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It’s Time to Pay Toronto

You know I am getting really really pissed at the arrogance and sense of entitlement the people of Toronto seem to have. I love this city with all the passion one person can have. Everyone I’ve ever bored with my narratives of Toronto and its history knows that. Here are some facts to ponder. Pilfered off the net:

A century ago, 80 percent of Canada’s population was rural; today, 80 percent of the country’s 33 million people lives in towns and cities, and that figure is expected to reach 90 percent by the year 2020. “Between 1996 and 2001, almost all of Canada’s population growth was in the four largest urban regions: the extended Golden Horseshoe (Toronto and surrounding area) in Ontario, the Montreal region, the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, and the Calgary (below)-Edmonton corridor.These parts of the country grew by 7.6% (compared with 0.5% for the rest of Canada), and they are home to more than half of the Canadian population.

 In 2002, 48 percent of Canadians lived in the eight largest metropolitan areas: in order, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa-Hull, Calgary, Edmonton, Quebec City, and Winnipeg. These cities have been starved of resources by the country’s senior levels of government for years. Ottawa and the provinces tackled their own deficits by cutting spending and downloading responsibilities to cities. And, the cities didn’t receive more money to deal with their new tasks. Figures from the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) show that, in 1995, federal and provincial funds made up 21.4% of municipal revenues; by 1999 they provided only 16.5%.

 So, cities were forced into the position of having to provide more services with less money. Not surprisingly, they became cash-strapped, and cities that worked beautifully three decades ago, started to fall apart. Winnipeg’s former mayor, Glen Murray, pointed out recently that federal revenues are up 70 percent over the past decade, and provincial revenues are up by 50 percent. Meanwhile, he says city revenues “can’t even keep up with inflation.”

U.S. municipal governments spend more than twice as much per resident as Canadian cities. They depend on property taxes for only 27 percent of their total revenue, and they have more access to local sales taxes and income taxes. They also receive more than their Canadian counterparts in transfers from state and federal governments. For example, in 2002, Washington put $54.55 (U.S.) per resident per year into municipal budgets, compared with Ottawa’s $10.22 (U.S.) for similar services: American cities received about 27 percent of revenue from senior governments, and in Europe the contribution to cities from senior governments was 31 percent and rising. The future of the country relies on cities with robust and diverse economies that can generate wealth to support the less fortunate, integrate newcomers, and connect into the global economy.”

To quote an article in the Globe & Mail written by the late Jack Layton “cities can’t thrive when thousands are homeless, affordable housing is dwindling, public transportation is neglected, child care programs are starved, (public) swimming pools are closed, and roads are clogged…”

Cities are the great generators of wealth in Canada. In 2002, for example, Winnipeg accounted for 64 percent of Manitoba’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – that’s the total of all the goods and services produced in the province. The story’s similar across the country. Halifax produced 48 percent of Nova Scotia’s GDP; Toronto accounts for one-fifth of Canada’s GDP.

In return for its contribution to this nations wealth, Toronto receives 8 cents out of every tax dollar it sends to Ottawa and Queens Park. How this can be considered even close to fair is beyond me. A real and widespread tax revolt is surely called for. I for one do not believe we are getting value for money. While our infrastructure crumbles around us the feds have the unmitigated gall to set about buying billions of dollars worth of fighter jets we did not ask for and do not need. Peter McKay seems entitled to take very expensive helicopter rides at our expense while we are closing day care centres. I can go on and on but you know the list.

These facts aside we are talking about Toronto. We were subjected to a 3 year property tax freeze by Mel Lastman which seemed like a great idea at the time, but did us no favours. While the province was busy downloading costs to us we were limiting available revenue to pay for these new expenses. Meanwhile Mississauga, Vaughan, Markham, Oakville. All were keeping up to inflation with yearly increases as high as 3.5%. David Miller inherited a disaster and has been pilloried ever since for trying to fix it. Now we have another mayor who thinks he’s doing us a favour by cutting, cutting, cutting.

Are you familiar with “you get what you pay for”? What makes us all think we are entitled to the best roads, transit, community facilities, libraries, etc? We certainly shouldn’t have to pay for them though. I was present at a Councillor’s Town hall meeting this week. The purpose was to explain the new council approved transit plan. First they did not seem to get that the decision is made so get past the protest folks. Then they began demanding that she take their demands to Queens Park and to Ottawa for more money. She countered with “you come with me and we’ll go, because they don’t listen to municipal politicians but they will listen to tax payers. Who’s coming?” The room was suddenly quiet.

