March 23, 2017
To Host Anna Maria Tremont of CBC Radio One’s ‘The Current’:
I was very disappointed in Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s responses to your question about the ways his new federal budget is helping ordinary Canadians. He seemed to suggest the budget was doing great things when it saved some citizens a couple of hundred dollars per year due to the Liberal largesse. The elephant in the room for me as an East Toronto resident, a senior living in an apartment, originally by choice (my wife and I once owned a home but could not afford to now) which you didn’t challenge him on, is the exponential rise in the price of home ownership.
This loss of economic ability for young people wishing to buy a home in Toronto or anywhere in the GTA is a staggering setback compared with a few hundred dollars gained in tax reduction. I was shocked that this incongruity was not even mentioned. The numbers of families in Ontario and in Toronto particularly, on waiting lists for affordable housing are contained in a Star article from last year –https://www.thestar.com/…/ontarios-affordable-housing-wait-…
Ignoring these numbers of suffering people is shameful!
Even Ontario Finance Minister Sousa has begun to talk about the need to cool housing prices caused by real estate investors ‘scalping’ whole new subdivisions, making it impossible for young or low income families to ever own a home. And I don’t mean a suburban house with a yard. I am talking about the need for a federal housing strategy that will fund the tear down of old housing stock in Toronto to replace it with perhaps 4 or 5 storey housing units – as in Brooklyn – some of which can be purchased and some rented at affordable rates.
This Liberal government and its tone deaf, blind budget is a disaster. If I were a young person I would be getting ready to revolt against the advantage older home owners have – unless the owners are planning to share their windfall by buying homes for their children.
One of the two remaining persons detained under a Federal Security Certificate, signed by two federal cabinet ministers, is a friend of mine and a resident of Toronto. As one who has attended most of his federal court hearings since 2007 I can attest to the unrelenting ‘hounding’ of a person by the servants of the Canadian state, the CBSA and CSIS agents, the well paid government lawyers, judges and other officials who have made this man’s life a living hell for 16 years so far. Since he is a refugee claimant his hearings come under Canadian Immigration law, which does not require a fair trial for this man. He has never been accused of a crime in Canada and whatever the Canadian government has against him they have never revealed to him or his lawyers. They don’t have to. So he has sat in limbo since the year 2000 awaiting the day when his Security Certificate is removed or he agrees to be deported to a middle eastern country where he may well be killed. Unable to work and living on a small disability pension with some assistance from friends, his health has deteriorated. Isn’t this ill treatment of a human being by Canada’s agents a form of torture that we condemn internationally? Is this ‘hounding’ a ‘Canadian Value’?
Thank you for the interview of Ossie Michelin who spoke so eloquently and passionately for his people in Labrador and perhaps all people as he and his fellow Labradorians oppose the part of this Muskrat Falls mega-project (not clearing the vegetation and poisoned soil) that will poison his people as he says – ‘for money’. I completely support his arguments and given that Prime minister Trudeau has promised to consult with Indigenous people over projects like this before going ahead into the unknown. I agree with Ossie and his friends that more research does need to be done and that the project should be put on hold until the research is done. This project is just another example of Canadian European descendants doing projects like this or like mining all over the underdeveloped world (El Salvador, Honduras, Argentina, New Guinea). My wife and I just completed a 6 week trip to Australia and New Zealand and we have seen the same colonial pattern there – an original disrespect for Indigenous wisdom even though Aboriginal people in Australia lived there successfully for perhaps 50 thousand years, with tremendous knowledge of the plant and animal resources that allowed them to live. In the same way we settlers have been disrespectful to the original inhabitants of Turtle Island, pushing them aside and killing many. This Muskrat Falls project is another example of creating a ‘sacrifice zone’ a term perhaps coined by American journalist Chris Hedges in his book about the sacrifice zones in the U.S. The Indigenous people of Labrador and their settler supporters are too smart to allow this heavily financed mega-project to place them in a long term ‘sacrifice zone’ without a great struggle. I support them 100%.
Dear Mayor Tory:
I just spoke to an assistant in the Mayor’s office. I was asking that the TTC budget not be cut by the Mayor’s proposed 2.6% but that it be increased to encourage all of us to get out of our cars which is the only way to decrease the road gridlock in Toronto.
The major concern which I expressed to the staff person is that this cut will harm the most vulnerable of our citizens with increased fares, elimination of all fare discounts and elimination of some routes. I also said that these cuts represent Toronto going backwards when we consider the pollution cars produce and that we all breathe as well as the car’s contribution to CO2 emissions that are causing climate change (how about this heat – with 2016 set to be the warmest year on record, with each year hotter than the last).
