Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Toronto Wrap: Taxes for transit, more on Jarvis & keeping our zoo

By: Metro Canada Published on Fri Oct 05 2012

Council gets serious about transit—and taxes

One of the few bright spots of the Mayor Rob Ford era is that elected officials finally seem ready to talk seriously about what it'll take to expand our transit system in Toronto. Ford, of course, seems to want nothing to do with it.

But that conversation will continue next week as Ford's Executive Committee considers a staff report detailing potential investment strategies for transit expansion. The report includes everything from a dedicated income tax to highway road tolls. It even looks at a return of an old favourite: the vehicle registration tax.

How to pay for transit is the most critical issue affecting transportation in this city. None of the other sticking points—subway versus LRT, downtown versus suburban, car versus transit—matter if we can't get a handle on how to pay for building and operating the comprehensive transit network this city needs.

TTC chair Karen Stintz is encouraging the public to come out and speak to the importance of transit, describing this as an opportunity to define “OneCity 2.0.” I like the intent, though she should probably stop trying to make the name “OneCity” happen.

Ford, for his part, told CBC host Matt Galloway that he supports none of this. “I can't support any of them right now,” he said. “I'm not a tax-and-spend type of politician.”

Fair enough. But how about being a politician who actually gets something built?

Earlier this week, I asked for explanations from three councillors who seemingly flip-flopped on past statements when they voted against a bid to retain the bike lanes on Jarvis St. this week. For the most part, I'm still waiting.

Councillor Ana Bailão, to her credit, did step up and post a response to the issue on her website. Unfortunately, her reasoning as to why she voted to remove the lanes doesn't hold much water. Part of her explanation: “The Jarvis bike lanes were never part of the Toronto bike plan, were implemented without consultation, and were installed outside the recommendations of the Environmental Assessment undertaken to improve the public realm on Jarvis.”

But here's the thing: If you're going to hold the original Environmental Assessment for the Jarvis St. corridor as a reason to vote to eliminate the lanes, then you better look to see what the EA actually recommended. The result of that consultative process made it clear that Jarvis' reversible fifth lane should be removed as part of an effort to improve the shoddy and depressing streetscape. But following this week's vote, that lane will now be reinstalled at a cost of about $280,000.

If you're going to talk about supporting the original EA, then support the EA. As it is, council has effectively torn it up, throwing out a consultative process that began under Mayor Mel Lastman.

Toronto Zoo to remain publicly-owned

After councillors got word that the Chinese government wouldn't loan pandas to a privately-owned facility, Council was quick to reverse course and cancel plans to look at selling off the Toronto Zoo. Proving, I guess, that the best way to get politicians to abandon plans to contract out services and facilities is to involve some really cute panda bears.

This post was originally published at on 2012-10-05T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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