At a joint press conference this morning with Ontario transportation minister Steven Del Duca, competent person and Toronto mayor John Tory made what was billed as a major transit announcement: Finch Street West will be getting its own light-rail line in 2021, with construction to begin in 2016. “Today we are here to talk about moving forward, finally,” Tory told reporters. “What this transit line will do is provide an additional 11 kilometres of badly needed transit.” It’s a bit of progress, but it’s also déjà vu for anyone with a long memory for Toronto’s many thwarted transit schemes. The Finch LRT was originally endorsed by the TTC in 2007, and was scheduled for completion in 2015, before an onslaught of political problems (including the rise of Rob Ford) caused the project to be shelved indefinitely.
Ignore, for a moment, all the sideshow antics that have hijacked his mayoralty. Rob Ford has made some big changes at city hall that we’ll all feel, in a good way, long after he’s gone
You could be forgiven for believing that Rob Ford’s first two years as mayor amounted to nothing more than a riveting insignificance. He’s provided quite a spectacle. Talking on his cell while driving. Reading while driving. The Cut the Waist Challenge (and its dismal failure). The altercation with a Star reporter near his property. Allegedly flipping the bird to a kid and her mom. Calling 911 (three times!) to save himself from a Marg Delahunty bit. Yet none of these incidents tells us anything about his record as the city’s chief magistrate.
Philip Preville: Shark fins, pet store puppies, plastic bags—why Toronto city councillors like to ban things
Rob Ford’s victories rarely last. In fact they only become more stunted as his mayoralty lurches along. For his opening salvo in office he killed Transit City; less than two years later it was reborn. Now his wins can be measured
On June 6, council approved Ford’s proposal to end the five-cent fee on plastic shopping bags. Before he had time to gloat, council members promptly voted to make Toronto the first major Canadian city to prohibit plastic grocery bags altogether. Starting next year, Toronto retailers will provide customers with paper bags.
Ford’s objection to the bag ban is quite simple: he’s a conformist. He wants Toronto to quit messing with the rules all the time and act normal like everyone else. It’s this aspect of his personality that chafes so gratingly against the city he ostensibly rules. Toronto likes to be an early adopter of righteous urbanist innovation, a forward-thinking, environmentally and socially progressive bastion of creative-classist policy-making. Our avant-gardisme has become part of
Loyal councillors have defied him. His approval ratings have plummeted. And his powerful Conservative backers are nervous. How did it all go so wrong? The strange story of Rob Ford’s city hall
On Newstalk 1010, the sly strains of the Hollies hit “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” offered the first clue. Then morning host Jerry Agar burst on the air with a surprise announcement: Rob Ford and his councillor sibling Doug were taking over the station’s Sunday afternoon talk-fest, The City. For the once-staid CFRB, landing the boisterous brother act that Margaret Atwood had puckishly dubbed the “twin Ford mayors” was clearly a coup, but that didn’t answer the more obvious question: why on earth would the Fords want to spend two more hours a week in front of an open microphone when they were hardly suffering from a lack of media exposure?
Rob Ford, after all, ranks as one of the most compelling and exhaustively chronicled figures in Canadian politics, adored and despised with equal gusto. His every pronouncement seems to turn into front-page fodder, his every grimace and belly scratch catalogued by rapt photographers. And who could forget the YouTube footage of comedian Mary Walsh arriving in his driveway, decked out with a velvet breastplate and a plastic sword?
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The whole “war on cars” talking point feels so 2009 (and 2010… and 2011), but now that Metrolinx and city council have pushed through an LRT-based transit plan against Rob Ford’s wishes, it’s back in a big way. Some members of council (well, mostly Doug Ford) are already gnashing their teeth over what the plan means for drivers—especially since tolls could be on the table if Josh Matlow gets his way. Others are looking ahead to the 2014 election and how shifts in power could change the whole project once more.
