[attach]5379[/attach]A new year is a time of hope and goal setting. We recognize that we face many challenges and want to commit to making the New Year better than the old year. In our city and locally, we face both difficulties and opportunities. The following wishes in my estimation would be a good start to return confidence and pride in our city, services and people, which have all been severely shaken in the last year.
Wish Number 1 — Pride: That we return to the notion that we are citizens of a great city, the envy of the world with wonderful potential. We are not just a disparate group of taxpayers and customers, but citizens seeking fair and balanced solutions to our common challenges and aspirations for city building.
Wish Number 2 — Truth: We have the right to know. Our political leaders must provide genuine and truthful assessments of the city’s fiscal problems and opportunities and a clear and declaratory understanding of where they want to take the city. The Ford administration promised efficiency without cuts to services. Now, we are being subject to an ideologically driven campaign to reduce the influence of municipal government and the services provided.
Wish Number 3 — Bring back the Transit City: It’s time for the provincial government to insist on completing the comprehensive and fully funded light rail transit network. It’s the height of irresponsibility that the funding for an entire network of transit be plowed into burying one spur (The Eglinton line) of the originally envisioned citywide plan because the Fords don’t like tracks on streets. As time passes, it is becoming very clear burying the Eglinton Line presents engineering and technical difficulties that not only eat up the current funding for an entire transit network but may require more funding because of those challenges. For example, digging underground trenches deep enough to accommodate the overhead electrical connections of surface light rail — deeper than what is required for a subway — and the insurmountable, if not impossible underground crossing of the Don Valley.
We have also learned the unilateral scrapping of the Transit City plan has put the ratepayers of Toronto on the hook for an estimated and escalating loss of $65 million owing to Metrolinx and the province for the work that had been started on Transit City.
Closer to home, improvements to service on the 501 Queen Streetcar line has been reduced and rush hour enhanced service has been removed with no comment from the local councillor. All this, and a 10-cent fare increase. It’s also hoped and should be expected the federal government will step up to the plate and become the major funding partner for transit in the major cities of Canada. If there is an Achilles heel imperilling the future prosperity of our city and region, it’s the inadequacy of efficient transit infrastructure. Gridlock is a disincentive to investment. Let us have all three levels of government working together this year on this challenge.
Locally, Wish Number 1 — The Honeymoon is over: Increasingly heard on the streets in Beaches–East York are comments that the Ward 32 councillor must rise above the superficial banalities of muffins, arguing incredulously that one be allowed to raise chickens in every backyard and holding hands at coffee klatches, as some kind of bromide for our serious community challenges. The councillor must give our community a substantive understanding of where she stands on the major issues, like service, program cuts and closures to recreation centres, i.e. Earl Beatty Recreation Centre, pool closures, library cuts, planning and development pressures and the reduction to transit services, as well as, stalled basement flooding and lead pipe replacement programs.
Does the councillor buy into the Ford vision of fewer services, privatization and the fire sale of city assets? Can the councillor provide a strong front to convince us she possesses the ability to stave off the attacks on our services and public institutions? The Ward 32 community is accustomed to strong representation that delivered community improvements and protected hard-won services.
Rather, we are left watching from the sidelines as these gains are yanked out from under us. It is unprecedented for a representative from Ward 32 to be considered a swing vote on every major vote and lobbied from all sides. Even the likes of Conrad Black in his Dec. 24, 2011 National Post column targeted Ward 32 among others, to stand up against selling off 11 city owned homes operated by St. Vincent DePaul providing reintegration programs of shelter, food and counselling to nearly 7,000 people — “that helps the neediest … and gives a huge return on investment”.
Ward 32 needs a player with a clear and strong voice at city hall.