Posted in politics

So how then, do we clean up this mess?

Boy, am I frustrated. I see tweets, status updates and posts on Facebook from all these really smart people – much smarter than me – who have all the solutions for how to handle Toronto’s almost $800 million dollar budget shortfall.

The common theme: Ignore it. David Miller ignored it and he’s a lawyer. He’s smart. He probably even goes into libraries. GASP. Rob Ford is fat. Him and his brother don’t use libraries. Therefore they don’t know what they are talking about.

David Miller was a New Democrat in every sense of the word. Rob Ford is (shame) Conservative. Ford runs a business and wants to run Toronto like a business. Toronto is NOT a business cries the left. Toronto is our city. Toronto is also our city that is going bankrupt because it does not have enough money to meet its current obligations.

Toronto needs to balance its books. Most in this city would agree. However the way to balance the books differs greatly across the spectrum. The view from the left is to not touch social programs and keep that spending set, but make up the difference by taxing the “wealthy”. Let those SOB’s pay! Good for nothing rich folks. The right, however, want to look at what the City is really responsible for, and trim some of the fat associated with the city’s duties. Do we need 32 librarians making over $100,000/year? Probably not.

I feel the biggest issue here is that people from the left think that Mayor Ford wants to cut, cut, cut and that once all the social programs are cut there will be nothing left for the poor, but that could not be further from the truth. What the Mayor as said repeatedly – however maybe not clear enough – is that the City needs to look at what the city offers first and foremost to see if the city needs to be in that line of business.

Should the city be funding parades? Should the city be contributing money for festivals? How about checking into city run organizations to make sure that there is enough work for the staff to do and that all the positions are needed. Not only is that fiscally responsible but it is morally responsible for this Mayor’s office and city council to do these checks and balances since the majority of the funding they get is from taxes of you and of me.

And as for the fact that there seems to be some sort of tie in between the “rich” and “conservatism”, it might have something to do with the fact that those who have more money pay more taxes. End of story. Sure they may pay less income tax than others, but property taxes are huge and growing and then there are all the additional consumption taxes that are being gathered from this class of Torontonian. To piss them off could mean a sudden mass move from Toronto to surrounding areas and their tax dollars too.

Surely even those on the left who want equality among all citizens even can admit that having wealthy and ultra-wealthy in the city is a boon for the rest of us as their taxes go a long way to keeping this city moving.

So I have clearly given a lot of thought to the predicament the City of Toronto is in, and I look around the world at countries in deep financial hardship like Greece – due to their unions and retirement at 52 years old – and Iceland, and all the countries seeking bailouts, then I look south of our border to the US where there is a deep divide between the democrats and republicans over how to get the US out of trouble and I worry.

I worry that in Toronto we are going to get caught up in the troubles they have in the US and that is going to delay out way out of this crisis and eventually push it on to our children and their children.

I think socialists, liberals and conservatives alike can all agree that there are few viable options aside from either cutting spending or increasing revenues.

Every time Toronto’s mayor, Rob Ford announces he is looking at ways to cut expenditures, he has always said that; “Toronto does not have a revenue problem”, at which point, up pop the socialists who demand that he not cut anything that they like. They say no to libraries, zoo’s, farms, the TTC, programs, grants… the whole lot. As a matter of fact, I have not heard one viable way to get out of this mess from any of my friends on the left.

I wonder if in 1974 when Riverdale Farm was closed for almost 5 years, if residents blamed the mayor and said that the local government was chasing away tourism or taking the “culture out of Toronto”. I happen to think that the 1.8 million visitors to Riverdale might be better to turn their tourism dollars over to the Toronto Zoo which desperately needs funds too, or is that thinking too far forward? Does the City even need to run the Toronto Zoo? Does the City of Vaughan run Canada’s Wonderland? No, it’s run by private interests. Paramount Canada’s Wonderland, I believe.

Yes there are more Tim Horton’s than Libraries in Councillor Doug Ford’s ward, but there are 3 within a few blocks of each other and that seems like a waste. I know on Avenue Road, there were 3 TD Banks within 3 blocks of each other and fast forward a year later, now there is one amazing state of the art branch and the other 2 locations were sold off and taken as a huge profit to the bank. Why can’t the city do this without getting flack for wanting to destroy the culture of the city. He’s not closing ALL the libraries… He’s consolidating them and putting the city in a better position to upgrade the remaining ones.