As long as civic engagement remains a thing that only “a few” young people and some “crackpots” are involved in. This starving of our city will continue. We will continue to suffer and we will continue to bitch on but change nothing. We will continue to get what we pay for. We have a mayor right now who is the poster child for our lack of civic engagement. He is the mayor and he is so far removed from the true responsibilities of his job as to be laughable. Yet he has been deemed a sort of folk hero. Why isn’t he being held accountable? Why isn’t he screaming at Queen’s Park or Ottawa? I could care less if he attends Pride, but I would sure like to see him in the same room with the PM asking some hard questions and demanding real answers. Instead of bowing and scraping!

The time has come to join the ranks of the World Class for real. Net property tax on a 300,000 dollar home in Buffalo is nearly double what it is here. They don’t spend nearly as much on infrastructure and forget healthcare. We have to pony up. We have to scream long and loud at the Province AND the Feds. We are not getting what we pay for and we are not paying for what we want. We give them more and more and get less and less. Free health care? That’s becoming a joke. A free hospital bed, care in emergency. What about the rising cost of prescription drugs. Who can afford that? What does it cost us when we have to fix the illnesses that stay untreated because of the cost associated. Unemployment rises but eligibility for EI benefits becomes harder and harder, leaving , many to either become homeless or move on to Welfare.

We must decide what kind of city we want to live in and then make it happen. The Rob Ford presented to us in the last election was a fantasy. He was created out of whole cloth by spin masters to pray on our hopes and dreams. It worked. But I ask you folks? How’s that working for you now? He cancelled the VRT. All that was costing you was 60 bucks a year. It cost the city 60 million bucks a year. What do you suppose that might have bought you or your kids. He froze property taxes yet again. What do you suppose that is costing you? He fought tooth and nail to devour a huge chunk of money on a teeny little piece of subway that would barely have serviced a sixteenth of the total population. Over a plan that will service over one quarter of the population. Again I ask How’s that working for you?

It’s expensive to live in a city. I live here, I’ve lived in other cities. They all cost. But how that money is spent will determine the quality of the life you live. The city of Calgary covers nearly as much surface area as Toronto. Far less population but the developers there have not gone up. My point is, ask anyone in any corner where they live and the answer will be the same. Calgary. Ask here and the answer will be Scarborough, Etobicoke, East York, and so on. The right answer is Toronto. We need to stop waging war on each other and start demanding all 3 levels of government to pay us the respect we are due. We pay ALL their salaries. And sorry to say but we need to start paying. We just do.

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If You Can’t do the Time Mr. Ford

Toronto Gay Pride Parade 2006. Gay Pride Parad...

This business of Mr. Ford not attending the Pride Parade is coming to symbolize everything that’s wrong about the Ford administration. What’s incredibly sad is that it is increasingly clear that what we suspected all along is true. We have a childish, spoiled brat, rich boy in the mayor’s chair. He’s played “you can’t make me” before and gotten away with it but this time they aren’t going to let it pass. This, more than almost anything else he’s done, could very well be his final undoing.

Here’s the thing. Rob Ford seemed, right from the start, to think once he was Mayor he could do just as he pleased and we would all just have to like it or lump it, so there. He sat in council for 10 years and learned nothing. He was/is so completely in over his head and unable to relate to and learn from his fellow councillors that he never did understand what his role was and what the actual role of the Mayor of Toronto was and is. He hated David Miller for all sorts of mindless reasons and as all bullies do he only saw the guy who seemed to have everything he didn’t. Well he sure showed Miller didn’t he?

Poor Rob. Guess what he’s discovered so far. He doesn’t get to do just as he pleases. He got away with bullying a lot of councillors for about a year and then they began to learn what he never did. They aren’t dependant on him for their jobs. They have constituents to answer to. He still seems to hang on to the belief that the majority of Torontonians support him. Even though they never did. I suspect they will show him this in a historically impressive turn out to the next election. If he has the balls to run again and if he can still find the financial support to do so. That remains to be seen. In his current trajectory he is ever so slowly turning into a rather pathetic caricature of a big city mayor. There is the possibility of turning this around, as Matt Elliot points out so well in Metro this week. But he won’t.

