Toronto Botches Stimulus Funding for Political Points

So we hear today that Ottawa will not be funding the $2 billion new streetcar purchase for Toronto. This is the Toronto Star’s predictable reaction to it. Personally I don’t see that while every other city in the country (see post about Calgary below) appears able to find projects that fit the criteria for the $4 billion federal stimulus fund, that Toronto insists that an exception be made. The people pointing to Ottawa crying politics may in fact have it backwards; I think Mayor Miller did this on purpose because it would either make the Conservatives look mean-spirited (quel surprise…) or force them to make an exception for Toronto, reflecting that city’s own perceived importance and uniqueness in the country. The silly thing is that it need not have been this way; as Minister Baird himself alluded to in an interview today, Toronto could simply have “uploaded” a number of capital projects slated to be built this year or next, and then used the freed up funds to buy the streetcars. Of course this pragmatic strategy had no political “gotcha” sex appeal, and was thusly discarded. Now the fate of thousands of jobs in Thunder Bay and Montreal apparently rests with those dastardly Tories up in Ottawa, nevermind that these funds were not meant to fund long term strategic infrastructure, but rather bread and butter stuff like sewers and potholes. Ottawa probably will cave in the end, partly because I’m not sure Toronto even fills potholes anymore (which might encourage contemptible motorists to actually drive), but also because of how the Mayor’s office has successfully changed the debate away from abiding by simple rules, to “Ottawa doesn’t care about Toronto or transit”. Hard to reconcile with the fact that the Conservatives have announced over a billion for Toronto transit in the last year (the Spadina subway extension and Sheppard East LRT). Sigh.

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