Here is a not-so-secret secret of political communication. When you hear a politician say: “We have to be prepared to make the tough decisions”, or words to that effect, take heed. If you are wealthy, review and prepare to protect your investments. If you are poor, gird your loins. It’s going to be a very bumpy ride.
Some of you will remember the election of Mike Harris as premier. The “tough decisions” then were to reduce the government’s influence in the socio-economic life of the province. And he did, with a success that still haunts our community. It’s hard not to attribute some of the blame for what happened at the Eaton Centre recently to what Harris’ “Common Sense revolution” put in place. Among the cuts he made were programs that supported youth; programs that tackled racism and racial discrimination, changes to how schools dealt with disciplinary issues and much more.
We are now seeing some of that from the federal government. Slowly but surely the Harper government is withdrawing support for community-serving groups. Under the guise of seeking savings, he is making significant changes in a number of areas that, when all is said and done, are cuts to programs like settlement.
On the other hand, Harper and his team have initiated spending in some areas that have many of us scratching our heads in bewilderment. The largest and most perplexing is the massive expenditure on the military. They are bent on spending billions of dollars on an unproven war plane. They are spending billions of dollars on building new warships. They are wasting millions of dollars trying to get used submarines, purchased from the UK, in working order. One is moved to ask the question: What war is the Harper government planning to fight?
Closer to home, we have a mayor who, it must be apparent by now, is in over his head.
Recently, Mayor Rob Ford cast the sole vote against accepting a $350,000 grant from the federal government for use in anti-gang activities. While I do have great concerns about some of the kinds of programs the City may choose in handling this issue, you have to ask: what was he thinking?
Well, according to him, it is not the government’s money; it’s the people’s money.
This is how this thing called democracy works, Mr. Ford. There is a principle behind the collection of taxes. It is done to ensure that certain conditions exist for the smooth running, healthy living and security of the nation, the province and the city. Yes, it can be hard on the pockets of many but, in the end, the sewers get looked after, the garbage gets collected, our personal health is attended to without enormous personal expenses, and so on.
Yes, we do complain about taxes, but would we be happy (or contented) without certain protections and safety nets?
This is not the first time that the mayor has voted against accepting money for a project. He rejected funding for HIV and syphilis screening.
There were other questionable “fights” that the mayor took on that really makes one wonder if he has a vision of what the job is about; what the city is about. The losing campaign over subway vs. light rapid transit still has many shaking their heads. What does our mayor want to see of a future Toronto? What would he like to see as a legacy that would make him proud that he has contributed substantially to the growth and development of the City of Toronto? I have absolutely no idea.
The previous mayor, David Miller, talked about a community of neighbourhoods. Whether you supported him or not, at least you had a sense of where he was going. Other previous mayors have also had their wish list — a sense of what the city should be doing and what it should be. That is not a sentiment I get from Ford.
Meanwhile, the mayor has voted to support an exploratory bid for the summer Olympics of 2024. Granted, he isn’t necessarily supporting a bid. This is just looking at the possibility. But, given his penny-pinching ways, one would have thought that bidding for the Olympics would not even enter his thoughts.
The bottom line is that City Hall is appearing more rudderless day by day. It is not surprising that a few of the mayor’s main supporters on Council are slowly slip-sliding away. He picks the most inappropriate things to fight over and those are the items that dominate the news, not his vision for the City of Toronto.
If he has one.