Mayor Rob Ford on January 1, 2011, wearing the...

I have experience with Bullies. There are those who will insist I am being politically naive and I probably am. But I know about bullies. All fat kids do. They are cowards. They live in fear of everything they don’t understand. They will kick a defenseless kitten rather than face a fear. It is far easier to hound someone weaker than they to the point of terror, than to face a nameless fear. Rob Ford is terrified of queers. He thinks Aids is something you can catch from a drinking cup and he will never, ever, ever willingly take part in anything that is even remotely connected to Pride. You can see the fear in his face when he’s backed into a corner and has to speak to it at all. It’s so palpable it hurts. The more he is badgered the more frightened he gets. If I had any real feelings for the man I’d feel sorry for him. But I don’t, so I don’t.

Here’s the thing Rob. Before you decide to do something so bold as to decide to run for ANY political office. Shouldn’t you consider ALL the duties and ramifications of the office? I recall that when a certain relative of mine decided to run for a political office, she consulted with the whole extended family. We were all told what we could expect and what was needed in the way of support. We were all told that unless we all understood what she would be obligated to do, and unless we all supported the decision, it wouldn’t be successful for her. We have watched her do things and say things that on occasion, we knew she was struggling with. At a time when our Mother was so ill we thought we would lose her, I watched her carry on her duties knowing how sick she felt inside not to be with us.

That’s what you do when you sign on to be a representative of the people Rob. ALL the people. You pretty much agree to sell your soul on a certain level. Though it pains me to say it, you literally agree to put the people you represent, if not ahead, certainly beside, the people you love. I understand that, why can’t you. Someone I love has had to put her constituents ahead of her beliefs, on occasion. She has always done it willingly because she knew what she was getting into before she made the committment. Her family loves her, not in spite of this, but because of it. There is no real way to express our pride.

Toronto, Canada skyline

You represent the City of Toronto Mr. Ford. Every single one of its constituents. Whether they voted for you or not. Whether they are black, white, red, or brown. Rich or poor, gay or straight, or indifferent. You are our face. When the world looks to Toronto, they look for its Mayor. Does it bother you that you are becoming an international joke? We learned today through the redoubtable Shawn Micallef that in Finland they know of us because we are the only city in the world getting rid of bike lanes while others are going a different way. Your attitudes about rapid transit are notorious now, all over North America.

Here’s your chance for redemption Mr. Ford. Pride Toronto brings a million tourists into the city. They pay, quite literally, billions of dollars, right into our so-called ailing economy. All you have to do is sit on the back of a convertible, smile, and wave for a couple of hours and then you can go to the cottage secure in the knowledge that you represented your city to the rest of the world as the welcoming, safe place it is. But you won’t will you? Like the people who used to stand on the street outside gay bars on Halloween waiting to see something gay happen. You will hide at the cottage imagining gay men and women copulating in the middle of Church Street and thanking God you have once more managed to dodge that horrible bullet.

Meanwhile Rob, the rest of us and by the rest of us, I mean all of us, gay or straight, will be enjoying one of the most positive, joyous celebrations in the world. We will be laughing out loud, hooting, and possibly looking away when those old men parade by nude. We will all be having a great time. We will meet new people and tell them how great our city is. We’ll give them directions, advise them on good places to visit, and to eat and drink. In short we will do what you won’t. We will represent this grand city. And we will think, only 2 more years and then maybe we’ll get us a mayor who actually cares about ALL of us.

Casino Casino Part 2

Yesterday I wrote on this subject. I am copying it below. But first let me point something out to all who are screaming at Mammo, our very own Italian Frat Boy with no mute button. We are being played folks. Not by Mammo & Co who are perhaps being played the most. They are providing some very useful cover for the Province right now. Woodbine Live is a done deal. Talk as you want. They have had all the clearances they need to start digging for something like 4 years. That they are entertaining the idea that they might get away with moving the whole thing to the lake front is really what all this palaver is about.

