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Sunday, January 22, 2006

On the short bus

Friday's Star detailed some questionable behaviour from Toronto City Councillor Joe Mihevc, who is Vice-Chair of the Toronto Transit Commission. (He is no stranger to it — this is a man who favours a streetcar renewal plan for Toronto that costs more than three quarters of a billion dollars more than the sensible alternative.) This time, he's on to the Conservatives' transit pass tax break:

If we at the TTC — who are in a big budget squeeze — suddenly find out a few days from now that passengers are going to be getting a discount on their income tax, there will actually be upward pressure on increasing fares.

...which they at the TTC will be under no obligation to bow to, right? Maybe not. Follow along as the Star explains Mihevc's and his colleagues' grievances:

Mihevc, a New Democrat, said he's not convinced Harper is serious about supporting transit.

"It's been a very vague commitment," he said. "I think that's the fairest thing to say and I've followed this thing very closely. Will they honour existing funding arrangements?"

Well, on that subject, here's what the indefatigable Ed Drass told Toronto commuters just three days ago:

Yesterday, the Conservatives confirmed that existing agreements for funding the TTC and other Canadian transit systems would be honoured if the party were elected.

So is Stephen Harper a baldfaced liar? Hey, it's possible. But we know Paul Martin is, so it's very unpleasant to see this sort of partisan advocacy from someone whose interests should lie in an improved Toronto Transit Commission. Besides, the objections noted in the Star border on the absurd:

The TTC could expect to see more riders as a result of the tax credit, said Michael Roschlau, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Urban Transit Association.

The transit association is worried transit systems may not be able to handle increased ridership.

"Most of the transit systems are pretty full during rush hour. To the extent it increases ridership in rush hour, we want to make sure that the investment is there to actually put more service in place to carry those people," Roschlau said.

Bet you didn't know the TTC fare structure was designed to discourage ridership. I sure didn't. It's quite the vicious cycle, no? Stephen Harper promises tax relief for dedicated public transit users, and public transit advocates respond by worrying that this might increase ridership beyond the systems' ability to support it. Which is a huge problem, because we all know that a Conservative government won't have any interest whatsoever in improving public transit infrastructure, despite its pledge to do precisely that, simply by virtue of it being conservative.

This is pathetic, and I say that as someone who rides a profoundly overburdened streetcar line twice daily. Problematic relationships between government and public transit systems transcend partisanship, but there's no logical reason for conservatives to oppose spending on public transport. It is largely an urban issue, it's true, but as of tomorrow the Conservative Party of Canada should be able to lay claim to that adjective too.

(Cross-posted to Tart Cider.)

Posted by Chris Selley on January 22, 2006 | Permalink


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Somebody ask Joe about the ethics of the McDonalds near his house, and the efforts to rezone it, and him interfearing from city council...

In my opinion the guy is the worst kind of weazel. The people of St. Pauls do not have a good history of electing useful people: Joe and Carolyn......

Posted by: No Joe | 2006-01-22 9:31:00 PM

"... there's no logical reason for conservatives to oppose spending on public transport."

Public transport, public housing, public health care, public education, public banks, public pensions, public insurance, public farms, public factories, public child care, public arts, public ports, public airlines, public railroads, public stores, public theatres, public arenas, public television, public newspapers, ... c'mon everybody, let's transcend partisanship and let rational, scientific government planners decide everything. It's only logical!

Posted by: Justzumgai | 2006-01-22 9:31:30 PM

This guy should learn to keep his mouth shut. As we say here, he lost an excellent opportunity to shut up.

Posted by: Rémi Houle | 2006-01-22 9:42:52 PM

Why should non-Ontarians pitch in to help Tronna out of a financial problem of its own creation?

Try spending (read: wasting) money on useless things, like the Tronna Police Service who seem completely ill-equipped to handle the rising crime rate. Or how about raising taxes and fares? Don't give me that 'poor people can't afford it crap' because Toronto people are not poor.

Tronna's willingness to pay more and their ability to pay more are two vastly different things. Hopefully Harper will relieve the 25m people outside of the Grotesque Tronna Area of the burdens of paying for their luxurious, privileged lifestyle.

I can see the Toronto Sun headlines now: "Harper to City: Drop Dead", reminiscient of the NY Daily News's headline about Gerald Ford's refusal to help NYC during its financial crisis of the mid 1970s. The difference is Toronto is not having a financial crisis - it has an arrogance crisis.

Posted by: Scott | 2006-01-22 9:44:49 PM

I ride that same King street car twice a day, packed in like a sardine desperately trying to find a handhold so I don't fall over with the next brake, but I don't see why it should be a federal issue.

Posted by: MustControlFistOfDeath | 2006-01-23 6:27:05 AM

Goes to show that the problems with public transit have been local ones all along.
While local advocates, politicians and managers are all quite willing to demand money from Provincial and Federal governments to support their transit costs they seldom have their heads screwed on straight in the first place.
Local transit is a LOCAL responsibility and local officials need to get their own priorities straight if they expect help from senior governments.

Posted by: PGP | 2006-01-23 6:40:40 AM

Great article Chris; whatever may happen today we need to expose this sort of nonsense whenever we see it.

Remi: "This guy should learn to keep his mouth shut. As we say here, he lost an excellent opportunity to shut up."

Haha, well stated. The military coined a term for this: an OTBS (Opportunity To Be Stupid).

Posted by: Anonalogue | 2006-01-23 7:59:13 AM


Toronto City Councillor Joe Mihevc is demanding better funding for Supporting Community Partnership Initiative grants (SCPI,) today, September 12 at the Holy Trinity Church, saying that they have been a big help to Toronto's poor and homeless.

What he isn't saying is that his family is a direct beneficiary of these grants.

SCPI is a federally funded program through CMHC that is administered locally, in this case by the City of Toronto's Shelter HOusing and Support division (SHS).

A few years ago when Councillor Mihevc's wife had just graduated from social work school and was out of work, Mihevc pressured the city SHS's Trish Keachie to award a SCPI grant to East York East Toronto Resources, who created their RENT project www.housingworkers.ca for housing workers to be headed up by Rosalee Bender, Joe Mihevc's longtime commonlaw wife! Mihevc's wife gets a fulltime salary for what is about 2 day's work a month and used to be done in the spare time of one city employee!

In the meantime many social advocacy groups have had no response from Mihevc Chair of the city's Community Services Committee on why the city purposely creates so many delays for those trying to get benefits from Ontario Works.

Mihevc also had som affordable housing in his own ward bulldozed for parking saying that the property was owned by the Parking Authority and tha tlocal businesses needed more parking far more that the tenants needed the housing!

Councillor Mihevc is only using the issue of homelessness and poverty to benefit himself financially and his ward 21 reelection campaign.

Posted by: Say it aint so Joe | 2006-09-07 3:30:25 PM

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