Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Mayor Rob Ford's inaction on transit sparks council revolt – again

By: Matt Elliott Metro, Metro Published on Wed Apr 24 2013

Not this again.

Going into yesterday's meeting of Ford's cabinet-like Executive Committee, conventional wisdom had it that members had two choices when it came to an agenda item relating to new taxes, tolls and fees to support transit expansion in Toronto and across the GTA. They could either endorse a set of revenue tools recommended by staff at City Hall, or they could indicate support for some other kind of funding strategy. In both scenarios, Toronto City Council would have been granted the opportunity to debate the committee's decision and make a final recommendation to Metrolinx, the provincial transportation authority.

Instead, the committee tossed aside conventional wisdom and voted for a surprise third option. Led by the mayor, they decided to simply do nothing, deferring their decision and forestalling any council debate until after the planned unveiling of Metrolinx's long-awaited transportation investment strategy. With their votes, the mayor, Coun. Gary Crawford, Coun. Norman Kelly, Coun. Frank Di Giorgio, Coun. Cesar Palacio and Coun. David Shiner signaled that they're cool with Toronto having no formal input on the shape of that strategy.

While the province and other municipalities decide the long-term future of transportation funding and expansion in the GTA, the Mayor of Toronto would prefer that the region's largest city not even show up.

Ford, for his part, justified this with a rambling speech, pushing some of the same tired arguments against transit taxes that I wrote about yesterday. He brought up eHealth, ORNGE and even City Hall's excess supply of hand-sanitizer, insisting that before we fund any transit, “let's get every level of government in line and efficient … and then you can go to the taxpayers.”

Ford also cited some anti-tax stats from the Fraser Institute, called the whole conversation “ass-backwards” and suggested that hell would freeze over before he supported any of this.

Ford's temper tantrum likely won't matter, of course. Even before the committee votes came down yesterday, opposition councillors — now a broad group made up of progressives, centrists and conservatives — were putting together strategies to remove the matter from the purview of the mayor's committee. They'll likely need 30 votes to bring the deferred item to council, but early signs suggest that they can find the support. Which means council will get to have its say and Toronto will get to contribute to this important region-wide process, despite the mayor's objections.

If this scenario all sounds familiar, it's because the very same thing happened last year after Ford refused to compromise on the plan for suburban light rail lines and instead fixated on an unrealizable privately-funded subway dream.

As for the mayor himself, he seems more concerned with running for re-election than he is with running the city. Soon after yesterday's decision, his chief of staff was out in force indicating that councillors who support participating in this conversation about transit funding will find their names on a Ford For Mayor campaign poster in 2014, presumably under some kind of heading like “people who are bad.”

I'm not sure when winning an election — one still almost 18 months away — became more important than working to solve a transportation crisis that costs the region billions of dollars every year. But, well, here we are. Again.

This post was originally published at on 2013-04-24T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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