You can disagree with my thoughts below, and I’m sure you will. I will say again that I’m not sure how I feel about this. But I know this. It will get built. If it is allowed to be done at the lake front it will cause mayhem. Not the kind of mayhem you are all being directed to. There will not be single Mom hookers and slobbering compulsive gamblers as far as the eye can see. Come on. You know you don’t really believe that. But what there will be is a complete destruction of the down town entertainment district. The core is a jewel in our economy. It does not need this kind of competition so close.

Please, I beg, stop buying into this emotional carrying on. Think clearly. Start considering what this kind of development really could do. Think about how it can be used for the good of the city. If you really cared so much about single Mom prostitution , why aren’t you down on the track screaming at John’s? Look at what Rama has done for their area. Look at the rejuvenation of Windsor.

I’m not a fool. Of course there will be some prostitution out there, Of course there will be problem gamblers. But they will exist long after we are gone. Where they are will change with the times but as a population they are pretty stable. As I said yesterday. We’ve been fighting drug abuse by making it illegal and preaching abstinence for nearly one hundred years. How’s that working for us? There are 12,000 jobs in this development. Are you willing to force that single Mom out on the street because she can’t get a job due to your left over Toronto the Good mentality?

I get more and more disturbed by our willingness to be played as a population by a small group of very smart professional manipulators. They manipulated us into arguably, one of the lamest mayors we’ve had in years. They manipulated us into a completely ridiculous transit argument that wasted time and money on what was really, in the end, a foregone conclusion. They are attempting to manipulate us into ruining one of the most important land developments in North America. Now this. We MUST start thinking with our brains and not our hearts. We must start remembering that these people work for us and must be put in their places. It’s time to start making these things work for our good and not their greed. Please!

Just to make it easier to scream at me, my piece from yesterday reprinted below:

Had a nasty little bout with a tummy thing and was basically out of commission for 2 and a half weeks. Thank’s Mt Sinai for fixing me up. Came home Friday and began the “take it easy” portion of one of these thingys and now I can’t seem to stop writing.So the air seems suddenly thick with casino’s. We’ll make the money we need on the backs of the people who can afford to lose it the least seems the prevailing thought. But is this really true? It’s much to easy to go there. Facts and figures for problem gambling vary widely from one survey to another. As with all surveys you can twist the numbers to suit your purpose. That problem gambling exists, no one will deny. But then so does heroin addiction, alcoholism, food addiction, and even, according to TLC addiction to eating paper towels.

Official seal of Las Vegas

Official seal of Las Vegas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’ve done nothing but stoke the fire by prohibiting drug use. Obesity is a pandemic despite a multi billion dollar diet industry. Prostitution is as it ever was and, I fear, will be. Meanwhile Las Vegas chugs on. It hasn’t been swallowed by the abyss. It’s streets aren’t crawling with the disenfranchised, there isn’t a brothel on every corner, it’s one of the fastest growing cities in North America and it has one of the best medical care systems in the U.S. What’s happening there that we’re missing? Life is happening there folks. Just like here or anywhere else. Life.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not necessarily thrilled with the idea but this one isn’t going away. This one has absolutely nothing to do with Hizzoner. Though the Province will let you think it does. Toronto will probably see precious little of the coin from this endeavour. They are counting on our good old Toronto ways right now. We will start a pitched battle. Excuse me, we have started that battle. Oh My God the horror! Single Mom hookers to the right, slobbering compulsive gamblers to the right. We’re all going to hell at Ontario Place. Except we’re not.

Make no mistake here kids. There is going to be a casino. It’s a done deal. Been a done deal for 4 years. While we wail and carry on and blame the Fords and Mammo, the shovels will quietly start digging out at Woodbine where the way has long since been cleared. Remember Woodbine Live? Well its live kids. Best part? Fifteen years of city tax breaks galore. My favourite part in this? It’s in the Ford’s own ward and it’s a provincial imperative. You just gotta love that part.

There will be some problem gamblers about, and there will be some hookers. But there are hookers on Isabella for God’s sake. I don’t hear you screaming about that. There are needles on the street in High

Advertisement for curing morphine addictions f...
Advertisement for curing morphine addictions from Overland Monthly, January 1900 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Park. We have tolerated the sad state of ex mental patients in Parkdale for years without lifting a finger. What exactly, is it about this that so offends our sensibility? To much CSI perhaps? We live in a big city. Big cities have not so pretty bits. Hide in the burbs if you must, but I live on the border of Scarborough and North York and I see homeless folk out here every day so I guess you better head for the 905.

