Ready, steady…vote!

By Ben Bull, Columnist –

Now that summer haze has faded, the kids have trudged back to school and the pre-Covid-19 carnage has returned to our streets, it’s time to look ahead to the municipal election in October. Who do we want to help across the finish line?

Are you ready? The candidates had better be – our city is a mess. So far this year, 21 pedestrians have been mowed down on Toronto streets.

We need a new road safety plan, one that does more than recite pithy phrases. We need to close streets to cars, widen sidewalks, and create a fully integrated and segregated biking infrastructure.

We need to introduce a congestion charge to pay for it. Cars are the cause of our carnage, after all – so let’s charge them to fix it.

Toronto’s housing affordability crisis gets worse every year. Houses are bought and sold like TSX stock commodities, yet we do nothing to flatten the cost-of-living curve. With inflation rising, interest rates rocketing and wages flat-lining, where are we all supposed to live?

The homeless problem is endemic. Our city’s most vulnerable citizens are crammed into hotels and splayed out on sidewalks, but who seems to care? Why are they ignored year after year? Is it because they don’t vote?

Let’s look down the track and see who’s lining up in the blocks.

The race for mayor includes John Tory – again. He’s running for his third term. That boy’s got legs! He has the middle lane– and a head start! He’ll be difficult to catch.

Why do we push incumbents across the line? Shouldn’t we screen all the candidates evenly and pick the best person for the job?

One of Tory’s more dubious achievements as mayor was cajoling City Council into approving the ageing Gardiner Expressway re-vamp. Half a billion dollars to upgrade an obsolete highway used by a small fraction of the population. Should we help him break the tape for that?

Tory’s campaign website gushes with praise for his transit expansion successes: “John Tory (is) committed to continuing to champion the historic, fully-funded $28-billion transit plan he was successful in getting all three levels of government to agree to.”

I don’t remember that. I do remember him muttering something about a one- top Scarborough subway expansion running under a residential street.

Thirty other candidates are at the mayoral starting line. Will any of them pull ahead?

There’s barely a whiff of excitement about this municipal election race. Why so quiet? When Tory challenger Gil Penalosa tried to make an announcement on the steps of City Hall last month, security shut him down for not having a permit. So much for free speech.

Joe Cressy has already stepped aside as councillor for Ward 10 Spadina Fort York. What happened there? Was it cramp? His absence means a bunch of new kids are on the blocks: 12 candidates for Ward 10 and no clear favourite. Now that’s a race.

Paula Fletcher had her nose ahead in Ward 14 (Toronto Danforth) before the race even started. Did she jump the gun?

Running for her fifth term, Fletcher has four opponents. What kind of a race is this? If this were a hundred-metre final, you’d be looking around to see where everybody went. Did they miss the bus to the stadium?

The role of city councillor is supposed to be a public office, so why do so few members of the public get a fair chance to do it? Perhaps Tory and Fletcher were the best candidates in the last election – and the one before that – but was it really a fair race?

Election day is Monday, October Who do you want to help across the line?