Toronto a day in the life 14

Why people love Rob Ford, or think they do
Kris Scheuer

So mayor-elect Rob Ford was voted in. I talk politics all day at work as a reporter with my colleagues and other journalists. I interview politicians, residents, business people about the decisions at city hall. Then I talk with friends and loved ones more about this city, life, news, politics. I listen, read and watch politics. Ahh…
But I can always use more of a reality check into what people I don’t know think about politics and the election. I’d love to hear what you think: what are you excited about, confused about, fearful of with a new mayor Rob Ford about to take the helm?
Let me share with you some comments I overheard from strangers having conversations about Rob Ford’s policies post-election.

First up: Tuesday Oct. 26 the day after the election. It was raining. The streetcar took 15-20 minutes to arrive. It was standing room only with very little room for any more passengers when I overheard a woman ask the streetcar driver about Rob Ford’s policy to get rid of Toronto streetcars.
I could not hear well enough or get close enough to hear their 15-minute discussion on the likelihood of streetcars being shelved. But it was interesting to hear her raise this concern about what she heard regarding Rob Ford’s intentions.
During the mayoral campaign, Rob Ford spoke often about getting rid of some streetcars and replacing them with buses.
In his transit plan on page 2 he writes, ” We will improve traffic flow downtown by removing some streetcars. Streetcars on downtown arterial streets will replaced with clean buses that provide the same capacity on the same routes.  This will make the system safer and more accessible for all users.”
“It will also improve traffic flow,” Ford’s transit plan states.
“Zero net cost. Cost to purchase and operate new buses will be offset by savings from reducedpurchase of streetcars, sale of existing streetcars and reduced streetcar system maintenance.”
Does he plan to get rid of streetcars on downtown streets?
Rob Ford’s brother Doug (newly elected councillor in Etobicoke-North Ward 2) and a key campaign manager for Ford’s successful run for mayor has thrown some cold water on the idea of getting rid of streetcars.
“That was (a rumour from) our competition,” Doug Ford told the Toronto Star in an interview post-election. “Yes, we want to look at more effective ways of running transit, but by no means are we going to get a crane and start yanking up streetcars and throwing them in the lake.”
Rob Ford also spoke about scraping the approved Transit City plan in favour of proposal for extending the Sheppard subway line from Downsview over to the Scarborough RT and turning the Scarborough RT into a subway for a cost of $4 billion. Hear it for yourself by listening to Rob Ford’s 8:16 minute YouTube transit platform video on his website.

Here’s the second overheard conversation about Rob Ford and streetcars: Tonight I was the busy, downtown (also near College Street) gym I go to, when I heard two men discussing Rob Ford’s win.
“I hate the streetcars. They are so annoying,” the one man told his friend indicating he can’t wait for Ford to get rid of them.
“We are living in a bad economy. We need jobs. What did (Mayor David) Miller do? At least Rob Ford knows about business. He’s a businessman,” the first man continued.
The second guy was skeptical Rob Ford could keep all his promises and had a “wait and see attitude”.
The first guy then said, “And what about these libraries. They are on every corner and nobody’s in them. I see three, four people in them. They are a waste of money. They cost a lot of money.”
I have not heard Rob Ford talk about eliminating any libraries.
But let’s analyze the gym guy’s claims no one uses libraries and that they cost a lot.
According to the Toronto Public Library’s 2010 budget info,  computer use is up 11.5%, visits up 8.5%, in-library use of materials is up 6.3% and reservations for materials are up 9.9%.
What does that mean, how many people visit the library? According to the Toronto Public Library’s 2009 annual report here are some stats.
“In fact, with more than 17.5 million visits to our branches and more than 31 million items borrowed, 2009 was truly our busiest and best year ever,” stats the report. “Worldwide, the Toronto Public Library was breaking records as well, as the largest and busiest urban public library system in the world (serving populations over 2 million).”
And how much does it cost to run the Toronto Public Library’s 99 branches and bookmobiles (travelling libraries)?
The 2010 net operating budget was $167.09 million. Okay, that’s not pocket change but let’s keep it in perspective: this is less than 2 percent of the city’s overall $9.2 billion 2010 operating budget
What do you think?
Should we get rid of streetcars, libraries?
What do you want to see city council spend more and less on?

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6 responses to “Toronto a day in the life 14

  1. For streetcars. I like them. They bring a certain character to the city. I do also find they screw up traffic flow. I don’t drive much down town so it is not a big deal for me. But for those who do drive a lot I can see the hassle.
    For libraries. They are worth every penny. I use them all the time. They expand our minds and give us access to ideas, inspiration, and education that can not be provided by the Internet and could not afforded by the average person. The quality libraries for is the type of thing that improves quality of life in the city. Forget symphonies and ballets. It’s all about libraries.

    • Rod, thanks for weighing in. I use libraries too, not as often as I should for borrowing books (I buy books instead). But one of the things I do use libraries for, which you can not duplicate on the internet, is archives. I use the city’s Metro Archives for old photos and articles, the Leaside library has a archives on this former town, same with the Beaches library branch near Kew Park here I have borrowed books on the area’s history that I can’t find elsewhere. I wholeheartedly agree libraries are a great resource.

  2. I got tired of trying to explain why Ford’s position, and frankly those of his fans, drove me so insane so I made this video:
    Why people voted for Rob Ford’s transit vision.
    Having been an ex-pat for ten years, I just don’t understand why Torontonians don’t get it when it comes to the outside world.

    • iSkyscrape,
      awesome satirical, funny video on why people voted for Rob Ford’s transit vision. Thanks for providing the link to the video you made.
      People who check it out, please tell me what you think.
      Will Rob Ford’s plan to build a Scarborough subway and cancel approved LRT streetcar lines connecting downtown to the suburbs be better for the city and reduce gridlock?

  3. The question is why people like Ford…..Or think they do? That was the problem in the first place. The media like the Star (and others) kept telling the people that they should not like Ford….because he is fat, he is a loud mouth, he is a maverick. All the while ignoring the reasons people are peeeeed of. Councilors like Bussin and others thumbing thier noses at the electorate and used our money like their own bankbook
    People In North York, Scarborough or Etobicoke could not care less about the greening of the Gardner or bycicle lanes on Jarvis. We just care about getting to work…….we care about paying extra for our license plates and land transfer tax. We dont want to pay for (no matter how trivial it is) for counsellors golf passes and other perks. And we are tired of unions calling the shot. (Rightly or wrongly).
    Most of all we did not accept Smitherman, the man that signed away millions while in government. Pantelone is a really nice guy…but just a Miller light.
    On a personal note……I really liked Rocco.

    • Nussy, thanks for the insight. Yes I get what you are saying. People don’t like councillors disregarding their hard earned money and spending it like their own. But will eliminating streetcars, if that happens, in favour of buses (more will be needed to replace the higher capacity streetcars and pay to get out of the already ordered new streetcar contracts) save money and lessen traffic congestion?
      And yes I get what you are saying in terms of limitations, in some people’s eyes, about the other contenders for mayor.
      And yes no one like the media telling why you should dislike a candidate because that can sometimes come across as pretentious too. People might not mind an informed article on a candidate but when media talks down to voters/readers or dismisses their concerns it will likely drive those voters even more towards that candidate? Is that it?

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