Here are some facts to consider. A well run casino does make money. Lots of money. They do provide jobs, sorry but they do. And they are good jobs, lots of them. At all levels and multiple fields. Once built they are a destination point. What is wrong with a huge complex of businesses all set up for the pleasure of those who can afford it? Have you been to Casino Rama? Some superb restaurants, a not bad entertainment complex, the steady hum of slot machines, smiling employed people wherever you turn. People enjoying themselves. Seriously, what is wrong with that? Are we really prepared to throw that away over some imagined problems that we actually already have and are not dealing with anyway.

How about this? The casino gets built. It will get built. Once again I implore you to set your natural Toronto tendencies aside and work with this thing. Let’s make them commit some of that vast sum of money they will have back to us, to deal with the problems we’re sure we will have, and the ones we already have. They’re not going to save the province from its deficit and they aren’t going to build us a subway but they can and will help us with some of the social issues we have that we don’t seem able to fix with what we currently have.

Celine Dion performing "Taking Chances&qu...
  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At Woodbine they will be accessible to both airports, and the major highways. They will also be very available to the 905. They won’t create a big fat parking mess on the lake front and they won’t be competing with the down town core bars and theatres. In an area that the recession we aren’t having has hit hard, they will provide thousands of jobs. Plus, transit could serve them well. Break a line off the Finch West LRT and Voila!

Just think about it for a bit. Try to push down your instinctive moral outrage for a moment and just think about it. Not single Mom brothels, single Mom dealers making very good salaries. Chefs, waiters, valets, dealers, middle management and so on and on and on. Yes the requisite percentage of problem gamblers but how is that different from the requisite percentage of problem drinkers in every bar in town. In truth the businesses most hurt will be the Bingo halls. A casino will not create new compulsive gamblers. They already exist. Not building a casino will not make them go away nor will it fix the problem. It will just make us see it out under the lights. Hey we might even get Celine Dion!

Casino, Casino

Had a nasty little bout with a tummy thing and was basically out of commission for 2 and a half weeks. Thank’s Mt Sinai for fixing me up. Came home Friday and began the “take it easy” portion of one of these thingys and now I can’t seem to stop writing.So the air seems suddenly thick with casino’s. We’ll make the money we need on the backs of the people who can afford to lose it the least seems the prevailing thought. But is this really true? It’s much to easy to go there. Facts and figures for problem gambling vary widely from one survey to another. As with all surveys you can twist the numbers to suit your purpose. That problem gambling exists, no one will deny. But then so does heroin addiction, alcoholism, food addiction, and even, according to TLC addiction to eating paper towels.

Official seal of Las Vegas

Official seal of Las Vegas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’ve done nothing but stoke the fire by prohibiting drug use. Obesity is a pandemic despite a multi billion dollar diet industry. Prostitution is as it ever was and, I fear, will be. Meanwhile Las Vegas chugs on. It hasn’t been swallowed by the abyss. It’s streets aren’t crawling with the disenfranchised, there isn’t a brothel on every corner, it’s one of the fastest growing cities in North America and it has one of the best medical care systems in the U.S. What’s happening there that we’re missing? Life is happening there folks. Just like here or anywhere else. Life.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not necessarily thrilled with the idea but this one isn’t going away. This one has absolutely nothing to do with Hizzoner. Though the Province will let you think it does. Toronto will probably see precious little of the coin from this endeavour. They are counting on our good old Toronto ways right now. We will start a pitched battle. Excuse me, we have started that battle. Oh My God the horror! Single Mom hookers to the right, slobbering compulsive gamblers to the right. We’re all going to hell at Ontario Place. Except we’re not.

Make no mistake here kids. There is going to be a casino. It’s a done deal. Been a done deal for 4 years. While we wail and carry on and blame the Fords and Mammo, the shovels will quietly start digging out at Woodbine where the way has long since been cleared. Remember Woodbine Live? Well its live kids. Best part? Fifteen years of city tax breaks galore. My favourite part in this? It’s in the Ford’s own ward and it’s a provincial imperative. You just gotta love that part.

There will be some problem gamblers about, and there will be some hookers. But there are hookers on Isabella for God’s sake. I don’t hear you screaming about that. There are needles on the street in High

Advertisement for curing morphine addictions f...

