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The Toronto City Summit Alliance Threatens to Get Tough
06/06/2003
In the past, I have expressed a fair bit of cynicism about The Toronto City Summit Alliance. Back in February, I applauded their pre-federal-budget letter to Jean Chretien, but wondered if they'd ever get tough with Queen's Park. (I mean, it's the Harris-Eves Tories who have caused so much chaos in this city). In April, the alliance released their document "Enough Talk", a plan of action for the city. I was pleased, but again questioned why they wouldn't point fingers at the guilty parties. Now the Toronto City Summit Alliance has had another meeting. And they're talking much tougher than they have before. From today's Toronto Star:
David Pecaut, the businessman who chairs the Toronto City Summit Alliance, the coalition of business and community leaders that called the summit, outlined a series of recommendations the group has sent to the three levels of government - most of which have been ignored. "I plead guilty to naivety," said Pecaut, adding that he had thought when citizens make a clear and compelling case to governments that the politicians would respond. "This is about relentlessness. I thought this would happen a lot faster. The fact is it takes time for ideas to disseminate. It takes passion to get behind them. It takes the kind of contagion of people talking to other people, spreading the word with excitement and energy and a sense of commitment," he said.
Much more importantly, some Progressive Conservative members of the group took a stand against the destructive policies of the current Tory government. From today's Globe and Mail:
Earlier, the 150 or so delegates, including bank chairmen and community activists, gave a standing ovation to former Conservative premier William Davis after he gave a brief, spirited defence of public education and openly criticized his own party's policies on education and transit. "I take exception," Mr. Davis said, to those who support charter schools and vouchers and to those "who think public education is not of quality, because it is." With three family members who are teachers, Mr. Davis added, "the teaching profession deserves our support. They are not underworked and overpaid." Mr. Davis, increasingly open in his distaste for Tory education policies, also got in a dig on transit. "I even have a solution for the TTC," he said, citing the funding scheme in place when he was premier: Ontario contributed 75 per cent of the TTC capital budget and 50 per cent of its operating budget.
Even former mayor and Harris accomplice David Crombie got involved. From the Toronto Star:
"In the last five or six years, the provincial government has basically humbled and hobbled municipalities," said Crombie. "Municipalities don't have a sense they have partners. This government is more interested in gimmicks than in delivering public policy," he said. Asked if he will vote for gimmicks in the coming provincial election, Crombie said: "No. Gimmicks is not what we need."
This is all great. And it, by far, exceeds my relatively low expectations. But then, I'm still puzzled by the TCSA's plan coming out of their most recent meeting. As summarized in the Toronto Star:
The alliance, which includes three former Ontario premiers, bank presidents, university presidents and a growing number of community activists and labour leaders, plans to:
  • Set a July 15 deadline for the city of Toronto, the provincial government and the federal government to resolve the dispute over how much money is owed to the capital budget of the TTC. The transit authority says the city has paid its $104 million share, the province is $42 million short and the federal government $90 million out.
  • Write to the leaders of all major parties and those seeking party leadership, asking them to "make a full and complete commitment" to removing the GST on goods and services purchased by municipalities or granting equivalent dollars to municipalities for infrastructure.
  • Request the federal government contribute a "minimum of $1 billion a year for urban transportation infrastructure and double housing expenditure in the federal affordable housing plan."
  • Spend the next 60 days or so finding a consensus on where the money could come from for the province to fund transportation, social housing, and other huge city needs.
  • Request the federal and the provincial governments, by July 15, to kick in $15 million each to an Urgent Needs Fund for Toronto's 12 poorest neighbourhoods. The United Way, city of Toronto, volunteer organizations and the private sector have already said they're willing to find the other $15 million.
Why has the TCSA slipped back into heavy demands and criticism of the federal government, while practically letting the terrible Tories off the hook? Why are they working on "a consensus on where the money could come from for the province to fund transportation, social housing, and other huge city needs" instead of demanding that the province reverse its crippling downloading scheme? Why do they never mention that the Harris-Eves government seems to have a goal of implementing every possible policy that can acheive the transfer of wealth out of the City of Toronto and into Tory-voting suburban regions? I don't have answers to these questions, but I'm coming around to giving the TCSA the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they're not Tory agents, but are actually just slow-moving dinosaurs. If so, this is very good news indeed!
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