Terence Corcoran: Under John Tory, Toronto remains united in its usual transit dysfunction
Within seconds of John Torys Monday-night election victory the experts had declared Toronto a divided city, as if somehow the longest-running and deadliest mayoral campaign in history had exposed some great new gap in the foundations of Canadas largest urban centre.
If only that were true. Torontos political machine remains as united as ever, its power classes all too ready to embrace around an institutional structure that is fundamentally dysfunctional and often close to paralysis.
A truly divided city would be locked in a battle over major reforms and restructuring. Instead, Torontos political operators are converging under Mr. Tory as they always have under previous administrations.
His top staff officials and advisors are a selection of familiar faces from various constituencies and ideologies. Not one can be seen as a force for major change. Within weeks they will have settled into the old behaviour patterns, the alleged divisions becoming predictable squabbles.
The best demonstration of the dysfunctional morass around which the players will now converge is transit, currently a mindless clash over lines on maps.
There are no real economic or business studies behind any of the plans. It was all raw politics, with a few experts dragged in now and then to offer general comments about the likely impossibility of one plan or the potential feasibility of another.
This is not to dismiss Mr. Torys SmartTrack. Maybe it contains good ideas, although it is half-baked at best. But under the current institutional setup no one can evaluate any one plan, least of all the maze of politician-controlled agencies and commissions with fingers in transit, from the Toronto Transit Commission to Metrolinx to the provincial government and the Toronto vote-hungry federal Conservatives.
Take the Toronto Transit Commission. The board of directors is in the hands of city council members. The current chairman is Maria Augimeri, councillor for Ward 9, a social anthropologist and published poet. The world may need more published poets, but not at the head of a $7-billion business that is vital to the city.
True reform at the TTC might begin by looking at turning the commission into a stand-alone corporation with a proper business-oriented board of directors a Crown corporation, perhaps, with real directors and real top executives.
That's not going to happen under Mr. Tory, who will soon play a role parachuting preferred politicians onto the board, each meddling in petty and major ways with the operation of the citys core transportation system.
The TTC appears to be in the able hands of Andy Byford, but he will, as usual, have to scurry around doing the bidding of the latest batch of politicians, shifting priorities once again. Scrap yesterdays downtown relief line, bring in tomorrows grand scheme.
Nobody knows whether any plan makes sense. At City Hall and the TTC, planners may have to throw out the previously approved downtown relief line plans and launch a new series of what Torontos city planner, Jennifer Keesmaat, called analysis and due diligence on the impact of new alternatives.
New sensible business ideas will continue to be dodged for political reasons. Subway lines will be promoted with an eye on where the voters are, not where the traffic is or, more importantly, will be. A Queen Street subway line, first proposed in the 1960s and supported today be some including former Toronto transit executive Gordon Chong will be ignored.
Via - news.nationalpost.com