Advertisement for curing morphine addictions from Overland Monthly, January 1900 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Park. We have tolerated the sad state of ex mental patients in Parkdale for years without lifting a finger. What exactly, is it about this that so offends our sensibility? To much CSI perhaps? We live in a big city. Big cities have not so pretty bits. Hide in the burbs if you must, but I live on the border of Scarborough and North York and I see homeless folk out here every day so I guess you better head for the 905.

Here are some facts to consider. A well run casino does make money. Lots of money. They do provide jobs, sorry but they do. And they are good jobs, lots of them. At all levels and multiple fields. Once built they are a destination point. What is wrong with a huge complex of businesses all set up for the pleasure of those who can afford it? Have you been to Casino Rama? Some superb restaurants, a not bad entertainment complex, the steady hum of slot machines, smiling employed people wherever you turn. People enjoying themselves. Seriously, what is wrong with that? Are we really prepared to throw that away over some imagined problems that we actually already have and are not dealing with anyway.

How about this? The casino gets built. It will get built. Once again I implore you to set your natural Toronto tendencies aside and work with this thing. Let’s make them commit some of that vast sum of money they will have back to us, to deal with the problems we’re sure we will have, and the ones we already have. They’re not going to save the province from its deficit and they aren’t going to build us a subway but they can and will help us with some of the social issues we have that we don’t seem able to fix with what we currently have.

Celine Dion performing "Taking Chances&qu...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At Woodbine they will be accessible to both airports, and the major highways. They will also be very available to the 905. They won’t create a big fat parking mess on the lake front and they won’t be competing with the down town core bars and theatres. In an area that the recession we aren’t having has hit hard, they will provide thousands of jobs. Plus, transit could serve them well. Break a line off the Finch West LRT and Voila!

Just think about it for a bit. Try to push down your instinctive moral outrage for a moment and just think about it. Not single Mom brothels, single Mom dealers making very good salaries. Chefs, waiters, valets, dealers, middle management and so on and on and on. Yes the requisite percentage of problem gamblers but how is that different from the requisite percentage of problem drinkers in every bar in town. In truth the businesses most hurt will be the Bingo halls. A casino will not create new compulsive gamblers. They already exist. Not building a casino will not make them go away nor will it fix the problem. It will just make us see it out under the lights. Hey we might even get Celine Dion!

Twitter A New Way to Make Friends Mr.Gee

I’ve been pondering the changes to life as I know it in the last few months. Had you told me just 3 or 4 months ago that I would be blogging and hopelessly addicted to a thing with the unlikely name of Twitter I would have said you were daft. But then came my involvement in the Subways, Subways, Subways thingy. Plus much to her everlasting regret, my sister introduced me to Twitter. My sister is a politician so I live in a dangerous place where I could at almost any moment turn into her very own Dougie. I pray this will never be so.

We grew up in a social atmosphere. Both sides of our family are communicators. Ours was never a quiet household. Meals were lively and raucous. If there was company then there were at least 3 conversations taking place simultaneously in any given moment. We were always encouraged to take part in any conversation and we were listened to from an early age. I will always remember that of my 2 sisters and I, it was always the youngest who came up with the most inciteful questions. In thinking about it, it occurs to me that she was often the peace maker as well. Is it any wonder she turned out to be the politician?

Being social was a part of our very make up. Our father had a profession that moved us frequently. We learned to make friends quickly wherever we were. Communication was essential. As computers became an integral part of daily life I toyed at times with chat rooms but have always found them too anonymous and unsatisfying. I tried Facebook and still have a page but seldom pay much attention. It’s too much like living in the dark. Then we began to hear about this Twitter thing. Then we began to see people around us fiddling with this thing. I watched it become part of life around me but I continued to see it as a time sucker for others.

Then came my first tentative attempts. Timing is everything and suddenly I found myself sucked into a political vortex. Something about the way it all happens pretty much in real-time. I’m not sure. I have had to learn to temper my opinions, and I have them, so as to avoid embarrassing the politician. As anyone who Tweets knows, it’s all to easy to get drawn into conversation with “trolls” and before you know it you’re saying things you really ought to have considered. But there is something very heady about being able to express yourself in 140 characters or less to someone, everyone.

