Apr 11

The upside to libertarian leadership: better food carts

The Toronto Star’s David Rider:

Toronto’s “a la cart” street food pilot project is a failure that should be shut down immediately, say senior city staff who also urge council to consider expanding menu options for all food vendors.

The report to the executive committee, made public Wednesday, recommends that “the A La Cart Street Food Pilot project be discontinued immediately, prior to season three of the planned pilot project.”

via Shut down ethnic street food project, city staff urge – thestar.com.

When this program was proposed in 2008, then-councillor Rob Ford opposed it, saying “I would just open it up and let them sell anything…whatever they want to make money on.” While I guess you could spin that as a moment of prescient wisdom, the reality is that Ford consistently used the same high school libertarian rationale for his opposition to damn near everything council did over the last decade.

It just happened that, on this matter, he ended up being mostly right.

One of the weaknesses of the David Miller council was their tendency to over-engineer solutions to problems. The street food vending program that became A La Cart is one of the best examples of this — overly bureaucratic, inordinately complicated and generally just too innovative in a space where innovation wasn’t really necessary.

In this case, the simplified “let businesses do what they want” strategy is the correct one. For all his faults, Ford does understand that. It’s the broader application of the libertarian ideology (to, for example, the waterfront) that we have to worry about.

For the record, council gave broad support to the new program in 2008. Here’s how that vote went down, from the City Council minutes for December 1, 2 and 3 in 2008: