Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

John Tory using the I-didn’t-know-until-now excuse on TTC fares and budget loan

By: Matt Elliott Metro, Metro Published on Mon Jan 26 2015

A common political pet peeve of mine is politicians who make like they’ve been blindsided by information once they take office.

In my experience, their surprise is hardly ever justified.

The new information they claim to have received is usually not new.

There were two examples of this kind of thing over the past week, both involving Mayor John Tory.

First Tory announced that he was reversing on a campaign commitment not to raise TTC fares. Token fares will go up by 10 cents starting in March.

Tory explained how, after looking at the TTC’s service levels and the impact of cuts implemented over the last four years, he realized a fare freeze wasn’t really possible.

Then, at the launch of the city’s 2015 budget, Tory was able to hold to his election promise to keep residential property tax increases at or below inflation only because the city built $86 million in “special provincial assistance” into the budget — a loan.

He never mentioned anything about needing to balance the budget with a loan, of course, when he was running for mayor. But the loan is necessary, Tory says, because of a steep provincial cut to the municipal housing program.

Here’s the problem: Both of these things — the TTC’s budget woes and the provincial cut to housing — can’t be called surprises.

They were well-known pieces of information long before last year’s mayoral campaign.

Hell, I knew about them last year and I don’t even think I ran for mayor. I definitely didn’t have an army of advisers on payroll feeding me information.

But the implication from Tory is that he didn’t have all the information until after he got elected. It’s a little a too convenient.

I would rather elected officials break their campaign promises, of course, than force them through at the expense of logic and evidence. Tory was basically right to waver where he did. Had he pushed for a TTC freeze, service probably would have gotten worse. Had he not grabbed for extra provincial money for the operating budget, programs would have been gutted.

It just would have been nice if the obstacles he’s now facing had been acknowledged and talked about during the campaign.

But we seem to get less and less of that in modern politics. There’s a disconnect between the things politicians tell us they will do and the things they actually can do. And that disconnect gets brushed aside by this idea that some information just isn’t fully knowable until a politician takes office.

It’s never really true. In most cases, the facts are there. The budget details are public. The obstacles are clearly marked. Too often the problem isn’t a lack of information. It’s an unwillingness to confront reality.

This post was originally published at on 2015-01-26T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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