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Mitch Wolfe

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Why Harper Should Help Fund the Proposed Toronto Scarborough Subway

Posted: 07/17/2013 5:00 pm

I would like to echo the immortal words of Prime Minister Harper when he described the virtues of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Harper and his Conservatives providing additional funding to build the new Scarborough Subway (the extension of the Bloor-Danforth line from Kennedy Station to the Scarborough Town Centre) is a "complete no-brainer."

Let me elaborate.

Firstly, the option of a subway line from Kennedy Station to the Scarborough Town Centre makes very good sense from a public transit standpoint.

According to the recent report by Toronto City Manager Pennachetti, whereas the Light Rail Transit (LRT) option would cover a larger geographic area -- including seven stations and come at a lower cost -- the subway extension option, with only three stations, would have higher speed, higher quality service, higher ridership and no transfer for passengers from one mode to another at Kennedy station.

Thus giving commuters a fast, transfer-free ride to and from Scarborough. And although the cost of the subway is high, subways last 75 to 100 years, as opposed to about 40 years for LRTs, so it will be worth the investment in the long term.

Secondly, I would argue that providing Scarborough's 625,000+ population (about 24 per cent of Toronto's entire population) even a quarter of the public transit benefits that Scarborough's much more affluent neighbors in Old Toronto (Danforth, Beaches, Rosedale, Annex, West Annex, Forest Hill, High Park) have enjoyed for decades, is the fair, equitable and even the morally right thing to do.

As I have previously written, unlike their affluent neighbors in Old Toronto, many Scarberians do not live close to where they work, so they cannot generally walk or bike to work. Many Scarberians do not have the extra cash flow to own or lease cars. Their only option is public transit. Which in Scarborough, means -- for the most part --waiting for overcrowded buses in Toronto's freezing cold winters. Or riding the TTC's hot and overcrowded buses in Toronto's humid summers.

Therefore, common sense, fairness, equity and even morality, dictate that the priorities of public transit should be directed to helping out those in Toronto's outer lying suburbs, like Scarborough, where public transit is more of a necessity than in Toronto's affluent neighborhoods.

Thirdly, by providing new federal funding to this Scarborough subway, Harper cannot be accused of favoring the mythic conservative base or favoring federal ridings held by exclusively conservative representatives. As four of the current Scarborough federal ridings are held by either NDP or Liberal MPs.

However, this is where things can become very interesting, politically speaking.

I believe all the four Scarborough ridings held by the NDP or Liberals are in play. The Conservatives were competitive in each of these ridings in the last federal election. Harper's renewed interest in the needs of Scarborough residents, especially their particular public transit needs, will have a positive influence on Scarborough residents in the next federal election.

Fourthly, contrary to the desires of certain provincial premiers and mayors, when it comes to infrastructure funding, Harper and his government just do not want to hand over a blank cheque to the premiers or the mayors to fund comprehensive ongoing infrastructure projects. Harper's government prefers project-by-project funding in which the federal government plays a significant role, and accordingly, obtains some credit for its substantive role.

The proposed funding of the Scarborough subway is consistent with these principles, where the Ontario government and the City of Toronto have "skin" (capital) in the game, and where the federal government's contribution and its role are critical to the success of this project.

Fifthly, Harper has a once in a political lifetime situation where the sitting Toronto Mayor is even more socially and fiscally conservative than Harper. Ford is also sincerely friendly to, and supportive of, the Harper government and has a warm and genuine relationship with Finance Minister Flaherty. And Ford has based a large part of his mayoralty on delivering, "subways, subways, subways."

So if Harper can step up to the plate and deliver the fed's capital portion -- say, 600 big ones ($600 million) -- and nail down the Scarborough subway deal, you know that Mayor Ford and his many supporters would be extolling the virtues of the Harper government, from now until through the next federal election. Talk about a huge bang for the federal bucks!

Sixthly, the populist appeal of Rob Ford. I have been closely following Canadian and American politics from the 1960s. I have followed such forceful and charismatic leaders as the Kennedys, (John and Robert), Trudeau, Mulroney, Reagan, Clinton and Obama. I know some of you may think that I am off my meds or smoking illegal substances, but the populist appeal of Rob Ford is the real deal.

BLOG CONTINUES AFTER SLIDESHOW

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  • This image from video released by NBC News/TODAY shows host Matt Lauer, right, speaking with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, left, as the mayor's brother, City Councilor Doug Ford, looks on during an interview in Toronto for the "Today" show. Mayor Ford said Toronto's City Council had no business stripping him of most of his powers over his admitted crack cocaine use and heaving drinking, implying in a television interview aired Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, that many councilors are no different from him.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is shown in a video frame grab as he knocks down Councillor Pam McConnell as he ran toward hecklers in the audience at city Hall on Monday, Nov. 18, 2013.

