Monday, January 10, 2011

Citizen of Toronto looking for some taxpayer love

So I wrote this little e-mail and sent it to (and CCd Joe Mihevc, my local Ward 21 councillor, at because I figured he might actually read it). The 2011 Toronto city budget was unveiled earlier today, and although I'm not the most politically active person I decided to call Mayor Ford out on a couple of things that I think are counter-productive to Toronto's growth. The first thing doesn't really have anything to do with the budget (it's just stupid), but the TTC thing is an increasing annoyance. I get embarassed to say I'm from Toronto based on our crappy transit alone. Upping the rates again is really irritating, considering the recent repeal of the personal vehicle tax. Like no-one would notice that the tax wasn't erased, just moved as far away from Ford's base as he could get (like, into the actual city). Anyway, this is not a politics blog, I just thought I'd share my first act of civic unrest - these little milestones should be noted.


Good day,

There are quite a few of Mayor Ford's proposals that make me concerned about the future of this city, but lets just cover a couple right now to start.

I would like to register my concern with Mayor Ford's proposal to remove the 5¢ bag charge on plastic bags used in Toronto. This is a step backwards in the progress our great city has made in reducing the amount of waste we create. Reusable tote bags are easy to use, inexpensive (often free), and usually sturdier than plastic grocery bags. Why not encourage people to use better products and not poorly made, non-biodegradable bags?

If you want to think about this in terms of improving the economy, even the marketing opportunities for both local stores and huge chain retailers is better. The free advertising on these attractive bags will last a lot longer than plastic bags, and will not be used to line a garbage bin (doesn't seem like the message that most retailers will want their products associated with).

If you do anything with this program, perhaps you should find better ways in which those 5¢ can be used. Right now, as I understand it, retailers are not given any directions on what to do with the 5¢ they gain from those plastic bag purchases. Some use it for charity, some for their own gains. There was some talk about forcing them to use it for charity, I'm not sure how well that would work, but certainly creating easier ways in which businesses can donate to improve the city's infrastructure would be a great boon for our community.

According to this Nov. 2009 National Post article, the demand for plastic bags at Loblaws had dropped by 70% - that's a staggering number! You should be proud of the Torontonians who are actually making a difference in this community by not adding to its burdens. Don't pay attention to the whiners who complain about spending 5¢ on a bag when they are too lazy or too stubborn to purchase and use a re-usable, far superior bag. Why reward laziness and whining? Why not applaud Torontonians who work hard for their money and use their common sense in order to keep hold of it?

Please consider the future of our city and the well-being of its inhabitants, and not just the few people who want to save 5¢ at the grocery store cash register.

My second concern, one that everyone at the mayor's office should be hearing a lot about right now, is the confounding reversal of the personal vehicle tax, and then the levying of that very same tax on TTC riders. Taxing the poor and giving breaks to the rich is a lousy way to run a city (see: the story of folk hero Robin Hood re: how that would turn out).

Hopefully you have been made aware of the fact that the proposed subway expansion is more costly and less effective than the light rail transit program that was already in the works before Mayor Ford came into office. When I first heard about this subway idea I wondered where all the money was going to come from since it seemed like Mayor Ford was only going to repeal fees and taxes put into place in order to pay for such improvements in infrastructure, and the government of Ontario had already said they weren't going to give us any more money. How will we pay for all this progress? I guess I know now; the people who have to use the TTC in or order to navigate the city (those sad few without cars) will foot the bill for everything. I'll be blunt - Toronto's transit services are not worth $126 a month - certainly not if you're reducing service on nights an weekends. Our transit fares are already grossly over-priced, and the services are poor and unreliable. Squabbling about expansion plans and finances is a huge waste of time. Cutting down services is counter-productive and frustrating.

I cannot afford a car, but even if I could I wouldn't want to have one in such a congested and polluted city, particularly when I can walk or hop on a bus to get where I'm going. I also don't own a bicycle (I'm too afraid of being hit and KILLED by a person disobeying road laws and swerving into my bike lane, otherwise I would love to explore the city via a bicycle - it's a great city! When you ride a bike you have more time to look at it all!), so my only means of transportation is public transit. You should also note that it is not only Toronto citizens who use the TTC to get around, visitors (tourists who spend money!) also use public transit. Making their visit difficult and expensive is not going to make them want to come back or tell their friends about how wonderful our city is.

I don't expect a mayor who feels that it's appropriate to label a large part of his constituents "left-wing pinkos" to actually listen to what one of those kooky liberal elitists has to say about her city, but I can hope that someone involved in running this city is still listening. I love Toronto and only want good things for this city and its community members. While it is a pain to have to pay a few cents for something that used to be free, it's in the city's better interest to do so, and is very easy to avoid paying those few cents if you think ahead of time and bring a bag with you when you go shopping. Also, while you do have to keep in mind the needs of those commuters who use cars to get around the GTA, you also need to consider the needs of those who do not have that luxury. Don't make your time in office be remembered as emblematic of some sort of imaginary class divide propagated by divisive rhetoric. There's too much to be done to waste time on that crap.

Thank you for your time,
Colleen Hale-Hodgson
Citizen of Toronto (taxpayer, even)
Resident of Ward 21

EDIT Jan. 12, 2011: What do you know? Mayor Robert Ford listened to me and the TTC fare hike has been scrapped. See? Democracy does sort of work... sometimes. Where did they find $16 million? At some point in the near or nearly distant future we're going to find coin-o-matics attached to our public toilets and rue this day.

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