Could a Tea Party–esque movement be good for Toronto?

Could a Tea Party–esque movement be good for Toronto?

A Tea Party protest in Texas (Image: Susan E. Adams) 

With federal and provincial elections looming, there’s a good chance that Torontonians will have conservative leaders all the way to the top—mayor, premier, prime minister. In the Liberal fortress that is Toronto, that could be seen as cause for alarm, or even despair (if nothing else, it’s a huge change from 2003 to 2006, when we had David Miller, Dalton McGuinty and Paul Martin running things). But maybe it shouldn’t be. Ed Glaeser, writing in the New York Times, says that there’s a lot the Tea Party can offer cities in the U.S., and some of his arguments are just as relevant to Tim Hudak and Stephen Harper as they try and break into Toronto.

Says Glaeser:

Urbanites are not natural libertarians. New Yorkers should like government more than Montanans, because New Yorkers have more need for an effective local government.

Crowding thousands of people into a tiny spot of land creates a risk of crime and contagious disease and congestion, and those downsides of density need public management. America’s cities became healthy only when local government spent vast sums on clean water; they became safe only through massive local policing efforts.

While urbanites do need strong local governments, they can make common cause with libertarians opposed to a larger federal government, especially because national largess often goes to low-density states with more senators per capita.

In Canada, too, the provincial and federal governments largely function as a machine to move money away from cities and out to suburbs and rural communities [PDF]. So shrinking the mid- and high-level governments, the logic goes, is better for cities. Moreover, Glaeser points out, things like income tax reduction benefit cities more than suburbs or rural communities, because people who live in cities earn more. More than anything it’s policies at the provincial and federal level that encourage sprawl-based development, where even in lean times Queen’s Park finds money for new highways, but cuts money for public transit.

The whole discussion is like this bizarro “what if budgets made sense” post: if Conservatives at any level wanted to follow up their small-government words with actions that helped cities, there’s plenty they could do. Instead of a cynical punchline about what we’ll get instead, maybe we’ll just quietly hope that Tim Hudak and Stephen Harper prove us wrong.

• If the Tea Party Went Downtown [New York Times]