  • Toronto Rob Ford, right, gestures to Councillor Paul Ainslee in the council chamber as councillors look to pass motions to limit his powers in Toronto on Monday, Nov. 18, 2013. Blasting what he called a "coup d'etat," Ford said voters should be able to pass judgment on him, not his fellow councillors.

  • A giant-sized cutout of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford appears in the crowd as the Toronto Argonauts play against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats during first half CFL eastern conference final football action in Toronto on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford sits in the council chamber as councilors pass motions to limit his powers in Toronto on Friday November 15, 2013.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford stands with his wife Renata at a news conference on Thursday November 14, 2013.

  • In this Nov. 14, 2013 file photo, Mayor Rob Ford reacts at city council members regarding new allegations against him in Toronto.

  • Hundreds of people protest against Toronto Mayor Rob Ford at city hall in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013.

  • A bobblehead doll in the likeness of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is displayed at city hall Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013, in Toronto. Hundreds of people lined up to be the first to own the bobblehead doll. The defiant mayor declared on Monday, Nov. 11, that he intends to stay in office despite pressure to step aside after admitting he smoked crack cocaine.

  • A spectator holds a sign which reads, "ROB FORD. LABATT NOT CRACK" in the third period of an NHL hockey game between the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs in Boston on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford makes a statement to the media outside his office at Toronto's city hall after the release of a video on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013. The new video surfaced showing Ford in a rage, using threatening words including "kill" and "murder." Ford said he was “extremely, extremely inebriated" in the video, which appeared Thursday on the Toronto Star’s website. The context of the video is unknown and it's unclear who the target of Ford's wrath is.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is seen in a video that surfaced Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013. The video - posted by the Toronto Star and the Toronto Sun on their websites - shows Ford using threatening words, including “kill” and “murder.”

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford addresses the media at City Hall in Toronto, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. Ford acknowledged for the first time that he smoked crack "probably a year ago," when he was in a "drunken stupor," but he refused to resign despite immense pressure to step aside as leader of Canada’s largest city.

  • Toronto Police Service released documents Thursday morning, Oct. 31, 2013 that show police surveillance photos of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford (left) and Alexander Lisi, Ford's friend and occasional driver.

  • City of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, right, pushes members of the media off his property as he leaves his home in Toronto on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013.

  • In this Oct. 31, 2013 file photo, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford tells to the media to get off his property as he leaves his home in Toronto. The embattled mayor on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013 said he smoked crack "probably a year ago" during a "drunken stupor."

  • Mayor Rob Ford walks past Halloween decorations on his way to talk to media at City Hall in Toronto on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013. Ford says he has no reason to step down despite police confirmation that they have seized a video that appears to show him smoking a crack pipe.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford addresses media outside his office in Toronto on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013. Ford says he has no reason to step down despite police confirmation that they have seized a video that appears to show him smoking a crack pipe.

  • City of Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair speaks to the media in Toronto on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, regarding a recovered video file involving City of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

  • In this Oct. 2, 2013 file photo, Alexander Lisi, friend and occasional driver of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, left, leaves Old City Hall court in Toronto after being granted bail on drug charges. Lisi, 35, has been charged with trafficking and possession of marijuana, Toronto police say. Rob Ford remains in office, resisting all attempts to force him out over his admitted crack use, drinking problem and appearance in a video that caught him threatening to "kill" someone. His powers were curtailed by the City Council on Friday, Nov. 15, 2013.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford at a press conference at City Hall in response to possible provincial funding cuts to the city.

  • A police officer from Toronto Police Integrated Gun and Gang Task Force picks up an assault rifle as police display guns seized during a series of raids for operation "Project Traveller" at a news conference in Toronto on Friday, June 14, 2013. Police say a violent gang which was terrorizing a northwest Toronto neighborhood has been dismantled following a series of raids targeting suspected drug and gun traffickers. One of the raids targeted an apartment complex where an alleged video appearing to show Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine was reported to be located. Police haven't said if Ford was in any way part of their year-long investigation.

