style in this campaign has a lot to be desired.  She's somewhat likeable, but comes across as flat and uninspiring.  Her years as a background political organizer in the shadow of her late husband Jack Layton hasn't helped her develop her macro-retail political skills.  Her disadvantage as someone whose first language isn't English is proving a difficult barrier to overcome.  Had she the personality of Kathleen Wynne, Chow might be able to win this thing despite that.  But alas, her support seems to be dwindling to just the core left of the city.  

I'm not entirely sure how she can recapture her earlier lead.  With Tory performing so well (and that will only increase after Labour Day when he no doubt ramps it up), Chow could get pushed aside and find herself an also-ran. 

For me, yes I would like to vote for someone whose transit plans I support.  No doubt, that would make me a natural Chow supporter.   Her longstanding support for cycling also makes her quite appealing to me.   On the other hand, John Tory's expressed doubts about east-west dedicated bike lanes in the city's core have been off-putting.  Lately, he's said he has an open mind about them, which is good as they're desperately needed by cyclists like me.   I soon need to see a John Tory cycling plan for the city that makes sense.  

Tory has vacillated between sounding like a thoughtful red Tory open to smart, progressive ideas, to sounding like a right-wing pretender who uses the term "NDP" as an insult for opponents and talks about stopping bike lanes to help traffic flow faster.  He needs to clarify things and really emphasize his trump card: that he's the best candidate to unite the city, suburbs and the downtown, as a cosmopolitan conservative with a heart.   If Chow can somehow convince voters she's better to unite the city, she might have a chance to overtake Tory. 

But for me, all of the issues mentioned above are secondary; the only real issue for me is getting rid of Rob Ford.  I will vote for the candidate who has the strongest lead in all credible polls to beat Ford, hands down.  I can live with anything in John Tory's platform if he is the person to beat the goof currently occupying the mayor's chair in Toronto.

If polls show Tory way ahead in this race, with Chow continuing to flounder barely ahead or even behind Ford, I will happily vote for Tory.  Should Chow regain some momentum on Tory, leaving Ford in the dust, or even if Chow recaptures her lead in the polls, then she'll get my vote.  If it's too close to call between Chow and Tory, I'll have a tough choice to make.

But if current trends continue with Tory solidifying his new momentum, he'll get my vote, despite his support for the Scarborough subway extension. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Edward Keenan hits nail on the head of Rob Ford's "shamelessness" and "ignorance"

Very pleasant reading today courtesy of Edward Keenan in the Toronto Star.

Here's an excerpt:

"Is he shameless, or ignorant? Those seem to be the options. If he knows what he is talking about, then he is being brazenly dishonest. If instead he is attempting to be truthful, then he suffers from an ignorance so profound as to be worthy of an Adam Sandler movie treatment.

Does anyone still believe Ford's lies?  The wilfully ignorant and shameless, for sure.  And of course the bigots for whom Ford gives permission to feel "normal" and "mainstream" again.  For those who missed it, here is a clip of the reaction some LGBT people and allies received from Ford Nation mobs last week: 

But thankfully, the Ford era seems to be heading to its conclusion, according to good pollsters who continue to show Ford stuck in the 20s in terms of popular support.  He's well behind Olivia Chow and new frontrunner John Tory, I'm glad to say.

We can't afford to be complacent.  We have to continue to fight against this anti-mayor bigot until he is voted out of office.   I intend to continue to do that.   We can ignore the idiots who still make up Ford Nation.   The rest of us simply have to decide for whom to throw our support to ensure Ford's defeat: Tory or Chow.

More on that choice in the coming weeks...

Victory in Uganda as Anti-Homosexuality Act struck down in step towards ending discrimination

Wonderful news!

Uganda: Anti-Homosexuality Act struck down in step towards ending discrimination | Amnesty International

"Uganda's Constitutional Court today ruled that the Act was "null and void" as not enough representatives were in the room for the vote when it was passed by Parliament in December 2013." 

“Even though Uganda’s abominable Anti-Homosexuality Act was scrapped on the basis of a technicality, it is a significant victory for Ugandan activists who have campaigned against this law. Since it was first being floated in 2009, these activists have often put their safety on the line to ensure that Ugandan law upholds human rights principles,” said Sarah Jackson, Africa Deputy Regional Director at Amnesty International.
“We now hope that this step forward translates into real improvements in the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people in Uganda, who have been trapped in a vicious circle of discrimination, threats, abuse and injustice for too long.”