The Globe & Mail, shining a spotlight on urban issues across the country, asked the mayors of Canada’s biggest cities what they’d like to see in the looming federal budget. The one that will probably trigger an election. Most mayors took the opportunity to talk about the challenges facing cities, and the need for increased, reliable funding from all levels of government. They took the time to put together thoughtful responses to the question at hand, demonstrating their belief that cities are a critical part of the Canadian economy.
Our mayor, on the other hand, said this, as reported by The Globe’s Siri Agrell:
But the mayor of Canada’s largest city stayed conspicuously mum on the subject. Toronto’s Rob Ford declined to share his hopes for the federal budget, saying in an e-mail only that he hopes it shows “respect for taxpayers’ money.”
During the election, not a lot was said about the candidates’ visions for the city. Transit plans sort of played into things a bit, but there were no real discussions about ideas for growth and development (or redevelopment) in various areas. Toward the end of the campaign, the Toronto Sun wrote a dumb editorial where they claimed that Ford’s sole “vision” was to “cut wasteful spending.” Royson James jumped on the vision-doesn’t-matter bandwagon too, writing, “The Toronto electorate, circa 2010, is not looking for a silver-tongued prophet with a vision of an ascendant Toronto.” (Emphasis added.)
Of course, despite the rhetoric, the reality is that vision does matter. Vision always matters. Even if somehow the administration is able to drastically reduce the size of the city government, freeze or lower the tax burden and eliminate the debt, the question will always be: what next? How are we going to move Toronto forward? What kind of city do we want to be?
That we elected someone who has no idea what the path forward looks like is, I think, the saddest part of all of this.