  • A protestor joins the crowd at Nathan Phillips Square in front of Toronto city hall calling for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford to step down on Saturday, June 1, 2013.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford answers questions about the three new staffers he has hired at a news conference at city hall in Toronto on Friday, May 31, 2013.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford whistles as he walks to a meeting at city hall in Toronto on Thursday, May 30, 2013. More staffers are leaving the Toronto mayor's office as controversy swirls about a video that purportedly shows Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford attends an Executive Committee meeting at city hall in Toronto on Tuesday, May 28, 2013. This is Ford's first meeting with his executive committee since allegations of Ford's videotaped drug use surfaced earlier this month. Ford has denied the drug-use allegations, making a statement late last week after six members of his executive committee urged him to publicly address the allegations following a week of mostly silence on the issue. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young)

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford emerges from his office holding slices of a birthday cake to offer to members of the media at city hall in Toronto on Tuesday May 28, 2013. The mayor is celebrating his 44th birthday. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young)

  • Mark Towhey, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's Chief of Staff, leaves city hall in Toronto, Thursday, May 23, 2013, after he was fired by Ford, who is caught up in a scandal over a video purportedly showing him smoking crack cocaine.

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford sits during a City council meeting at Toronto City Hall on Tuesday May 21, 2013. Ford ignored a crush of reporters waiting outside his city hall office this morning in the hopes he would address allegations that he was recorded on video appearing to smoke crack cocaine. (AP Photo/THE CANADIAN PRESS,Nathan Denette)

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford arrives at City Hall in Toronto amid allegations of crack cocaine use on Friday May 17, 2013, in Toronto. Published reports say a video appears to show Ford smoking crack cocaine. Ford called the allegations ridiculous. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford leaves his home on Friday, May 17, 2013, after published reports said a video appears to show Ford smoking crack cocaine. A report published Thursday night said the video is being shopped around by a group of men allegedly involved in the drug trade. The Toronto Star said, however, it had no way to verify the video. Ford called the allegations ridiculous. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young)

  • As city council debates whether or not the University of Toronto back campus field should have a heritage designation and be prevented from being converted to an artificial turf field for the Pan Am games, Rob Ford, Earl Provost and Doug Ford have an animated discussion on top of the Podium roof at City Hall. Ford is currently embroiled in a scandal after allegations surfaced that he was recorded on a cellphone video at this house smoking crack cocaine. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

  • As city council debates whether or not the University of Toronto back campus field should have a heritage designation and be prevented from being converted to an artificial turf field for the Pan Am games, Rob Ford, Earl Provost and Doug Ford have an animated discussion on top of the Podium roof at City Hall. Ford is currently embroiled in a scandal after allegations surfaced that he was recorded on a cellphone video at this house smoking crack cocaine. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

  • Elena Johnson, 51, a resident at 15 Windsor Road, where Mayor Rob Ford was photographed with murder victim Anthony Smith and another shooting victim. The house is notorious for drug problems, according to people living in the area. Ford is currently embroiled in a scandal after allegations surfaced that he was recorded on a cellphone video at this house smoking crack cocaine. (Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

  • Reporters keep a watchful eye on the house which is all quiet.The house at 15 Windsor Road in Etobicoke where Mayor Rob Ford was allegedly photographed in relation to crack use is seen the morning after the Star published the address. June 6, 2013. (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford tours the Dufferin Street bridge just south of Springhurst Avenue. The Mayor addressed the media about the closing of the bridge on June 12 due to safety concerns. It will be closed to traffic to allow for repairs. The bridge will still be open to pedestrians and cyclist. Ford is currently embroiled in a scandal after allegations surfaced that he was recorded on a cellphone video smoking crack cocaine and making offensive remarks (Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

  • A man identified by friends and neighbours as Fabio Basso, a resident of 15 Windsor Road, in Etobicoke, the address where a photo showing Mayor Rob Ford with two shooting victims was taken. Ford is currently embroiled in a scandal after allegations surfaced that he was recorded on a cellphone video in front of this house smoking crack cocaine and making offensive remarks. (Toronto Star Archives/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

  • A woman identified by friends and neighbours as Elena Basso, a resident of 15 Windsor Road, in Etobicoke, the address where a photo showing Mayor Rob Ford with two shooting victims was taken. Ford is currently embroiled in a scandal after allegations surfaced that he was recorded on a cellphone video in front of this house smoking crack cocaine and making offensive remarks. (Toronto Star Archives/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford attends a Tim Horton's Camp Day fund raising event in Scarborough. Ford is currently embroiled in a scandal after allegations surfaced that he was recorded on a cellphone video smoking crack cocaine and making offensive remarks (Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

  • Exterior view of 15 Windsor Rd., the address where a photo showing Mayor Rob Ford with two shooting victims was taken. Ford is currently embroiled in a scandal after allegations surfaced that he was recorded on a cellphone video in front of this house smoking crack cocaine and making offensive remarks. (Toronto Star Archives/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford addresses the media on some positive developments in the TCHC. The Mayor would not answers questions on the crack cocaine video scandal at City Hall. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford addresses the media on some positive developments in the TCHC. The Mayor would not answers questions on the crack cocaine video scandal at City Hall. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

