We're getting snowed

[attach]5415[/attach]It’s 8:30 p.m. and been snowing for more than four hours. The Main Street bus is parked at the top of the hill on Southwood Drive with emergency flashers dancing in the dark. The bus driver is standing at the side of the road warning drivers the road’s all ice.

A week earlier, this time at 11:30 p.m. following several hours of snow, a family minivan comes scuttling along like a ragged claw and proceeds to bounce off the curb at the junction of Glen Manor and Glen Manor Drive East — to the amazement and consternation of the four teens on board. Later, the teens stand huddled for more than an hour, apprehensively awaiting irate parents and a costly tow and repair.

These two illustrations may seem like common winter occurrences, but last year at this time, the local road network would have been cleared and salted hours before helping to prevent these incidents. Based on this evidence, I can only surmise the service levels and protocols for salting and road safety have been reduced.

And there is the rub.

In the midst of the recent budget debate, when we faced the prospect of cuts to everything from the number of police and firefighters on the street to the number of hours we can send our children to the library, another rationalization process has been proceeding that will surely hollow out the services that we have come to expect from the city as surely as the prospect of the major service cuts that did not occur. The lead pipe renewal program, the flooding prevention program, increased costs for use of parks facilities, reduction in street cleanliness, reduced transit service and major staff reductions will be felt by residents every time they deal with the city.

With the 11th-hour reprieve to some programs and services in the recent budget, compliments of the so-called moderates (aka fence sitters) on council, there seems to be an impression that we have dodged a bullet, that somehow city hall has been wrested away from the Ford regime.

Not so fast!

As much as I hate to admit this, I am afraid the Ford agenda is still alive and well. It just experienced some minor setbacks. The truth of the matter is we continue to labour under a mentality that has no regard for investing or building the city. Fighting a rearguard action to save a few programs does not a city make.

More importantly, whether or not the Ford agenda proceeds may be determined by the outcome of the unnecessary labour impasse, brought to us courtesy of the Ford/Holyday combative approach to the people who provide the services for the rest of us. All this due to a lack of respect, collaboration and compromise on the part of this administration. Do we really need a citywide work stoppage in a quest for an illusionary concept of smaller government? Who will this serve? It certainly won’t serve the public who will be severely inconvenienced. Where will the savings be? After all, we are getting a property tax increase, with the potential of no service provided for what could be a lengthy time.

For all the sound and fury of this ideological head butting — are we better served? Is this any way to run a city?

On the transit file there is a growing recognition of the reckless, poorly crafted and hugely expensive idea to bury the Eglinton LRT as proposed by mayor Ford. The cost of piling all the funding into one line at the expense of the multi-line Transit City plan includes a $65-million break fee to scrap the original plan. This back-of-the-envelope idea by Ford has been criticized as the most expensive transit project to be undertaken in North America, and the only one in which a surface line would operate underground. The accompanying height of the train’s electrical overhead connectors require the deepest tunnelling in history.

Ford brought in former councillor Gordon Chong to attempt to find private funding for the Sheppard subway line to Scarborough Town Centre. But to date no private investors have come forward. Realistically, the Sheppard line will not be built under these circumstances.

Although the mayor is clinging to his original idea, TTC chair Karen Stintz and TTC commissioner John Parker, both with the Eglinton line running through their wards, know it will be a total disaster and are speaking up for a return to the original Transit City plan.

As well, the mayor unilaterally scrapped Transit City without following the proper legal process. Either city council or the province must take heed of the fact that the original Transit City is the only plan that has received proper approvals.

There is a serious need to take a responsible approach based on sound technical advice to undertake this important infrastructure project and not rely on the whim of a layperson.

The mayor’s bullying tactics appear to be failing and let us hope by my next column we will be back on track with the Transit City plan which was professionally designed to most effectively meet the needs of the majority of Torontonians.