My point… Even though some things are done a certain way, it doesn’t make it right. Would you consider moving to a new house without selling your old one? No, because it doesn’t make sense, so keeping old outdated libraries just because Margaret Atwood thinks it is important – as an author – doesn’t mean it makes sense.

I think it’s time we, as Torontonians take her words and the words of others for what they are… Opinions of interest groups. Atwood has an interest in libraries as an author – probably not the same interest she has in selling her books, but she has a cause. As a staunch supporter of the NDP and their policies, it is her requirement to stir the pot at City Hall in order to make the Ford’s look goofy. Much in the same way other interest groups have stepped forward to gain support for their causes. I would never consider Atwood for the mayor of this city, much in the same way I would not look to the Ford’s to write children’s books.

Can anyone truly stand back and watch something they believe in or like be cut for the betterment of all of society? Heck no. I think if Atwood took a step back and realized the dire straights the city’s financial records are in she would give a second thought to all options for reducing expenses and if she has a better solution that cutting waste, then let’s hear it.

I, for one, as a conservative, think that putting our head in the sand and hoping this goes away is the worst approach to take and I do object to increased taxes because I already pay a lot, but if after exhausting all means for cutting expenses, increasing my taxes for a short-term to make ends meet is the only way to balance the books, then sign me up and fast.

As a citizen of Toronto who has participated in this process by being involved in residents groups, considered running for city councilor and helps my community in any way needed, I just want to know that the current mayor has looked under every rock for ways to save money before coming to me for more taxes. Yes, I do pay more because I choose to live in a bigger house in a nicer neighbourhood, and that is my choice. Paying additional taxes to keep 3 libraries open 3 blocks from each other is wasteful and I wouldn’t waste that kind of money personally, nor would I expect my staff or my employer to accept that kind of waste, so why would I tolerate that from the City that I live in.

So my message to you, mayor Ford, is to keep finding ways to save the city money, keep those programs open and keep helping others. If after all your work you still need some additional tax money from me, I will gladly pay it and consider it money well spent, helping those less fortunate.

It’s a welcome change from the previous left-leaning governments who spend, spend and spend without a substantial plan on how to pay for everything.

The last thing we need right now are special interest groups gathering resources to protect their own interests and not look at the big picture. We are one city. One large city in deep financial crisis. If we take the Atwood approach: She had this to say in the Toronto Star; “Expressing contempt for creative people turns people away from Toronto as a venue, and that’s a pretty serious consideration. If you’re thinking of having a convention, you’re thinking of having a concert, you’re thinking of going to a festival, and that’s the attitude? Why wouldn’t you spend your dollars somewhere else.” So she takes the attitude that if getting finances in order means touching anything “cultural” then stay away from Toronto. So she really does not like Toronto if she is that closed minded to want to damage the city she weeks ago cared so deeply for.

“You start with tossing off latte drinkers, gay Pride and bicycle riders and me, what’s the message? The message is: ‘We don’t want you people here.’ I’m sure Hamilton or Burlington or Oshawa would be very happy if some of those festivals and conventions moved there. Why shouldn’t I spend my creative dollar in New York if I’m not welcome in Toronto?” Does she really take herself that seriously that she thinks people are going to stop spending their money in Toronto because a Councillor doesn’t know who she is? Really, Margaret? Does she also think that all the large corporations and organizations in Toronto are going to pick up their people and ship them to Oshawa or Guelph because the City of Toronto wants to cut waste? That has to be the dumbest comment I have ever heard. No wonder the Star carried this story.

Maybe there is a bit of irony in the fact that Ford, as Toronto mayor wants to stop funding non-core items, yet Atwood who has become an opponent to the mayor’s office was busy writing, “in the woods, without electricity,” last week when this all stated. She wasn’t even in the city! So who is she speaking for? The downtown elite, or herself?

I think every time I see someone criticize the mayor’s office for being thorough investigating ways to save money in the city and for looking at core business services they are cutting off their noses in spite of their faces. Is it really so bad that they want to balance the books now… For good, so that your children and your children’s children won’t be saddled with your debt and our parents debt wondering why we didn’t do anything when we had the chance.

I suspect if this was left to fester again, in Miller-like fashion, future generations will be calling us the greedy generation – too caught up in our own self interests to help others.