On Wednesday, a former member of John Tory's Conservative caucus called Olivia Chow a bitch on his old radio station. National Post columnist Christie Blatchford was on the show, and criticized Olivia for saying Mr. Tory and Rob Ford were alike. Small-mindedness, she called it.
Au contraire. The two share many things, including the campaign manager who brought us Mr. Ford. Robyn Doolittle's book on the Ford years, Crazytown, describes the Fords and Mr. Tory doing a deal back in 2003: Mr. Tory would run for mayor, and then Rob would take over. Voters scuppered the plan in the end, but it's there in black-and-white (page 47) all the same.
What they share most, though, is playing games and distorting the truth about transit, an issue ill-served by dishonesty. After four years of Mr. Ford's lies, the last thing we need is another misleader, but the way Mr. Tory is running his campaign, all signs point to him being just that. The high-minded civic leader has vanished, replaced by someone who will say anything -- and make up anything -- to finally win something.
To illustrate, let's start with what kind of transit to build in Scarborough.
When Mr. Ford was elected, a fully-funded plan for above-ground rail was in place, which would be finished before the Pan Am Games next year. Then he got to work, demonizing above-ground rail, saying it was a streetcar and would run on roads. Neither is true, and the toxic, divisive debate it triggered bedevils us still.
Enter Mr. Tory. Back when he was a high-minded civic leader, he said (Newstalk 1010, Sept. 13, 2013) that we should listen to the experts. He moaned that debate was too political, and that we didn't do what made sense. Oh, how times have changed.
Now, Mr. Tory says something wrong about Scarborough pretty much whenever he speaks. His website says shovels will start digging in 2015, despite no shovel touching any soil for at least four more years.
He's said she'll tear up agreements with the federal and provincial governments, when in fact there is no agreement with Ottawa. The city hasn't even put in an application. And the agreement that's in place with the province is for above-ground rail, in part because the subway Mr. Ford says he has already built still has years of studies to go through.
This last point matters, because Mr. Ford's approach of playing games with plans in place needs to stop. The province, city, Metrolinx and TTC have a master plan. It includes a mix of above- and below-ground rail, among them the Sheppard East and Finch LRT's, as well as subway relief line.
Here, Mr. Ford and Mr. Tory share something else. Neither wants to work to the plan we have, preferring instead to draw new lines on maps. It's never easy to decipher what, precisely, Mr. Tory believes today, but it seems he no longer supports the Sheppard or Finch LRT's. And he certainly no longer supports the subway relief line that is the TTC's top priority, which is odd because getting it built allegedly propelled him to run.
For three months, all he could say was how important the subway line was. So important, he'd start "immediately," before attacking Olivia for telling the truth; namely, that it will take some time. In one interview (Kiss FM, February 24), Mr. Tory maps out the route his subway would take.
Mr. Tory being Mr. Tory, that's all changed. Now he has a new priority, which he laughably contends is the same as the subway relief line he used to love so much. The TTC's CEO is unamused, saying that the new priority does not undo the pressing need for subway relief.
These distortions come with a price. The conservative candidates have tried to convince people that if we're not building underground rail, we're not building good transit. This atrocious transit policy is also atrocious fiscal policy. In Scarborough, for example, the conservatives want to spend a billion dollars more than Olivia.
They also love to mislead on Eglinton Connects, which will transform the street into one better for people and businesses -- as well as increase its carrying capacity. Never mind, the conservatives say. If it's better for cyclists or pedestrians, it must be worse for cars. Perish the thought that it's possible to have a win-win-win. Unsurprisingly, neither has any plan to make cycling safer for everyone.
For four years, we've heard this nonsense from Mr. Ford. And while Ms. Blatchford might think it small-minded to suggest Mr. Tory offers more of the same, he simply invites the comparison. It's not bitchiness to point it out. It's the truth.
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