Reaction Roundup: council’s petty and ultimately useless transit debate

Reaction Roundup: council’s petty and ultimately useless transit debate

(Image: Christopher Drost)

As soon as Karen Stintz opened the Pandora’s Box of taxes to fund transit—a discussion Ford had fought to put off—last week’s council meeting turned sideways. Ford waltzed in and out of the chamber, councillors began proposing new subway routes, Giorgio Mammoliti accused 80 per cent of Finch Avenue riders of not paying their fares and Scarborough councillor Chin Lee told recalcitrant colleagues to “shut up and go home.” After more than two hours of voting, council didn’t endorse any specific taxes or fees, rejecting roughly a dozen options, and left a sales tax, development charges and a corporate tax cut rollback on the table. Ford and Stintz each tried to claim victory, while several other councillors deemed the outcome a total disaster. Below, the city’s columnists try to make sense of it all.

• The Toronto Star’s editorial board lambasted council for acting like an “unruly kindergarten class” and leaving Toronto without a clear voice in the provincial discussion on taxes and fees for transit (a reversal from columnist Royson James’s cautious optimism after the first day of debate.) The newspaper said the council session showed such ineptitude that Ontario will completely ignore the city’s views and slammed the councillors who heralded the “flaccid result” as a victory.

• Marcus Gee at the Globe and Mail focused on how the electoral power of Scarborough’s 600,000-plus voters underpinned the entire debate, especially councillors’ unwillingness to endorse taxes and attempts to float a series of lame-duck subway plans. If Scarborough is asked to pony up some $800 in taxes for transit and still doesn’t get a subway, he argued, incumbent councillors and MPPs could lose their seats.

• Metro’s Matt Elliot likened the debate to “a pig slowly beaten to death with a hammer, crudely skinned and diced in the most confusingly grotesque way possible.” As for the outcome, he argued it was neither a victory for public transit, nor a victory for Ford’s anti-tax faction.

• Finally, the National Post’s political panel of Chris Selley, Matt Gurney and Jonathan Goldsbie offered its own exasperated bon mots. Selley was befuddled by council’s fickleness (singling out Stintz for reviving the Scarborough subway debate), while Gurney bemoaned that council forced the transit debate on Ford only to say no to nearly all options—exactly what Ford wanted in the first place. Goldsbie scraped together a silver lining: that this kind of council meeting is the exception and not the rule. Gurney, however, wasn’t buying it: “the entirety of council should submit to the collective punishment of being run out of town on a rail—elevated, tunneled, street-level, who cares.”

Toronto City Council bungles the transit file: Editorial [Toronto Star]
• Transit-vote mess is all about garnering electoral advantage [Globe and Mail]
• City Hall’s very messy transit fight leaves some hope for transit expansion [Metro]
• Posted Toronto Political Panel: City Council’s debate on transit revenue tools ended in thoroughgoing disgrace [National Post]