I also mentjoned the article in yesterday’s paper, “Blame it on the billionaires” which describes Toronto as the city in North America with the fourth largest gap between the haves and have-nots. We need the mayor to have an adult conversation with the citizens of Toronto and say as many of us are saying – that we are not over taxed and that we can afford to have a better balanced city in terms of inequality. In fact the studies done indicate that everyone, including the rich, are better off with increased equality. So there is no real need to be cutting programs for the public when most of us have the ability to pay more using revenue tools which are being considered but apparently not implemented. I said that I am a renter; therefore I pay proportionally more in property taxes than home owners, many of whom are now millionaires in terms of their property values.
I am sharing the graphic below, sent to me by Commitment to Community – C2C, a citizens group I have worked with, during the Poverty Reduction Strategy of last spring – that the Mayor held as a priority in City Council. Too bad that Council was unwilling to vote the budget necessary to implement very much of the Initiative.
The graphic shows that in real dollars, property owners and car owners are actually paying less while lower-income families are paying more – including the cost of public transit. This is unjust!
Please do not cut the TTC budget; but in fact increase the subsidy to the TTC and demand that the upper levels of government restore the operating funding to transit that they once paid.
Murray Lumley, East York, M4C 1J4
See: https://nowtoronto.com/news/racism-and-rage-on-the-ttc/ for Alok Mukherjee’s article
Alok Mukherjee has hit the nail on the head. He has described possible reasons why transit riding has recently declined. Mayor Tory and his followers on City Council have postponed help for today’s riders by deciding to spend $ billions on projects like the Gardiner Expressway and holes in the ground for subways. The first will shave a couple of minutes off the commute times of a handful of drivers while the unpaid for subways will not materialize for decades. Toronto’s transit riders need relief right now. If City Council is serious about getting people out of their cars and increasing transit ridership then why not make a couple of bold first steps. Make King Street and Yonge Street car free and a dedicated right of way for streetcars on King and buses on Yonge. Buses on Yonge would represent an immediate ‘relief line’ for the congested Bloor-Yonge station and a dedicated right of way for King Street would eliminate the frustration riders feel being passed by full streetcars. Why stop there. Start constructing dedicated bus lanes all over the city wherever buses are regularly full. If City Council, staff and the TTC are serious about providing useful transit to all of its citizens then bold steps are required rather than the half measures we are getting.
I have read both Councillor Josh Matlow’s and Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon’s reports to their constituents regarding the Toronto City Council’s decision to go ahead with a subway extension to the Scarborough Town Centre at a cost of at least $3.2 billion and rising vs. up to 7 plus 17 stop LRTs in Scarborough for about the same price.
I must agree with Councillor Matlow’s reasoning over that of Councillor McMahon’s because of the sheer logic supporting 24 stops versus one. That one stop would replace the present SRT to the Town Centre which has 5 stops. All but one will be gone with the proposed subway; no progress for Scarborough there!
Councillor McMahon tells us that it is impossible to look back, that we must move on because of the expense of further delays. But the issue is that Torontonians have been denied a perfectly good, affordable Transit City LRT plan since 2010 when Rob Ford took over as mayor. Really, any transit is now more expensive because of the 6 years of delay brought on by Mr. Ford’s irrational hatred of streetcars because they block car traffic. They do not – LRT’s are built on their own separate rights of way (and they are very accessible due to floor heights equalling station platform heights).
Social justice and the environment are at stake. Revenues we so far are unwilling to raise will be sucked away (by the $ billions for a one stop subway extension) from residents of the inner suburbs who will now have to wait another generation for high speed transit. Needed cycling infrastructure – for health, reduced gridlock and improved environment – which I applaud Councillor McMahon for leading on, will be delayed even more by revenues going to a one stop subway. Even the ‘Road Safety Plan’ which was approved by Council last week is at risk of saving very few lives as the ‘car-nage’ continues because viable transit will not replace car driving for another generation.
This decision is fundamentally political. It is not about what is best for ‘the common good’. Mayor Tory, some Scarborough Councillors and at least one Scarborough Liberal MPP and now cabinet minister may have gotten elected by favouring a subway and they and a small majority of other Councillors were willing to hold their noses and vote for a one stop subway that defies ‘evidence based decision making’. This is just unacceptable!
I question Councillor McMahon’s statement that says the subway has the support of City staff. I was at City Council in 2012 when former TTC head Gary Webster was grilled about subways vs the Transit City plan and his honest answers in favour of LRTs cost him his job.
I would ask that prominent Toronto citizens come forward and say to the Mayor and Council that Torontonians do not accept this ‘political’ decision for a one stop subway extension vs. possible 24 stop LRTs for Scarborough.