Thursday 12 December 2013

Rob Ford and His Legacy: Okay, now I'm scared.

What's the right answer? Now I'm sure your immediate response would be, "What's the question?" And therein lies our collective problem. People keep spouting off about their right answer when subsequent analysis concludes those people didn't understand the question. Understand it? Heck, you could say they were answering a completely different question.

On the front page of Wednesday's Toronto Star (December 11, 2013), you find the lead article "Transit plan flaws exposed" by Royson James. A report by the Neptis Foundation, a think-tank on Canadian urban issues has raised red flags and sounded the alarm bells on the $50 billion makeover proposed by Metrolinx. (both reports, Neptis and Metrolinx, given below in References)

It's the first real independent review of Metrolinx's big plans. It serves as a wakeup call for the agency to assert itself instead of being overly influenced by transit politics, which have ramped up since Rob Ford became mayor.

Worried about the zombie apocalypse? You should be worried about a bombastic, uniformed and distorted view of realty that could see us all doing facepalms years from now about how we were collectively so gullible to let ourselves to be sucked into the vortex of an altered consciousness. I'm not talking about Metrolinx. They need to tighten up their plan but they're headed in the right direction. No, I'm talking about Rob Ford and his financially unviable plans.

Rob Ford cancelled the Scarborough LRT which leaves the city on the hook for $100 million in penalties. That LRT was completely funded by the province. In other words, it was free. While Rob runs around telling us all how he's saved the City of Toronto one billion dollars, all the major newspapers have discounted his claims and offered analysis to back up their stance. I note that nowhere in Rob's own inflated estimate of how good he is does he ever mention the $100 million penalty.

Rob sticks to his guns with his overriding transit plan of "subways, subways, subways." The Neptis report states that the Scarborough subway is an inefficient use of funds. It will be underutilised and not worth the money. It also mentions this startling fact: the Scarborough subway as proposed by Rob Ford will cost the City of Toronto $1 billion. Wait. What? The LRT was free, now we all are paying $1 billion? What the heck?

Need I remind the reader that right from the start, Rob Ford kept making statements which didn't make sense? The numbers didn't add up. He campaigned saying he would find $2 billion in savings in Toronto's $9 billion budget. Imagine that, $2 billion. 22% of the budget was a waste. Just over a fifth of the city's budget was fluff. In a year, he is back to the public to ask for cuts as the city is short $750 million. How the heck did we get from $2 billion in the black to $750 million in the red?

Trying to discern the truth in the myriad of reports, analysis, and the bombastic statements made by the mayor is almost next to impossible. But to me, the takeaway from all of this is that we need a timeout and a level-headed objective assessment of the situation. We are collectively in the very dangerous position of making the wrong decision then having to live with the consequences for years if not decades to come.

We cannot properly address an issue if misinformation prevents us from properly assessing the issue.

As I stated in my last posting "Rob Ford: Alcoholic Thinking and a Gullible Public," Rob has been a bad boy and he knows it. He's gotten caught with his pants down under the most egregious of circumstances and he is desperately trying to worm his way out. Let's not forget that desperate people do desperate things. He's denies saying he wanted to eat former policy adviser Olivia Gondek's pussy by saying he's got more than enough to eat to home. He tries to smear the media covering his antics by insinuating that Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale is a pedophile. He admits to being involved in a number of illegal activities then suggests police chief Bill Blair is unfairly targeting him. This man is definitely not thinking clearly. He needs help. And he needs to resign immediately. I can't trust him to tell the truth any more than I can trust him to run the fourth largest city in North America. The numbers have never added up properly and his behaviour is a clear indication of a mind befuddled by personal issues. Rob Ford never should have been elected. It is a testimony of how in politics, the public is more times than not ignorant of the issues. If it was that easy, it would be done by now. Why oh why do we continue to believe the snake oil salesman?

Facts are not decided by how many people believe them. Truth is not determined by how loudly it is shouted.
- sign at the Rally to Restore Sanity, October 30, 2010, Washington DC

Final Word
The Neptis report is just another red light, another warning bell that we are in trouble. If we collectively make the wrong decision now, the consequences will be costly not only for us, but for the next generation. It is hard to believe we are collectively in this situation. If Rob Ford was an employee, he would have been let go a long time ago. Any organisation has the right to protect its name and its reputation and unacceptable behaviour including criminal activity is grounds for dismissal. It is hard to fathom how the highest elected official of Toronto can brazenly get away with this. Obviously, the founding fathers in crafting legislation for the municipality did not imagine a situation like this. They certainly never imagined the likes of Rob Ford.

But ignoring all the personal stuff about Rob, I would want to return to the numbers. While Rob portrays himself as a man of the people, returning phone calls and investigating potholes, I have never felt this was a man who had a great vision of the big picture. Yes, we have problems. Yes, Toronto is not perfect. But Rob is so bogged down in the details, going out of his way to respect the wishes of the voters he talks to, he can't stand back and look at the city as a whole and what its future could be or should be. The greatest danger of Rob Ford is not what he is doing at the moment; it's the danger of the legacy he will leave behind.


Neptis Foundation - December 2013
Review of Metrolinx's Big Move by Michael Schabas (PDF)
Key Conclusions: The report shows that while some projects represent good value for money, several can be modified to improve cost-effectiveness. A few projects should be reconsidered in their entirety (see Figure E1). The advice to Metrolinx is to consider a “course correction” to ensure that the Big Move reaches its important goals, and makes the best use of its available funds.

Metrolinx - November 2008
The Big Move: Transforming Transportation in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (PDF)
This document — the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), which includes the Investment Strategy — provides a vision, goals and objectives for the future in which transportation within the GTHA is seamless, coordinated, efficient, equitable and user-centred. It also contains Strategies, Priority Actions and Supporting Policies that are needed to achieve the future vision, as well as an Investment Strategy to finance the transportation system over the short- and long-terms.


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