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Reaction Roundup: The OneCity proposal sparked lots of chatter and crowned an alternate mayor

With cloak-and-dagger plans, alliance building and power shifts, Toronto politics has veered into epic poem territory of late—and Karen Stintz’s new OneCity transit plan is one of the biggest shockers to date. It’s ambitious. It’s detailed. It looks way out into the future. And it leaves Rob Ford grumbling from the sidelines once again. If there’s one message to be had from the $30-billion kick in Ford’s face, it can be summarized thusly: council’s been futzing around with transit issues long enough and there needs to be a far-reaching plan, with a real funding model, immediately. Now that the covert plan has dropped, here’s the lowdown on what the papers, politicos and pundits are saying about it:

• There were a lot of secrets at city hall
The Toronto Star marvels at the amount of planning and coordination it took to keep the plan quiet while creating openings for it at the July meeting. According to the paper, the core of the OneCity secret society was TTC chair Karen Stintz, vice-chair Glenn De Baeremaeker, Josh Colle and Joe Mihevc. After shutting down Ford’s subway plan over the winter, the councillors knew they had considerable muscle and that the need for transit was greater than a few paltry LRT lines (not that those won’t be nice). Mike Del Grande’s proposal to tax parking lots for subway construction suggested that a tax for transit might be tolerable for many, and the alliance saw the current-value assessment uplift as the “least evil” funding option.

• The idea has angried up the right…
The mayor and his allies are staunchly, and predictably, against the plan. Doug Ford called the idea the “TaxCity plan” in the Toronto Star and bemoaned the taxes that will rain down on every resident, renter and business in the city. Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday sounded miffed that he wasn’t consulted and suggested councillors orchestrated the plan just to make the mayor look bad. Councillor Michael Thompson was similarly “appalled” that Ford wasn’t even consulted.

• …and some lefties aren’t on board either
Shelley Carroll also has reservations—and no one would ever call her a Ford ally. She prefers a Mississauga-inspired regional sales tax, saying, “I like Karen’s map, but I like Hazel’s math.”

• It’s not perfect, but at least there’s a vision
A number of columnists were dazzled by the sheer audacity of the plan. Metro’s Matt Elliott and the Globe and Mail’s Marcus Gee both applauded Stintz for her vision, and for stepping into the city’s leadership vacuum. Elliott was glad to see a funding model attached to the plan, but believes it’s a “half-step short.” He argues that a dedicated transit sales tax coupled with increased parking fees would be a safer bet.

• Speaking of leadership…
Stintz may have shut down suggestions she’s gunning for the mayor’s job, but Gee believes Stintz is practically the de-facto mayor: “If a mayor’s role is to lead city council, then, in a way, she is already doing the job.” In the National Post, Chris Selley suggests that should Stintz run in 2014, she could make “mincemeat” out the mayor.

• It’s big, it’s bold, and it’s not going to happen
In the National Post, Matt Gurney argues the city is transit-starved and in need of new routes now. But he has some big doubts about the OneCity plan, mostly because it relies heavily on the federal and provincial government for funding: “Until those cash-strapped other levels of government find room to make real cash commitments, OneCity is just a marketing gimmick.”

• How TTC chair Karen Stintz and her allies made the OneCity transit plan [Toronto Star]
• Mayor Rob Ford won’t support OneCity transit plan [Toronto Star]
• Toronto councillors pick sides in OneCity transit battle [National Post]
• Ford playing catch-up [Toronto Sun]
• New OneCity transit plan could radically transform Toronto [Metro News]
• With an unusual display of leadership, Karen Stintz throws down the gauntlet [Globe and Mail]
• Chris Selley: OneCity should be the start of a transit discussion, not the end [National Post]
• Matt Gurney: Toronto ponders a bold new transit vision (that won’t happen) [National Post]

  • John

    I like the idea, but why is it always property tax. When is Toronto going to smarten up a start to toll the highways. Every other major city does this, and if we want to be considered to be a world class city I think its about time those that choose to live outside the city PAY for the amenities that they use when in the city.

  • JS

    I’m with John and double tax on limo buses coming in from the 905

  • Chris

    I like the idea, but I have a few concerns:

    -I agree there needs to be consideration of other revenue sources besides just property taxes – I understand that’s one of the most stable and consistent revenue sources, but it’ll be a tough sell in this environment. We need to be looking at road tolls and parking taxes, as well as other sources. Property taxes alone just won’t cut it.

    - the timeline is VERY long – you know how many Councils we’ll burn through in this timeline? As it is, if Ford, god help us, wins again, the first thing he’ll do is go after Transit City again, and that’s fully funded by the province – what do you think he (or someone of his ilk in the future) will try to pull on One City?

    I hate to sound so cynical, but sadly we live in an age when politicians rarely think past the next election cycle – hence the lack of big, bold thinking, especially at the Municipal level.