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Rob Ford has been silent since Metrolinx resurrected the LRT-based transit plan he cancelled on his first day in office, but the mayor’s brother Doug (as usual) was less shy. Yesterday, Doug vowed to continue fighting for subways into the 2014 election—even though construction on the Sheppard LRT line is scheduled to start in the summer of 2014. “We are going to run on subways,” he told the Globe and Mail, saying that councillors who voted in favour of the LRT-based plan “are going to be held accountable in the next election” (we can just picture the construction-site press conferences). Moreover, if Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal minority topples before 2014, Doug said he would leave his brother’s side, run as an MPP and try to help direct the transit debate from Queen’s Park. Though that’s several steps off, Doug’s comments do serve as a reminder that this plan is only secure as long as the Liberals maintain their hold on Queen’s Park—the Progressive Conservatives’ Tim Hudak has already shown how much he supports subways. [Globe and Mail]
Rob Ford’s re-election campaign seems to be off to a good start, continuing the imaginary fight for subways
The Globe and Mail says the conflicting messages from Dalton McGuinty and Rob Ford on the transit file are enough to make the two politicians “sound like players in a game of broken telephone.” The premier maintains that the province intends to follow the lead of city council, while the mayor, who claimed council’s decision to revert to a light rail–based, Transit City–esque plan earlier this month was “irrelevant,” suggests it’s “political suicide” for McGuinty to side with council (i.e., Toronto’s elected body of political representatives). However, we suspect that the disconnect is less about miscommunication than it is about misinformation. Ford seems hell-bent on running a re-election campaign—yes, already—on the idea that he’s fighting the naysayers at city council to give the people the subways they so dearly desire. And if he can take that fight to Queen’s Park’s doorstep too, we figure by his own (likely flawed) logic that can only help his chances. Read the entire story [Globe and Mail] »
Too bad Matt Elliott’s Transit City bingo card doesn’t include a cash prize—because Toronto Sun columnist Sue-Ann Levy would’ve claimed it before the game even really started. In the pages of the paper this morning, Levy’s recycling of Rob Ford’s tried-and-true talking points scored her an easy B-I-N-G-O along the top row, and council’s special session on the city’s transit plan hadn’t even yet begun. Of course, given the rancorous debate on the issue so far, we’re sure Levy won’t be the only winner today. Read the entire story [Toronto Sun] »
In their hasty attempts to defend Rob Ford’s transit plan despite mounting opposition, the mayor and his supporters have (rather dogmatically) relied on a trusty set of talking points to do their heavy lifting for them. In a bid to show just how tired Ford and Co.’s anti–Transit City arguments really are—that light rail will be a repeat of the St. Clair streetcar screw-up, that Ford was elected with a mandate to build subways and that Scarborough is getting shafted—city hall blogger Matt Elliott created “Transit City Opposition Bingo” (yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like). Tune in to tomorrow’s special council meeting—or just grab the nearest copy of the Toronto Sun—and see how long it takes to win! Read the entire story [Ford for Toronto] »
Rob Ford will likely endure another public defeat at a special council meeting tomorrow, this time over his beloved Sheppard subway, the Eglinton LRT and the potential return to a transit plan much like supposedly dead-in-the-water Transit City. Of course, it’s not the least bit surprising that Ford is unwilling to make nice with TTC chair Karen Stintz, who’s leading the campaign against Ford’s own transit plan, on this. We know the mayor doesn’t like compromising, even if the alternative is losing a vote at council. What is rather surprising, though, is some councillors appear willing to support Ford’s plan at the expense of the wellbeing of their own wards. As municipal blogger Matt Elliott writes, Vincent Crisanti and Giorgio Mammoliti are poised to stand with the mayor even though that would be tantamount to robbing their constituents of expanded transit. Crisanti sides with Ford on almost every issue, while Mammoliti is big on subways and wants one for Finch Avenue. That means either he’s willing to sacrifice his own ward just to oppose Stintz, he’s uninformed of the financial and logistical considerations involved in building a subway, or Ford has made him a ridiculous offer to maintain his allegiance. Given that we’re talking about Hot Wheels here, we wouldn’t be surprised if it’s all three. Read the entire story [Ford for Toronto] »
With the support of 23 fellow councillors, Karen Stintz boldly called for a special council meeting to confirm the city’s memorandum of agreement for light-rail transit on Eglinton, Sheppard and Finch. We’d say this sounds a lot like the resurrection of Transit City—but that name died with the David Miller administration, so we’d better not. Instead, we’ll just say this: Stintz’s petition will likely serve as the nail in the coffin for Rob Ford’s grand plan to bury the Eglinton Crosstown. And really, the mayor has nobody to blame but himself on this one. First, Stintz offered him a compromise, but he declined. Then, Gordon Chong, the man Ford asked to make his subway dreams come true, suggested the city fund the Sheppard extension by instituting road tolls, among other revenue-generating measures, but Doug Ford called those a “tax grab.” Yes, the mayor says he has a mandate to build subways, so building subways is what he’s going to do. But it appears council believes it has a mandate to build light rail, so building light rail is what it—and, more importantly, the city—is going to do. Read the entire story [Toronto Star] »
Having attracted heaps of attention for saying what everyone is already thinking, Karen Stintz has moved onto phase two of her plan to improve public transit: proposing actual ideas. Under the TTC chair’s new proposal, the Eglinton LRT would run partially above ground, and the money saved would go toward bus transit on Finch and an additional Sheppard subway stop. Under Rob Ford’s rapidly eroding plan, Eglinton, along with billions of dollars, would be completely buried, the private sector would finance a lengthy Sheppard extension and Finch would get, well, nothing.