  • Mayor Rob Ford leaves for the day shortly after reading a statement to the media concerning two more staffers that have left his office at City Hall. Brian Johnston, Ford's advisor on council relations, and executive assistant Kia Nejatian become the latest casualties of the Mayor Rob Ford crack video scandal at Toronto City Hall. Ford is currently facing allegations that he was recorded on a cellphone video smoking crack cocaine and making offensive remarks. Sources say Ford told senior aides not to worry about the video because he knew where it was. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford arrives at City Hall parking lot. Ford is currently facing allegations that he was recorded on a cellphone video smoking crack cocaine and making offensive remarks. Sources say Ford told senior aides not to worry about the video because he knew where it was. (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

  • Mayor Rob Ford during the executive committe meeting at City Hall in Toronto on May 28, 2013 (Vince Talotta/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

  • Rob Ford scrum re staff defections. (Keith Beaty/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

  • =

    Doug Ford leaves CFRB after his weekly radio show with brother Mayor Rob Ford. Mayor Rob Ford recently addressed a crack cocaine video scandal and denied using the drug. (Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

  • Mayor Rob Ford leaves his home for the storm at City Hall amid a crack cocaine scandal that he continues to refuse to address. Ford's hand-picked executive committee may release an extraordinary statement urging Ford to finally address eight-day-old media reports on a video that appears to show him smoking crack. (Rene Johnston/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

  • Rob Ford waits for the end in his Cadillac SUV across street from the funeral of the renowned journalist Peter Worthington, the founding editor of the Toronto Sun. (Rene Johnston/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

  • Mayor Rob Ford in the council chamber for a special council meeting on the Casino debate in Toronto. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford watches as the motion he put forward and others he supported are voted down during the casino debate at Toronto City Hall, he faces allegations that there is a video which he reportedly appears to be smoking crack cocaine. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

I recently attended Ford Fest in Scarborough where over 15,000 people of all ages, ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds (95 per cent in attendance were non-white) came out to see, hear and have their photo taken with Mayor Ford. Not for the free food or beer, but to be with Ford.

This extremely diverse crowd really love this guy. They identify with and trust Ford because they sincerely believe that he will not waste their hard-earned income on unnecessary taxes and unnecessary expenditures. They love the fact that for many years when he was just a political outsider, he did not ding the taxpayers for his office expenses. He also did not abuse their taxpayer money, like so many so-called leftist councillors, who flew all over Canada and the world on the taxpayers' dime.

Ford's simple message of guarding the public purse, cutting waste and providing subways, resonate with the hard-working and striving immigrant communities and the general public throughout the GTA, outside of the elites of downtown Toronto.

My point is that Rob Ford's support and the support of his very real and growing Ford Nation, can contribute to Harper making further inroads into the GTA in the next federal election.

Seventhly, and perhaps the most interesting point. Harper's recent Cabinet shuffle indicates that Harper will continue to play to his strength, that is, his administration's desire and ability to prudently manage the economy, balance the budget and cut taxes.

But I agree with Jamie Watt, well-known political consultant. Harper has to do more. He has to do something fresh. Something innovative and a bit out of the box in order for his party to definitely succeed in the next election.

The Keystone XL pipeline is no slam dunk. Neither is the Canada- EU Free Trade agreement. And both are outside of Harper's control.

By contrast, I think an innovative urban transit initiative is worth pursuing -- deal-bydeal, project-by-project -- but fast-tracked (pun intended).

Using the federal funding of the new Scarborough subway as a template for a successful tripartite co-operation between Ottawa, Ontario and the City of Toronto. In which all three parties have skin in the game. It's a win, win, win, for everyone.

Then using this model aggressively in other urban centres in Ontario, Quebec and other parts of Canada.

The policy objectives are clear and achievable:

  • Reduce gridlock.
  • Provide better public transit to urban immigrant communities. It is time Canada gave to these immigrant communities the respect they deserve and the better means to access work and their homes.
  • Increase productivity.
  • Intensify live/work environments along the public transit lines.
  • Attract government agencies, and public and private companies (with incentives, if necessary) to set up shop along the transit lines. And thus attract jobs. Increase employment.
  • And thus, reduce car usage, carbon emissions and preserve the environment.


So, Mr. Prime Minister: It is time to let your hair down and let your freak out! It's to go large on urban transit, and all its collateral benefits.

And it starts with Scarberia.

Game on, Mr. Prime Minister.

 

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