What I ponder, is how it is so much a thing of the young. I have never really seen myself as old but still. The kids of now, and, forgive me, that’s pretty much anyone under 35 to me. They have this absolute absence of artifice. They barrel in with all guns blazing and just say it. Whatever it is. They seem unconcerned with putting themselves out there in, often, the most personal of ways. No whispering for them. They holler from the roof tops and it certainly doesn’t have the anonymity of a chatroom. You meet these people wherever you go. They are no more afraid to identify themselves than fly. Oh to be sure, there are lurkers. People who choose to be anonymous anyway. For their own reasons. But that’s acceptable too. It becomes a game to try to figure out who they are.

This is something our mayor, and apparently Marcus Gee, do not get. The opinions and links to blogs that Twitter is providing have begun to swing elections. Information is literally travelling at the speed of light. As fast as you venture an opinion or share a blog it’s in the hands of thousands. He wants to create a slate. What he wants, I suspect, is a lot of yes men so he can finally get his own way all the way. What he does not see is that this is simply not possible now. By todays rules. He can bluster all he likes for the next 2 and a half years but I don’t think it will do much more than to defeat him before the polls even open.

This Twitter thing is about communication and honesty and real-time team thinking. You post a thought and within seconds someone has added to it and someone else has added to that. A person such as the mayor, who cannot work in a team, and does not comprehend that old style “I’m the boss” politics are done, has very little chance of succeeding. This will not go away. Twitter will be that much more evolved in 2 and a half years. Those who see it as a fad of the young and unemployed are fools. It’s tentacles are snaking slowly out into all stratospheres.

What those such as Ford or even Gee are missing is that it is the very fact that it is the young driving it that makes it most dangerous to one such as Ford. These “kids” are the future. I’m 60 and I love it and I am even trying to turn my 85-year-old dad into a twitter fiend. But these kids are driving future elections. They are not afraid to fight you and anyone else’s army. Consider that @goldsbie (the emince grise according to Gee) is closing on 6000 followers and is now everywhere you look. In the Post, on T.V. Now move forward 2.5 years and try and convince me that this 20 something “boy” won’t be turning elections on the strength of his word. Nineteen year olds didn’t used to be even considered as a demographic. Better rethink that one boss.

Thoughts on the Toronto Portlands

This morning I wrote a comment to the Portland debate as follows:

Toronto has an opportunity here that precious few modern  cities could lay claim to. Literally right in its heart, one thousand acres of virtually undeveloped land. With it comes a huge responsibility to future generations. There is absolutely no reason to accelerate any of the process, other than greed. This land belongs to us, our children and their children. The Don needs to be restored to it’s absolutely natural roots and there is no reason on earth that it shouldn’t. The Lakefront belongs to us. Not to the few chosen who can afford an over priced condo. We spent a great deal of time and money to develop a plan that has won International acclaim and now a few back room bandits want to upturn it? This is Toronto’s history. Talk and talk and talk and plan and plan and plan and then when we’re all bored to tears and have lost interest, screw it up. At some point it comes time to smarten up and remember who’s the boss. Further it’s time for Toronto’s population to grow up and recognize that it IS the boss.

We have not even touched on the realities of what can be done with this land. I attended the sessions. I heard all the thoughts of things like Urban Farming and keeping the areas south of the boat channel for wild lands and so on. None of this has even been looked at. The approach has been driven by economic concerns only. This is patently wrong and I think you all know it. I think none of you expected so many to be interested. Well welcome to Ford’s Toronto. This HAS to be driven by the users. I can see no other way. You can shake a condescending finger and suggest that we don’t understand the economics but you’d be wrong. We get that. And we get that up til now the onus has been put squarely on City hall to find the way.

I submit that if ANY Developer wants a piece of what is probably some of the most valuable and desirable real estate in North America, if not the world, he better be prepared to pay. Whatever we say he pays. I further submit that there are precious few smart developers who won’t. We are the laughing stocks of Canada when it comes to this subject. Guess what? It’s time for them to pay up for all the free rides they’ve been getting for the last 50 years and more. They know it, you know it, and we know it. Now get on with it boys! There’s more than enough to go around and it’s going to take a century to do it.”

