My editor here at the Megaphone and I were recently discussing Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s borderline insane decision to fully and solely fund a LRT line linking Brampton and Mississauga - two places I like to pretend don’t exist - at a cost of $1.6 billion dollars.
You might be asking, as Rick did, “What makes Brampton and Mississauga so special?” You can barely move thirty-five feet in downtown Toronto without wanting to take a human life! And without Toronto, there’d be absolutely no need for Brampton and Mississauga.
The answer to that is simple. Ms. Wynne is a number of things, but stupid isn’t one of them. Much to everyone’s horror, we learned last year that she is an exceptionally gifted politician. She knows where the votes are, as does Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Those votes aren’t in downtown Toronto, or in downtown anywhere. Those seats all belong to the Liberal Parties of Ontario and Canada, and will forevermore. Harper isn’t going to win them, and Wynne isn’t going to lose them, so both can safely write them off.
However, in the huge 905 belt that surrounds Toronto, ridings change hands with some frequency, and neither Harper nor Wynne would enjoy the majorities they have today without them. Neither wants to lose those majorities because minority governments require working for a living. It isn’t enough that the federal Liberals and provincial Progressive Conservatives insist on committing suicide at every opportunity. Those voters need to be bought, and they need to stay bought.
Look at the last several federal budgets. In almost all of them, you hear a great deal about “suburbs” and “families.” Since families don’t tend to live in condominium towers, the Harper government is essentially saying “suburbs” twice. Traditional conservatives (as opposed to ”Conservatives”) never believed that subsidizing babysitters and children’s sports equipment was a proper function of the federal government, but Harper decided to hand those things out. Indeed, he’s spent a good deal of time and money telling you that he did.
Why is that? Because without the majority of suburban seats, Harper has no majority, and the last time he had a minority, he had to double the national debt because he was afraid of Stephane Dion. Obviously, no one wants to see (or can afford) that again. The same goes for the manufacturing sector and seniors. But you’ll notice that this prime minister has done little for rural or urban Canada. That’s because those people either already vote for him, or never will.
That goes double for the premier. Would you want a job where you have to answer to Andrea Horwath all the time? Of course you don’t. Neither does Wynne. So if the suburbs want an LRT, an LRT they shall have, lest whoever winds up leading the Progressive Conservatives in May winds up offering them one. The rest of us should be thankful that the good people of Brampton and Mississauga didn’t hold out for a monorail because it looked cool on The Simpsons.
Because former premier Mike Harris thought it would be an interesting experiment to amalgamate the cities, cut their funding and continue to deny them the means to raise their own revenue, Ontario’s cities (and especially Toronto) are rapidly falling apart. Everybody knows that, from the professional smart folks to the politicians. As a matter of fact, both Harper and Wynne have said so in public.
The problem is that the ridings in downtown Toronto only vote one way, so both levels of government can safely ignore their problems. If they were even slightly competitive, I guarantee you that everyone in the area bordered by the Don Valley Parkway , Front, Bloor and Dufferin would be getting to and from work on their own subsidized magic carpets. As it is, the only thing that the federal Conservatives and the provincial Liberals agreed on giving the downtown core was a police riot. And that was nearly five years ago!
In politics, it isn’t what you need that matters; it’s where you live and how you vote.
(Photo: Alex Gulbord, Creative Commons license)
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