Two Replies to public letters from the ‘Twin Ford Mayors’ of Toronto

Dear Councillor Doug Ford and Mayor Rob Ford:

Reply #1:

Thank you for your message and the copy of Mayor Ford’s speech to the Empire Club of Canada. With all due respect I do not agree with Doug Ford’s words that Mayor Miller’s administration left Toronto in a financial mess. There have been many ‘green’ initiatives that if followed will better prepare us for the climate chaos to come. I am very worried that there does not seem to be much interest on the part of the present administration to keep these programs alive. For example we need to keep the tree planting program and increase it in the face of the Ash Borer’s destruction of much of Toronto’s Urban Forest.

I believe the main message of Mayor Ford’s speech is ‘barking up the wrong tree’. You are telling people that there is no money available to pay for a great working city when that is just not true. Have you been paying attention to the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ (OWS) groups that have sprung up all over the world recently, including Toronto – with the common message that 1% of the populations of the world have garnered all the raises and tax breaks over the past 30 years and that this 1% of our society has plenty of wealth whose fair taxes have been reduced many times over the past 30 to 40 years?  If the citizens of our country, province and cities were taxed in a progressive way there would be adequate revenues to pay for necessary services to everyone and the rich would still be rich as they were in the 1950’s and ‘60’s when the marginal tax rates were as high as 90%.

You both  need to stop the false message that there is an unmanageable deficit to which the only solution is massive cuts – to working people and our vulnerable neighbours. You and an army of media and business think tanks and blogs have created  a ‘crisis’ which doesn’t need to exist, by preaching ‘tax relief’ and then reducing taxes to those who are able to pay, claiming that there is no revenue for services and therefore services and public jobs must be cut.  An example was your removing the vehicle registration tax on Toronto car owners late last year, which tax was perfectly reasonable given the damage the private automobile has done and continues to contribute to the transportation gridlock which has been documented repeatedly by economic councils to be costing us $ billions per year.

Also, current scientific research points to the health of our children being damaged by so many ‘spewing exhaust pipes’ in their neighbourhoods, increasing the numbers who suffer from life-threatening asthma.

You still want to cut the land transfer tax which has brought in an unexpected revenue windfall this year – as reported in the media. You also say you do not want to implement a reasonable property tax even though a majority of us at the Core Service Review meetings this spring said that an increase of 5% to 10% would be fine in order to save vital services like our recreation centres, libraries and affordable housing and many more.

Given the wealth of the 1% and that they enjoy the greatest benefits from the infrastructure we all pay for, I suggest that you investigate a property surtax on homes assessed above a certain value – maybe $1 million or whatever City Council could ascertain from staff advice.

I certainly support efficiencies wherever there is real waste but I do not agree with the laying off and lowering the wages, benefits and pensions of working people.

I would also encourage you to continue to demand the uploading of social services from the City to the Province where they belong and demand of the Province and Federal governments, much more stable funding for the TTC.

In fact, I would like you to revisit ‘Transit City’, which was a plan to provide much better, affordable transit to people of Scarborough and the north west in a timely manner. Your subway plan seems to be going nowhere and published data on the TTC indicates that ridership is growing and creating an unacceptably crowded situation which will discourage ridership. This is also why it makes no sense to cut the TTC budget by 10% given that this will worsen the well being of Toronto’s transit riders, and increase the road gridlock, if people leave the TTC in disgust to start using their cars,

In closing, I find it hard to believe that you don’t seem to pay attention to all of the scientific research that is available that indicates how to have a more liveable city with less gridlock and stress to all citizens. I believe that you would find that doing things in a more progressive and scientific way would actually cost us all less in the long run. The urban planners that you hire as staff are educated in these matters. Please listen to them.

Reply # 2.

Thank you for your letter, particularly outlining ‘some of the many accomplishments of your administration.’ With all due respect, when taken as a whole, these accomplishments show that you have no vision about what Toronto is and could be. There is very little to celebrate here for the people of Toronto who are not of the middle class and richer.  If there is a vision, it is simply one of mean spirited nickel and diming cuts to services along with the insulting and mistreatment of people employed by the city in various capacities. The cutting of Councillors’ operating budgets which they use to serve constituents, is particularly cheap as is the firing of the TCHC board without a proper investigation. Privatization of garbage collection will leave former employees, our neighbours, even less able to cope with the costs of living in Toronto with no guarantees of better privatized service. The reductions to Public Library hours, carried out by your new hand-picked Library Board ‘falling on their own sword’ is equivalent to closing several Library branches. This is an unconscionable attack on children, students, seniors, immigrants and low income people for whom the Library – the most used in North America – is essential.  Your list also shows that your administration has reversed ‘common sense’ revenue raising plans of the previous administration ($64 million from car owners who said at the Core Services Review that they would rather pay it than have services cut) that would have overcome the deficits that Toronto inherited from the amalgamation of several years ago.

You have also reversed the affordable and timely plans to deal with transit  – with a ‘non-plan’ that shows no signs of ever coming to fruition – which would have alleviated the crowding and lack of transit service to all of Toronto’s people. Your imposed 10% cuts to the TTC make no sense whatsoever, given the continued increase in ridership. It also shows that your administration has plainly ignored the advice of the people of Toronto as they made concrete recommendations to have property taxes increased by 5 and 10% during the ‘Core Service Review’ meetings rather than have services cut. You have also insulted the people of the city who are starving for solutions and are working on their own without your help to be ready for  the climate and energy crisis that is upon us; the same people who want a livable, safe, walking and cycling environment, free of the health destroying fumes, noise and death by collision given to us by the ridiculously large numbers of private automobiles allowed to freely roam our streets. Despite anything you say in your accomplishments, the message received by the pedestrian and cycling community is that you love the piece of industrial machinery called the ‘car’ more than you love the people.

I do hope that you learn something from your trip to Guadalajara; perhaps there will be some civic leaders there who can instruct you on how to have a great world class city, because that is not the direction to which you are leading Toronto.  For the sake of all the people of Toronto you need to do better.

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About Murray Lumley

Board member of Conscience Canada; Christian Peacemaker Teams Reservist; retired teacher; grandfather
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