TORONTO - I love Toronto. There is no other place I’d rather be. I have grown up here; went to school here; met my wife and raised a family here. After all, as a bonus, there is the prestige of its reputation as “the Centre of the Universe.
Every one else in the Country “hates Toronto” because they know this to be true. Pure envy, I say.
But there must be something in the water that affects political thought and political process. It even affects politicians whose intellectual standing in the public forum is well established, in the municipal as well as at the provincial level.
Somehow, Mayor Tory succeeded in convincing Municipal Council to approve the imposition of a toll for the users of the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway.
Cannot do without the revenue stream it would generate ($170 million estimate), he said. Moreover, those “foreigners” from the 905-area code are using our roads, clogging up our streets with their cars and not contributing.
City Council budgeted a whopping $335 million last year for the purpose of “minimizing [traffic] congestion”. How?
Here’s a thought: budget an additional $89.7 million to expand bike lanes (842 km of them on the streets and in the parks). That involves taking current road space away from those relying on cars.
Tough luck for commuters. They should get jobs within walking or biking distance of their homes. Or take public transit like the Mayor.
905-ers cried foul. If only the weather would co-operate and businesses re-locate, they whined. Those who live beyond the northern barrier on St Clair Ave - the raised streetcar tracks for the uninitiated – chimed in their support. “Downtowners trying to keep the uncouth barbarians from their precious enclaves”, they said.
Opposition parties at Queen’s Park pounced on the opportunity to embarrass the Premier, hobbled as she is with an extra dose of unpopularity. They promised to overturn Municipal Council’s decision. Toronto and the economy it generates goes beyond the borders claimed by the Downtown Progressives.
What was the Premier to do? Why the answer was self evident. Give Toronto the money and spread some more of it (about $250 million in total) to all the other municipalities, thereby eliminating the need for tolls.
Hero? Not quite. Council and the Mayor are outraged. Now they must devise some other technique to keep 905-ers and their evil cars from downtown. But they get to keep the cash.
It was never about the money, they say. It was about managing traffic congestion. Just to be clear, not the congestion at Keele and Wilson or anywhere along Lawrence Avenue, Sheppard Ave, and the list goes on.
The Premier just gave away some of our hard-earned money to people who didn’t need it and cannot put it to good use. But, it’s the Toronto way.