It astonishes me at some level that any of this is happening. But then again this is Toronto, isn’t it. You can think you know her but just when you get complacent she leans back and slaps you. Something I think we always miss is her constantly changing mindset. When I was 16 years old and exploring her every nook and cranny on the TTC, then considered the best of the best in North America by the way. If you asked what was the largest immigrant population the answer was easy and instant. The Italians. Everybody knew that. Now, not so much. Back then there were more Portuguese in Toronto than there were in Lisbon, did you know that? Things have changed.

I left Toronto for a while. For completely inexplicable reasons I went out to Calgary for a bit. When I left China Town was Dundas and Spadina. When I came back something was definitely happening. Since then there have been constantly ebbing and flowing immigrant populations. The Sri Lankan’s began to come. Our East Indian population began to rival and then surpass the Vancouver population. The Somali’s came. The Caribbean Population had been here for a long time but was small at first. I was at the first Caribana, out on Toronto island, a small collection of incredibly yummy food concessions and some astonishing music over a long weekend. Did you know we have a Muslim population that’s been here nearly 100 years, out in Scarborough? I could go on but you see where I’m coming from.

Each group’s arrival has changed the dynamic. Each has specific needs. Sometimes we have responded well sometimes not. How many other cities in North America have literally hundreds of restaurants where sign language will be required because English is not spoken, at all! Our politicians have actually gotten this. For a long long time they have gotten away with using it to advantage without us really noticing.

As long as the status quo was preserved we were to busy living our lives to notice the goings on at City Hall. That cute roundish building downtown. Does anyone even doubt the cuteness of Mel Lastman‘s 3 year property tax freeze at a time when all around us were raising theirs 3% a year and costs were steadily rising? We still think our fiscal mess is all David Miller’s fault when he saved our asses in the nick of time. He left us with a surplus and did much to give us back our vaunted world-class status but what do we remember him for? We literally drove him from office and replaced him with……. I think if you read any of my blogs or tweets I need not expand here.

The Portland’s is a legacy of earth shattering importance. It’s a gift that will keep on giving for a thousand years if we do it right. No city anywhere I can find has such a thing as this. A chunk of lake front land in its heart that is completely raw. With nearly 3 million people living within 40 minutes of it. We MUST rise up and scream at these greedy bastards who want to carve it up as conveniently as possible to make the most money possible for the least amount invested. Bull shit is all I can say. Can we please, please, please just for once, learn from others and make this the paradise it should be?

People can live there. They can, there’s room for them. More importantly they can play there. They can even farm there. They can work there too. It can all be done. But it has to be thought out very very carefully. The full focus needs to be on users and uses, over money. Money must be the last thought. Everyone worries about where the money will come from for the missing services. You will never-never convince me that the developers won’t pay for what they need. I grew up with a developer father. He knows more about that biz than anyone alive. When he tells me what that land is worth now and what it will be worth when it is developed. Please don’t insult my intelligence. These people will pay or one of their brothers will. Or they lose we win.

What if it’s all left to go wild, I know that won’t happen, but then no services are needed. How about it’s a National Park? How about it’s a huge Urban agricultural preserve? How about we learn to do less money driven thinking and more user driven thinking? How about City Hall starts actually thinking about us and our real needs for a change? Do this City Counsellors, Holyday, Mammoliti, and Ford et al. Go out to Ashbridge’s Bay on a Sunny Sunday. Say about noon. Try and find one of the BBQ pits to use. I dare you. Every one was taken long before. The kids are dropped off early to lay claim to the spot that will be inhabited by about 30 or 40 family members until at least dark. Tell me we don’t need more of this kind of recreation, tell me it isn’t respected and loved by a population who are to busy surviving to come scream at you.

Toronto’s biggest problem right now is its total lack of self-esteem. The Ford’s know that. They pit us against each other neighbourhood to neighbourhood. Neighbour to neighbour. Ethnic group to ethnic group. Economic group to economic group. So far they are getting away with it. Losses notwithstanding we are on very delicate ground right now. Our futures are being held in the shaky hands of about 25 to 28, depending on the day, counsellors. That’s not good enough Toronto. Time to take on the dragon. Let’s start by stopping this travesty and moving on to more. Try this. From this day forward start smiling at everyone you see. That’s all. Soon you might find yourself saying hello. Then you might actually find out what the guy across the street’s name is. That’s how a real world-class city works!

 

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